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dog parent must-knows

Why your dog keeps licking their nose

It can be stressful to watch your dog lick their nose all day. Here’s what causes excessive licking and how to know if it’s a sign of something serious.

Updated March 24, 2021

Created By

Victoria Lancaster,
close up shot of a dog nose and tongue outdoors

all day long... but why?

the essentials

  • Dogs lick their noses to sharpen their senses — Regular nose licking is a sign of a healthy dog.
  • Nose licking is not normal when it’s noticeable — Too much licking will look uncomfortable and seem excessive.
  • Certain breeds lick their noses more— Dogs with compressed faces lick their noses more.
  • The causes of nose licking vary — Certain symptoms are mild, while others warrant a trip to the vet.
  • Keep your dog calm to get nose licking under control— There are ways to keep your dog’s stress levels low and therefore reduce licking.

Nose licking, explained

Your dog’s nose is one of their vital organs. Dogs lick their noses to keep their sense of smell intact. Nose moisture also helps cool a dog down. Nose licking is usually a sign of healthy and natural dog activity.

You may notice your dog is licking their mouth and nose persistently, rapidly, or intensely. They may lick the air or space around them and look obviously uncomfortable. Excessive licking is a sign that they are having anxiety, feel threatened, or are experiencing another health issue.

👉  Abnormal nose licking may look something like this.

Some breeds are more prone to licking

Breeds with squished faces, like pugs and English bulldogs, might appear to lick their noses more than other dogs. These dogs are considered Brachycephalic or “short-headed.” Due to the flatness of these dogs’ faces, their noses are behind their mouths and their tongues are long. These dogs may collect more bacteria around the nose area. For Brachycephalic breeds, normal lip-licking might look like nose-licking.

Possible causes of nose licking

It is important to identify the reason your dog keeps licking their nose. Causes range from mild to severe.

Mild causes

Some of the more common reasons for nose licking are mild and dogs will display otherwise normal behavior.

  • Stress. You might notice that when you reprimand your dog or take them to the groomer they lick their nose. They do so out of general stress or a compulsive disorder.
  • Allergies and irritants. Irritants may be gathering in your dog’s sinuses, causing nasal discharge. Dogs lick at the discharge. Allergies might be accompanied with sneezing.
  • Dry nose. Your dog could have a dry nose. Dogs lick their nose to keep it moist and to counteract dryness and cracking.
  • Nervous tick. Just like humans bite their nails, dog licking could be a bad habit brought on by nerves.

The more severe causes of nose licking

Nose licking can be a sign of something severe. These health problems have some other symptoms to look out for, and warrant a trip to the vet.

  • Oral discomfort or dental problems. Your dog might have tooth decay. They could also have swelling of the jaw, tongue, or mouth caused by built up fluid. In addition to nose licking, dogs might paw at their mouths and yelp or cry with dental disease.

🚨 It can be hard to check inside your dog’s mouth for health warnings. If they are especially squirmish, the vet might use a sedative. 

  • Nausea. The feeling of nausea makes dogs drool. Swallowing along with nose licking may mean your dog has an upset stomach. If you think they’ve eaten something toxic, head to the vet immediately.
  • Dehydration. Heat or an underlying medical problem like kidney disease causes dehydration. Dogs will lick their noses to cool themselves down. Other signs of dehydration include sticky gums, high body temperature, drooling, and loss in skin elasticity.

👉  There is an at home test, known as a skin test. You can use it to check if your dog is dehydrated. Gently pinch your dog’s skin and lift it. If it sags or slowly collapses when you release the skin, your pup is dehydrated. 

  • Foxtail. Foxtails are spiky seeds of grass that when swallowed can travel to other areas of your dog’s body, including their lungs. If your dog has swallowed a foxtail, they will look especially uncomfortable. They will lick both their nose and the ground or air around them.
  • Frog. Your dog may have licked a poisonous frog or toad. The signs of toxicity from a frog will appear within moments. In addition to nose licking, your dog will have red gums, severe drooling, vomiting, and possible foaming at the mouth. They might also paw at their mouths. Head to the vet immediately if you suspect your pup has been in contact with one of these amphibians..

🚨 Find out if toxic toads live in your region. Cane/bufo Toads and Colorado River Toads are known to be the most toxic. 

Focal seizure. Focal seizures are also known as partial seizures. This means that your dog could be seizing while conscious. These partial seizures may be accompanied by nose licking and lip licking instead of full body convulsions.

Time for a vet visit

Your dog should go to the vet if nose licking is not their only symptom. In addition to nose licking look out for:

  • Violent sneezing
  • Pale gums
  • Nose bleeds
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Difficulty catching breath

Even if your dog doesn’t seem to be exhibiting other severe symptoms, you might still be worried about your pup’s excessive nose licking. Watching your dog experience obvious discomfort can be nerve-racking.

It can be hard for dog owners to identify the underlying cause of excessive nose licking. It never hurts to go in for a vet visit regardless of level of severity or other symptoms.

Treatment

For nose licking caused by something mild, your vet will recommend things you can do at home. If your dog simply has a cold or allergies the vet may be able to prescribe an anti-allergy medication. Balms are great for a case of dry nose or nasal hyperkeratosis.

If it’s stress causing the nose licking, get to know your dog’s body language. Perhaps they get nervous around a specific dog pal or while traveling. Small children or loud noises may also cause your dog to stress. Pups need to be spoken to and treated with care when showing anxiety.

In severe cases, the vet will know how to treat your dog’s excessive nose licking. They might carry out bloodwork or other tests to identify any underlying health problems. If the dog is dehydrated, they may require fluids. In cases of toxicity, the vet will properly rinse out the dog’s system.

Less stress means less nose licking

Nose licking is usually a sign of a healthy dog. If your dog keeps licking their nose, it’s probably a sign of stress. It only signals health problems in some cases. Dog behavior can tell us a lot. Dog owners should pay attention to their dog’s warning signals and body language so they can keep them calm and happy.