Why Does My Dog Lick the Air

Do you ever been on a walk with your dog, and he started licking and biting the air like he’s fighting an insect? Yet, despite that you’ve checked, there's no bug messing with him. Perhaps your dog starts licking the air when you arrive home, or when you scratch his back, but is this normal?

Dogs communicate in various ways, and licking is one of those. These 9 reasons could be why your dog licks the air and how to avoid it.

9 Reasons Why Does Your Dog Lick the Air

These are the most common causes that justify your dog’s behavior.

1- To Smell Better

It's well known to us that dogs have an incredible sense of smell, in fact, it's almost 100,000 times better than ours.

Dogs’ amazing sense of smell is due to the increased and improved olfactory system, thanks to their evolutionary process. Lots more olfactory receptors, a special organ called vomeronasal, and higher portions of the brain dedicated to olfactory processing.

The organ called vomeronasal is responsible for the dog’s capability of smelling pheromones, and chemical signs. Licking the air could be a way to catch particles of these smells dispersed in the air.

2- Stress

When a dog is under high amounts of stress, he may start licking the air as a result of the anxiety. This behavior is always shared with one of the following:

Paying attention to those other signals will help to clarify why does your dog lick the air.

This is normally because some events like a change in his routine, he’s in a strange place or someone strange to him is in the house. Behavioral training, more exercise, and some anti-anxiety supplements would solve the problem.

3- Foreign Object in the Mouth

When something gets allocated between your dog's teeth, he can't take it off in any other way than with his tongue. If he was chewing a stick or a bone, a chunk or a chip may get stuck in his teeth, or a larger portion of it on the roof of the mouth.

To prevent this, don't let your dog chew on shatterable items. In addition to getting stuck in his mouth, it can cause a way worse problem, gastrointestinal obstruction, if he ever swallows a big piece of it.

He will get rid of the hassle on his own most of the time, but in more severe cases, sedation and even surgery are needed to remove the troublemaker.

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4- Compulsive Disorder

When a dog is experiencing a compulsive disorder, he has lost control over that behavior, it becomes more like a physiological response. Like when he's thirsty he'll drink water in response, if he's anxious or bored he'll lick the air.

Only the vet will address this issue, but giving him as much information about the behavior as possible will help with the diagnosis.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS)

This case is reserved for senior dogs. Because when a dog is 8 years or older, he can develop what it's called canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome. This is very similar to what Alzheimer's disease is in people.

Some of its symptoms are repetitive and nonsense actions, like licking the air, barking at nothing, walking in circles, etc.

Some possible treatments for CDS are:

  • Pharmaceutical agents.
  • Dietary therapy.
  • Nutritional supplements.
  • Behavioral enrichment.

Any or all of these will be determined by an expert. So you should consult with the vet if you suspect that your dog is experiencing CDS. The earlier the treatment is started, the better will be the quality of life of your dog.

Boredom

This behavior could be something as simple as boredom, this is a way for your dog to seek attention. It could be shared with other "I'm bored" signals from your dog, like excessive barking or chewing furniture. Providing him more stimulation like toys walks over new places, or just playing with him will address the issue.

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Nausea

Nausea causes the dog an excess of salivation, this saliva is typically swallowed and is accompanied by tongue movements that may seem like your dog is licking the air.

However, if you saw your dog lick the air and then he vomited, it's normal, they lick multiple things, even the air, before throwing up.

This should be nothing to worry about because it can be caused by eating too fast or eating something he isn’t used to. Yet, if it is recurrent, or it lasts more than 2 days, something bigger could be happening in your dog’s stomach.

Seizures

Compulsive licking caused by seizures may seem like your dog is licking the air, but this isn't a voluntary reaction. It is caused by a temporary involuntary disturbance of normal brain function.

If seizures are the answer to "why does my dog lick the air?" you can probably note some of these other symptoms:

  • Stiff muscles.
  • Twitching.
  • Falling unconscious.
  • Drooling.
  • Peeing or pooping uncontrollably.

The vet will prescribe anti-seizure medication after a few studies to determine if your dog is suffering from seizures.

Submissive behavior

Licking the air can be a way to express submission. This often happens when they perceive an aggressive dog approaching. However, if there isn't an aggressive dog, your dog can be expressing submission to you.

When a dog licks the air in the presence of a more dominant dog (or person) he’s trying to say “you’re in charge, I have no intentions to fight”.

If this happens with your presence, it could mean your dog feels intimidated by you. To calm him down, avoid eye contact, and calmly speak to him, he needs to understand that he’s safe with you.

Why Does My Dog Lick the Air? Should I Worry?

Sporadic and short episodes of your dog licking the air are not a motive for worrying. Despite this, if he starts doing it compulsively, or for longer periods, something else could be happening behind the scene.

If your dog licks the air compulsively like he's out of control, it could be a medical or behavioral underlying reason that needs to be treated.

Taking a video of your dog when he starts licking the air will help if you need to visit a veterinarian later. If you can, record him when you are away from home, this will show if he's licking the air only when people are around.

Once you have collected the evidence, it’s time to determine, if possible, what is causing your dog to act like that.

How to Stop My Dog from Licking the Air

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If nothing concerning is happening to your pet, here are some things you can do to stop this behavior from happening:

  • If you changed his diet, make sure he isn't allergic to it.
  • Increase the daily physical activity to reduce stress and boredom.
  • Buy him chewing toys to stimulate and distract him.
  • If he was chewing a stick, check for any chip stuck in his teeth.
  • Make sure the vaccination schedule is up-to-date.