Why Do Dogs Lick the Air and Should You Be Worried?

Have you recently noticed your dog licking the air and wondered why they do this? Are they trying to tell you something? What does it mean and should you be worried?

In this post we will walk through the reasons why your dog might be licking the air, as well as discuss what you can do about it.

7 Reasons why dogs lick the air

There are seven reasons why your dog might be licking the air. Your dog could have something stuck in its mouth, could be suffering from stress, have a gastrointestinal disorder, is bored, is trying to pick up a scent, is trying to modify their behavior, or might be suffering from a partial seizure.

We’ve outlined possible reasons why your dog is licking the air in more detail below:

1. Something is stuck in their mouth

What do you usually do after a snack gets stuck at the top of your mouth?

Of course, you will use your tongue to brush off the remains. That is what dogs do as well. They do not have the luxury of using fingers like us, and therefore, their tongue is their only weapon when it comes to removing a lodged away morsel stuck in their teeth.

The food items that frequently get stuck in dog’s mouths are peanut butter, kibble, and treats. Sometimes, sticks or parts of chew toys can get stuck as well. If it is a foreign object which is not edible and they or you cannot remove it, you might need to call or head over to your local vet to have it removed.

2. They are suffering from stress disorder

A dog often licks when he/she is stressful. There is a biological process behind it.

Air licking releases endorphins in the brains of dogs. Endorphins are a feel-good chemical and have a calming effect on the dog. As a result, whenever they are under stress, they often lick to get some relief. However, there is a downside to this behavior as well. It can turn into a compulsive disorder. If it turns into a compulsive disorder, the dog will lick the air constantly, irrespective of whether the dog is under stress or not.

3. It might be due to a gastrointestinal disorder

Air licking can be a symptom of gastrointestinal trouble in dogs. It can be a symptom of various ailments like:

• Acute pancreatitis

• Acid reflux

• Stomach pain

So, as a dog owner, you cannot ignore this behavior of your dog if you see it happen frequently. Air licking provides the dog some reliefe when it suffers form the above issues.

4. The dog is bored

A bored dog often finds a way to entertain him or herself, and licking the air is just one such activity. As we mentioned above, this action release endorphins, so they might be doing it to get some joy. Spending some time or indulging in an activity with your dog will curb this behavior.

5. The dog is picking up a scent

Licking the air is often a behavior associated with smelling pheromones among dogs. If they come across new pheromone molecules or any unique or intriguing odor, they might react by licking the air, to smell it more deeply. During the process, they are trying to pass the pheromone molecules to the Jacobson’s organ and then to the brain, to better process it.

6. The dog is trying to modify his or her behavior

Have you scolded them for licking their paws or any other part of the body?

In that case, they might be trying to modify their behavior. Instead of licking paws or skin or any other part of the body, they lick the air. It can also occur when they are suffering from a skin infection, but you have trained them not to lick it, so instead they lick the air.

7. The dog might be suffering from a partial seizure

During a partial seizure, the dog might be not able to control body parts, and might lead to some air licking. Partial seizures are not that noticeable and, therefore, are challenging to detect.

What to do about your dog’s air licking?

Now that you know the causes, it is crucial to understand what you should do in such a case. Below is a step-by-step guide to follow to pinpoint the correct cause and the corresponding solution.

1. First, we will need to eliminate if your dog is doing this out of boredom. Try calling him or her over or distracting them with a toy or treat. If the air licking continues even after this, then it might not be a sign of boredom.

2. Next, try to see if something is stuck in his or her mouth. You’ll have to gently examine his or her mouth and see if you see anything caught in there that needs to be removed. If you can dislodge the item easily, that’s great. If not, you might need to take your pup to the vet to help remove it.

3. The next check is to see if your dog is suffering from any stress. Have there been any major changes in your dog’s life recently? Did you just move, did someone move out, have they lost their favorite toy? Or is there any other reason your dog could be stressed? See if you can pinpoint the reason why your dog might be agitated and try and remedy it if possible. If not, there’s always treats!

4. If you’ve eliminated stress, then the next thing is to try and detect if your dog is suffering from any gastrointestinal problems. Digestive problems are usually coupled with symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and/or vomiting. When the dog suffers from any of these, they might suffer from stomach pain, as well. That is why; they will not allow you to touch their abdomen area. It is a clear-cut sign that the dog might be suffering from a gastrointestinal problem, and therefore, you should contact the vet.

5. If all the above causes do not suffice, you have to ask yourself have you recently discouraged your dog from licking paws or any other part of the body. If yes, the dog might be trying to lick their skin and would be refraining from doing so due to your training. You should check to see if the dog has any skin irritation or other issues if he/she keeps up with licking the air.

6. If your dog licks the air only when they are closer to other dogs, that usually means that they are trying to recognize pheromones, and it is completely natural behavior. There is no action warranted from your end in such a case.

7. If your dog is suffering from a partial seizure, then only one limb, or one side of his or her body, or just their face or one paw might be affected. If you notice any of your dog’s body parts twitching or buckling, and this is paired with your dog licking the air, then you should contact your vet immediately.

Do some breeds of dogs lick the air more than others?

Air licking is not a breed-specific activity in dogs. You will find this type of behavior prevalent across the different dog breeds.

Are there any medical issues to be worried about?

As we described above, air licking could indicate problems including:

• Gastrointestinal infections

• Partial seizures

• Skin allergies

• Stress

When should I contact a vet if my dog is licking the air?

If you can identify the cause using the above procedure, it will be easier for you to decide whether a vet consultation is essential or not.

If you’re not able to identify the problem and the air licking behavior of your dog continues, it might be due to a severe internal problem or due to a compulsive disorder. In that case, you have no other option but to consult a vet.

It is also advisable to record a video of your dog so that you can show it to your vet, and he/she can better identify the problem.

You should also note down the frequency of licking to help the vet diagnose the problem better. Thus, our step-by-step identification procedure above will help you decide whether a vet consultation is needed or not.

We hope that this post helps you understand your dog’s behavior better. And the next time you see your pup licking the air, you’ll know the steps you need to take to identify the cause, and determine if any action is needed, or if he or she is simply bored, or just smelling some interesting scents!

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