Big, wet, slobbery dog kisses are part of the package deal for most dog owners, but your face isn’t the only thing they lick. Before you let your mind wander too far into their grooming habits, I was talking about their noses.
Pups who lick their own noses are a ubiquitous sight, but why? Someone told me a long time ago that they needed the moisture or they’d get sick. I know that’s a myth. Yet, I was still curious about this strange doggy behavior and wanted to know more. What I learned was incredibly useful.
Why does my dog keep licking her nose? Your dog licks her nose, to tell you she’s hurt. Your dog is hardwired not to show ‘the pack’ when they’re weak, so it comes out in other ways. Always check out your pup’s nose if she licks it too often just to ensure that there is not a medical reason for the constant licking.
A Dogs’ Nose is Incredibly Sensitive
Something as simple as a small scratch can cause your dog to lick her nose. Think of how you feel when you get a papercut or a scrape in the soft tissues of your mouth. Your canine companion’s nose is the first part of them that encounters anything new or different. It’s literally right up front, and only typically a foot or two off the ground.
Even a blade of grass can cause damage if you’re running through a field at the ‘blade’ level. Seeds, insects, and other debris are also much closer to your dogs’ faces than they are to yours. In short, they’re the perfect height to get minor irritations and injuries right on the snoot. However, that’s not the only nose-problem that might be causing the issue.
Possible Causes of Doggy Nose Licking
Not all doggy nose licking is a bad sign. Sometimes there’s a hair tickling the delicate tissue, or their skin is a little dry. Likewise, a minor scratch isn’t something to be worried about unless it gets infected. I’ve compiled a list of the ten most common causes of this strange behavior.
- Cuts & Scrapes- Even a small wound on soft tissue can hurt a great deal.
- Discharge- Infections and allergies are the most common culprits when a dog licks excessive nasal discharge.
- Confusion or Anxiety- A dog who is stressed or doesn’t understand what’s happening may lick their nose.
- Bites & Stings- Unless it swells, a small bite or sting on your dog’s nose can be hard to spot. Telltale licking might clue you in to the problem.
- Foreign Object- Something might be stuck to or stuck inside your dog’s nose. Even if it doesn’t hurt, the sensation may bother them, so they try to lick it away.
- Compulsive Behavior- Dogs, like other pets, can have compulsive behavior disorders.
- Nausea- Licking the nose might be a sign your dog is about to throw up.
- Dental Health- Some dogs who have gum disease or other oral problems lick at their noses.
- Canine Seizures- Dogs who have partial seizures may behave oddly and lick their nose or lips during the event. In this case, the action shouldn’t last very long, but might be excessive for a short while. Always have a vet check out your pet if you suspect seizures or other serious issues.
- Normal Behavior- Moisturizing their dry nose with the occasional lick is normal. It may even help dogs to pick up scents in the air better.
A Simple Solution for Doggy Dry Nose
While it’s not a big deal for your dog to lick her dry nose, there is something you can do to help her keep it moist. Minor dryness isn’t a problem, but when it gets bad, a high-quality nose balm can help soothe a dry or cracked snout.
I carry the Natural Dog Company Powerhouse Set everywhere with my dogs. The Snout soother is terrific, and I like having something for paws and other skin issues on hand. The portable size is convenient, and my dogs love how it feels. Check prices and availability by clicking here.
Nose Licking & Doggy Mental Health
The hardest causes of doggy nose licking to identify aren’t always tiny bites or scratches. When the problem is in your canine companion’s head, it’s not something you can spot just by checking out their snout.
As responsible pet owners, keeping an eye on our dog’s behavior is part of the deal. That said, if you notice your dog only licks their nose when strangers visit or during a thunderstorm, for example, then it’s likely a stress reaction. Whatever the trigger, nervous behavior doesn’t have to be expressed by hiding or aggression.
Compulsive nose licking, however, looks a little different. When you don’t see anything, and your vet has checked her out, but your dog still goes through bouts of serious licking, the culprit might be compulsive behavior.
Compulsion is highly repetitive. It recurs regularly, much more often than a thunderstorm, and typically lasts for quite a while. Several minutes or longer. Moreover, the licking is distracting. Unfortunately, it may even be so excessive as to cause injury. It’s more common for dogs to lick their paws compulsively, but that doesn’t mean it never happens to other body parts. It’s vital to tell your vet if your dog licks her nose compulsively.
Self Calming & Communication
Sometimes a nose lick means your dog is processing some information. Rather than being upset, they may be bolstering their confidence. Not unlike a person taking a deep breath, your dog may be preparing herself to handle something unfamiliar.
Similarly, your pet may be signaling to another dog that she’s not about to take action. Scientists believe that this may help calm other dogs who can see it. Your dog is showing that she has assessed the puzzle, and has decided that, though it may confuse her, there’s nothing she needs to do about it.
Pain & Injuries on a Dog’s Nose
Regardless of the cause, from a thorn to fighting with a cat, dogs lick their noses when they hurt. The obvious first step is to look for signs of a problem. If there’s severe bleeding or any sign of infection, you should see a vet ASAP. Similarly, if your dog sneezes and gets a nosebleed, you should be concerned. Visit a pet hospital or pet emergency room right away. Foxtails, nasal polyps, and even nasal cancer may be to blame.
If there’s something lodged inside your dog’s nostrils, you should never try and remove it yourself. Vets have the right, sterile equipment to help your dog. Additionally, they’ll know if there are any bonus concerns, like barbs on a grass seed, or a heightened chance of infection.
Most dog nose injuries are less serious. Time, a few licks, and a great healing balm will resolve the licking issue as she heals. I suggest keeping a container of ResQ Organics Pet Skin Treatment in your animal first-aid kit. The Manuka honey helps with everything from mange to cuts. You can find out more when you click here.
Oral Pain Can Cause Nose Licking
Unfortunately, not every trauma or pain based nose lick can be solved with balm. The behavior can be a manifestation of oral discomfort. It’s always been essential to take good care of your dog’s teeth, not least of all, so you can keep an eye on their overall dental health.
Check for tartar buildup and bad breath first. Next, make sure there’s no sign of swelling or infection in your pet’s mouth. Finally, look for broken teeth or other symptoms that oral health is causing the licks.
Help keep your dog’s mouth clean with more than just regular brushing. Choose treats like Purina DentaLife to help prevent doggy breath and other oral issues that can make your pup lick her nose. You can get them from Amazon by clicking here.
Nose Licking Signals Illness
Nose licking is not a casual gesture for your dog. Her nose is home to one of the most potent sensory organs on earth. The Jacobson’s Organ in your dog is connected to as many as three-hundred million olfactory receptors. This unique biology transmits images into her brain that tells her what the world is made from, and where it is. Keeping it healthy is how she learns about the world around her.
A dog who licks their nose is communicating vital information. Unfortunately, reading and interpreting the signals is up to you as the caregiver.
A drippy or runny nose isn’t always a significant concern. If your dog has allergies, then your vet can give you an antihistamine that’s safe for her. Moreover, as long as there are no other worrisome signs, like lack of appetite, lethargy, or pus, then it’s alright to monitor your pup at home for two to three days. Should the symptoms persist after seventy-two hours, it’s time to seek professional help.
Sudden and overzealous nose licking, especially if your dog is also licking her lips, might be a sign of upset stomach. Most dog owners know their pup will eat grass if they feel the need to throw up. However, far fewer are aware of the way their dog communicates through licking.
Also, look for gas and tummy rumbling or gurgling. Additionally, an outdoor dog may head straight for the grass, but indoor dogs can’t use that remedy. Resultantly, they may lick floors or carpets to alleviate the craving. Finally, excessive drooling can help signal the need to vomit.
Arguably the most alarming potential cause of nose licking in your dog is canine seizures. While a grand mal seizure is often easy to identify, the dog collapses, becomes stiff, and paddles her legs. Sadly, they may also lose control of their bowels and bladder. Meanwhile, a smaller seizure can be more of a mystery.
Small seizures have signs, like snapping at the air when there’s no bug flying around and licking the nose and lips. The most common cause is inherited idiopathic epilepsy. However, toxins, brain trauma, or tumors, and severe kidney issues can also cause seizures. I always suggest that, if there’s any doubt or confusion about what’s happening to your best friend, you should take them to the vet. It might save their life.
Licking Feels Nice
Now that we’ve talked about the worst, I want to remind you that sometimes, your dog licks her nose because it feels good. Not only is the occasional self-licky a normal and healthy doggy behavior, but it serves a secondary purpose.
Licking doesn’t simply feel ‘nice,’ when your dog does it. The act of licking releases endorphins in your dog’s brain. Whether they’re self-calming, trying to heal, or merely have a tickle on their snoot, endorphins are a big reward for such a small action. The ‘happy chemicals’ helps relieve stress and creates pleasure for your dog.
Dog do many strange things, and licking their noses is just one of them. You shouldn’t be concerned if your pup gives her nose the occasional dampening. She’s enjoying herself. However, when it’s constant or excessive, you should be worried.
Her nose is arguably your dog’s most important organ. Hearts pump blood. The brain, stomach, and kidneys all do vital jobs as well. Yet it is through the nose that dogs experience the world in ways our limited human senses can’t comprehend or imitate.
When your dog licks her nose, check it out. She may be telling you something important, and you should always pay attention when your pet speaks to you.