Dog Smacking Lips a Lot, at Night in Sleep,

Dog lip smacking

To some people, dog lip smacking is annoying. Some people, on the other hand, will take this as normal dog behavior and live with it. When though should you concerned about your dog’s lip-smacking? Where it starts engaging in the behavior excessively or in specific situations, it is important to have a deeper look at the behavioral pattern to ensure all is okay. We explore the causes of dog lip smacking excessively. A lot, at night, when petted and when nauseous.

Dog Smacking Lips Causes

A dog smacking lips may be voluntary or involuntary. In most cases, it is displayed as a sign of hunger in your dog. It could, however, be caused by many other things such as nervousness and apprehension. Below we explore the causes of dog lip smacking

Anticipation for Food

Dog’s just like human beings may water their mouth when they smell, see or think about food. Normally during these occurrences, dogs will drool. This is most common in dogs that have heavy jowls. To discreetly collect the saliva that collects and prevent it from seeping out of the mouth, the dog may smack their lips. When the dog experiences anything to do with food such as seeing you prepare it a meal or preparing it, it is bound to smack the lips.

Nervousness and Anxiety

Dog lip-smacking could also be an indication of anxiety and nervousness in your pet. When your pet finds itself in fearful, vulnerable or uneasy situations, it will flip its tongue in and out. It is therefore common to see him smacking his lips when he hears thunder, in the presence of more powerful dogs, when being left alone or when he is about to take a ride.

Foreign Objects in the Mouth

The presence of foreign objects in the mouth will cause discomfort in your pet. The reason why your dog may be smacking its lips could be something stuck in its mouth. Foxtails in dogs, bones stuck in the mouth, pollen and other items could cause lip smacking when stuck in the mouth.

A careful inspection can help decide if this is the case or not.  If you notice a foreign object try to get it out. Where this is not possible to visit your pet immediately. A bad tooth and gingivitis can cause lip smacking and bad breath.


Before dogs vomit, there is a tendency for saliva to accumulate in the mouth. This is usually followed by drooling or dog lip smacking. it is therefore normal for a dog to lick more when they are about to and after they vomit. Where a dog is lip-smacking as a result of nausea, the condition should resolve on its own once the dog has vomited.

Attention Seeking Behavior

Dog lip-smacking behavior may be so as to get attention. This is more so where the dog becomes aware that attention is given to him whenever he smacks his lips. The behavior then gets reinforced and your pooch learns to use it to call for attention and pampering. This is likely to happen in dogs who spend the majority of the day alone. Try to find out if this only happens when the owner is around and if so it could be an attention seeking behavior.


While dog lip smacking is mostly associated with hunger and frustrating situations, it could also be indicative of serious health conditions. Kidney disease, dry mouth, gingivitis and consumption of toxic substances could all have lip-smacking as one of the symptoms. Where any of these is suspected, you should visit your veterinarian immediately. They will get a proper diagnosis and help conduct timely intervention where necessary.

Salivary Gland Problems

Swollen salivary glands in dogs could cause sialocele. This will result in pools of saliva forming in the mouth without flowing as is normal. To move the saliva around the mouth, your dog may smack his lips. Check below the tongue to see if it is swollen. If it is, see your vet for surgical drainage.


A dehydrated dog is an uncomfortable pet. When in this state, dogs will smack their lips in an attempt to wet their gums to assess if your pooch is dehydrated, lift the skin over its shoulders and back and observe if it springs back immediately. If it does, your dog is okay but if there is some delay it is dehydrated. The gums tend to be dry when dehydrated thus the urge to lick.

Nervous System Disorder

A number of things tend to affect a pets nervous system. Ingestion of toxic substances will cause excessive drooling in dogs, foaming and lip-smacking. Simple and partial seizures could also see your dog licking their lips excessively.

Dog Smacking Lips Causes at Night in Sleep

Do lip smacking before during and after sleep is common. Where the above causes are ruled out, your dog could be smacking his lips at night to help him calm down for sleep. While sleeping they could smack their lips as a habit that helps them cope with the night.

Sometimes though, dog lip-smacking at night could be attributed to food. It could occur in case your dog fed just before sleep and they are still digesting the food. On the other hand, feeding them too early before bed could see them suffer an empty stomach late in the night. A bout of acid reflux could see them smack their lips in their sleep too.

Dog Lip Smacking a Lot, Excessively or All the Time

When dog lip smacking sets in suddenly and the dog keeps doing it excessively all the time, it could be as a result of a recent change. A lip-smacking dog could be suffering a lesion in the mouth or tooth abscess.

It could also have a splinter stuck in its mouth. Insect bites could also cause lip smacking. A dog stung by a bee or any other kind of bug will be seen smacking its lips.

Additionally, ingesting something with a terrible taste such as apple spray or lemons will see it licking constantly until the taste is gone.

How to Stop Dog Lip Smacking

To stop a dog from lip smacking, you will first need to know what is causing it. While it may not be possible to eliminate the habit for life, it could help reduce it for the moment. Here is what you can help to get rid of this irritating behavior.

  1. In case the lip smacking is in anticipation for food or as a result of nausea, you do not have to worry. These will resolve with time. If he also smacks when you pet him, it shouldn’t be of much concern.
  2. If none of the above are causing the licking, begin by inspecting the dog’s mouth. This will help to reveal if there is a foreign object inside. It will also help reveal bug bites, stings, bruises and teeth problems. Where you notice bad breath in addition to the lip-smacking, your dog may be having dental problems. Once the inspection is done, get rid of the object, treat any injuries and tooth problems.
  3. In case nothing is found in the mouth, check if your dog is dehydrated. In case the dehydration is not severe, you can treat it at home by giving fluids orally. Where severe see your vet for intravenous hydration.
  4. Where you cannot figure out what the cause of dog lip smacking is, visit your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis as this could be an indication of any of the health problems discussed above. Also see a vet where lip smacking is accompanied by dog shaking, excessive drooling and panting.

Sources and References

Dr. Winnie
About Dr. Winnie 344 Articles
My name is Dr. Winnie. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University, a Masters of Science in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria Veterinary School in South Africa. I have been an animal lover and owners all my life having owned a Rottweiler named Duke, a Pekingese named Athena and now a Bull Mastiff named George, also known as big G! I'm also an amateur equestrian and love working with horses. I'm a full-time Veterinarian in South Africa specializing in internal medicine for large breed dogs. I enjoy spending time with my husband, 2 kids and Big G in my free time. Author and Contribturor at SeniorTailWaggers, A Love of Rottweilers, DogsCatsPets and TheDogsBone

1 Comment

  1. my dog had lips smacking for the longest time. It started out rather slow going then progressed. When i went to my vet they said probably he is getting older and recommended pepcid. He also said could be bad teeth and recommended oral cleaning with removal of any rotten teeth under general anesthesia. I though it was the kibble and started changing around food moving towards a healthier semi raw adding fresh meat and changing eventually to a dehydrated human grade food with the addition of meat. The lip smacking especially at night/early morning continued to get worse. I thought …still mist be diet and acid reflux although pepcid did not seem to make a difference. He developed this dry cough and within ten days he died of cancer starting with an a kidney turmor with mets to the lungs. I feel badly I did not know any better and the vet gave me superficial bandaid approach type answers. I lost my big beautiful dog that i loved so much. This is my sad story so watch out for excessive liipsmacking because it may be the first sign of something more insidious.

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