Continuous swallowing and licking are symptoms that can be caused by a number of conditions. Some of the conditions are quite serious. Consult your veterinarian immediately if you notice your dog swallowing and licking continuously. Conditions that may cause swallowing and licking symptoms range from acid reflux to oral diseases and even neurologic disorders.
Esophagitis and Acid Reflux
When a dog's esophagus is inflamed, it is called esophagitis, and acid reflux is one of the most common sources of this inflammation. Some of the symptoms that indicate esophagitis are increased swallowing motions and increased saliva production, which results in licking. Dr. Karen Becker of Natural Pet Animal Hospital and Apawthecary in Bourbonnaise, Illinois calls the constant swallowing and licking found with acid reflux air licking.
Esophagitis can have other causes too, such as chronic vomiting, infection and ingestion of a foreign object. Additional symptoms to watch for that may indicate esophagitis are pain and difficulty with swallowing, regurgitation, poor appetite, weight loss, fever and coughing.
There are also many oral diseases and conditions that cause a dog to swallow and lick constantly. Tooth fractures, abscesses, inflammation of the tongue, inflammation of the mouth due to periodontal disease, inflammation of the salivary glands and salivary mucoceles are some of the conditions.
Oral diseases and conditions may cause regurgitation, vomiting, loss of appetite, irritability due to pain and pawing at the face.
Frequent swallowing and licking are associated with neurological disorders too. Neurological disorders include tetanus, rabies, botulism, cranial nerve defects, damage to the nerve that controls facial muscles and damage to the nerve that triggers the chewing muscles.
Additional signs and symptoms of neurological disorders to look for in a dog are a reduced ability to move limbs, weakness, problems with balance, vision problems, seizures and pain.
The Swallowing Process
There are three stages in the swallowing process involving the mouth, the pharynx and the esophagus. Because of the stages, Dr. Stanley L. Marks of the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine says that diagnosing a swallowing disorder is challenging and requires a thorough exam by a veterinarian and a clinical observation of the dog eating and drinking.
Reactions to drugs and toxins, pharyngeal problems, metabolic disorders and gastric distension also may cause swallowing and licking symptoms. Because of the number of potential causes of the symptoms, it is best to let your veterinarian make an official diagnosis and prescribe the proper treatment.