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Dog Licking Air: Strange Behavior or Serious Condition?

Dogs are not able to communicate their feelings or thoughts with words as humans do. They rely heavily on body language to "talk." Although some of the physical cues from dogs may seem irrelevant, pet parents have to pay attention if their dogs are behaving strangely.

If you become aware of your dog licking the air, pay close attention. Sometimes a dog that licks the air is suffering from an underlying medical condition. If so, it should be taken to the vet as soon as possible to be checked. 

What does it look like when a dog licks the air?

A dog that licks the air can take many forms; each dog may do this differently. It can start gradually or suddenly, but there are some common things to look for.

When a dog is licking the air, it will either stick its tongue out as if it is lapping up an imaginary liquid. Or it may look as though the dog is biting imaginary insects in the air. Other dogs will compulsively lick the floor or furniture or an empty food bowl.

Licking in the air may be caused by factors that are not related to a medical condition. Sometimes, when a dog is licking the air, it means that it's hungry. In other cases, it could mean it's a compulsive behavior disorder.

Here are a few possible reasons why your dog is licking the air:

  • Fluffy could have a foreign object stuck in his mouth.
  • Nelly could be suffering from a compulsive disorder.
  • Angus could be anxious.
  • Buster could be bored.
  • Nacho could be feeling nauseous.
  • Izzy could have IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)
  • Coco could suffer from CCD (Canine cognitive dysfunction)

Is licking air the same as licking your face?

You may have wondered, "Why do dogs lick?" and whether licking your face or a bowl is the same as your dog licking air. It's not exactly the same. Licking your face is a way of showing affection. Consider that kind of lick as a way of kissing you. 

Licking your face is also a way to gather information from you and your surroundings. Licking the air is quite different. Let's explore the reasons behind this and look at the main factors behind why your dog won’t stop licking air.

Why is my dog licking the air?

Licking the air can be normal and natural, and it's not always easy to diagnose. Consulting a vet is the most thorough way of getting a proper diagnosis and getting to the cause of the problem before it becomes serious.

#1. A foreign object in your dog's mouth

If you've ever thought, "my dog keeps licking the air and swallowing," and you're wondering why, your dog could have something stuck in its mouth. If your dog has been chewing on something, it may have become lodged in the roof of its mouth.

By gently feeling and looking around inside Fluffy's mouth, you should see what's stuck and help your furry buddy get it out. If you can't locate the object immediately, feel around the gums to see if there are any loose teeth, which could also be causing the problem.

#2. A compulsive disorder

Just like humans, dogs can develop various compulsive disorders. A disorder could make your dog feel compelled to lick the air. This could be because she's bored or in need of attention.

#3. Anxiety

A dog that wants to lick the air all the time may be feeling anxious or sad about something. The anxiety could be caused by anything from a loud and unsettling noise that causes stress or a new pet.

An older dog with mobility issues may lick the air because it is stressed or in pain. Installing a bed ramp for dogs may be one way to help them feel more connected to you and less stressed, as they gain a bit more mobility and freedom.

#4. Boredom

If your dog is left by itself all day without proper stimulation, it could become bored. If you work during the day and are gone many hours through the day, exercising or spending time with it when you are home will help alleviate those feelings.

#5. Nausea

Why does my dog lick everything? Your dog could be nauseous. A dog that feels like it will vomit may start to lick themselves, their lips, and other surfaces just before it throws up.

Ensure your dog hasn't eaten something poisonous, and check its food and ingredients if there are sensitivities. If the vomiting persists, see a vet immediately.

#6. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Another reason your dog may lick the air and other surfaces such as furniture and floors could mean that they suffer from IBD. Excessive licking of surfaces (or ELS) is often linked to gastrointestinal disease.

A dog can have many different forms of gastrointestinal disease. They can range from IBD to chronic pancreatitis to giardiasis, and it may even include gastric foreign bodies affecting their digestive system.

#7. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD)

An elderly dog may develop CCD (Canine Cognitive Dysfunction). This disorder is much like Alzheimer's in humans. The result can be repetitive behaviors that are hard to stop, such as licking the air. 

You can usually manage this disorder with prescribed medications and by changing your dog's diet to eliminate certain ingredients that might play a part in their behavior. Above all, spend time with your dog to give it comfort. 

Things you can do when your dog starts licking the air

Why does my dog lick the air, and what can I do? The first thing a responsible pet owner should do when their dog begins to lick the air repeatedly is figurr out why. 

Here is a list of questions you can ask about your dog if it starts this behavior:

  • Is there a reason why your dog may be anxious?
  • Was there a change in your dog's routine?
  • Was there a change in how it's disciplined?
  • Have you changed the way you train your dog?
  • Did a family member or pet move away and become absent, or pass away?

Answering these questions is a great starting point for you as a pet parent. It will help you to give your vet quality information that will help with a diagnosis. 

By keeping an eye on the frequency and moments of air licking, you could figure out what's happening early on, and this will equip you to take the steps necessary to prevent it in the future. Keep a written record of the licking and include the following information:

  • Where is your dog when it begins to lick the air?
  • Who was around it at that time?
  • What are the noise levels when it happens?
  • How long does the licking last?

Preventative measures you can take

You can do a few things as a pet parent to prevent your furry buddy from excessive licking. Here are some tips:

  • Size of toys - A dog should be kept mentally stimulated. Give your canine companion toys easy to play with but large enough not to pose a choking hazard.
  • Food allergies - Check your dog's food for allergenic ingredients, and make sure that the bowl and surface that the food is served on is clean and free from fleas or other insects that could irritate its mouth or skin.
  • Teeth problems - Check your dog's teeth regularly to ensure their mouth is clean and free from foreign objects. Take your furry buddy to the vet for regular dental examinations and cleanings.
  • Blood check - Visits to the vet should also include blood testing now and again to prevent any unseen infections that may be present.
  • Be attentive - Spending time with your pet will not only give you the ability to see behavioral changes, but time spent playing or walking will also give your dog a calmer disposition and less stress overall.

You can lick this potential problem

In many cases, excessive licking is momentary and may pass without interference. However, a dog suffering from a compulsive disorder may have a more severe problem that requires medical attention. 

Your job as a pet parent is not only to love your four-legged friend but also to pay close attention to its behavior and help it if the licking gets out of control.

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