Why is my Dog Licking the Air?

“Why is my dog licking the air?” This may be a question you have been noticing your dog’s newfound behaviour. What exactly does it mean and is it something you need to be worried about?

When your dog or pup takes on a new behaviour that seems odd to you, it is something that can get you anxious. You never really know whether it’s something minor that they just picked up and started doing or something you need to be concerned about. So, which is it?

If your dog starts licking the air as a new behaviour which they were not doing prior, you need to be concerned and trace the source of the problem. It could be something minor like food stuck on the roof of their mount or something more serious that requires a vet to have a look at.

What does it mean when a dog keeps licking the air?

When you see Fido licking the air, you need to inspect them to figure out the source of the problem. One of the causes could be food stuck on the roof of their mouth.

This is common with peanut butter treats. Inspect their mouths to establish whether or not this is the case. If it is, you have nothing to worry about and can leave it there for you dog to enjoy over time. When they lick the air in this scenario, it’s an enjoyable thing much like a game to them.

Another cause is that something is lodged in the roof of their mouth. If this is the case, remove the object that is the cause of discomfort. If you can’t remove it, you may have to take them to the vet. There are other reasons why your dog could be licking the air which we are now going to look into.

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Gastro-Intestinal Issues

A leading cause of air licking in dogs is gastrointestinal issues. When dogs have problems in their tummies, they will lick the air, their lips as well as a host of other surfaces.

This can be due to them having an upset stomach.
Research has shown that between 60% and 75% of dogs that exhibit excessive air and surface licking do this due to gastro intestinal issues. This is a possibility for your dog and you need to have them checked out by a vet.

Dog Stress and Anxiety

Air licking can be a sign that your dog is anxious. You will often find that dogs will lick a lot of things and even people when they are anxious. When you see this suddenly start happening with your dog, think about whether there is something that has changed in your dog’s environment that may possibly put them on edge.

Skin Problem

A common cause of air licking can be skin issues. This may be accompanied by the more common sign of skin problems where your dog licks their paws. If upon inspection, you cannot see anything visibly wrong with them, give

them a bath using an oatmeal dog shampoo and monitor whether the behaviour continues. If this doesn’t remedy the problem, take your dog to the vet and have them looked at.

Different scenarios when a dog licks the air and their meaning

To better understand the cause of your dog’s air licking, you may need to observe how other behaviours which your dog exhibits during this time.

As an example, you can identify anxiety in a dog by air or surface licking in combination with peeing or pooping inside the house when they are housebroken.

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The combination of the two signs helps you better identify the possible cause. In the eventuality that you do take your dog to a Vet, they will also want to know some other behaviours that your dog is showing to better diagnose the problem.

Let’s look at some of these and what they possibly mean.

Dog licking air and eating grass

When you see a combination of air licking and grass eating, it may mean that your dog has nausea. They will lick the air and possibly eat grass just before vomiting. When dogs frantically eat grass, it is a common sign of gastrointestinal upset.

When they have an upset stomach, they will instinctively start consuming large amounts of grass then later vomit.
Note that grass eating is quite common in dogs and many consider it to be normal behaviour.

They usually eat it in small quantities. Some attribute this behaviour to some deficiency in the dog’s diet that may lead to it eating grass in order to replace something missing, which, in the case of grass, could be a fibre deficiency.
However, what we are talking about here is a combination of frantic grass eating in large quantities and air licking. When you see these two together, it may mean GI problems.

Dog licking air could be a sign of seizure

One of the reasons that your dog licks the air could be that they are going through a minor seizure. This is due to irregular firing of neurons in the brain causing involuntary muscle contractions.

When this happens though, it will be for the duration of the seizure and will not go beyond that.

Dog keeps licking air and gulping

When your dog licks the air and gulps a lot, it is a possible sign of something wrong in their mouth. This could range from something lodged in their mouth or teeth all the way to dental problems.

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You can make an inspection of their mouth to establish the cause of the discomfort and remove it where possible. In situations where it’s an infection or you can’t establish the reason, take them to the Vet.

Dog licking air and shaking

When you see this in your dog, you need to take them to the vet immediately. When it is accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea, it could be a sign of a serious problem that needs to be looked at.
Other possible causes

Sometimes air licking may not be linked to anything physical that a vet can pick out or remedy but may be a behavioural issue. In cases where you’ve taken the necessary steps in trying to diagnose the problem and still can’t pinpoint it, you will want to consider the services of a dog behavioural expert.

It may be the case that your dog has picked up a bad habit and it can only be corrected by a behaviour expert. Make sure that you have exhausted other possible causes and only when you are sure that it’s not a physical issue can you consider behavioural training.


Your dog licking the air can be due to a number of causes as you have seen in this article. Though most can be due to physical causes, some may simply be psychological. Make sure to get sufficient information first before reaching a conclusion.
The good thing is that though the behaviour may be disturbing to you, it can be corrected with the right diagnosis.

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