Some dogs are born lickers. You're greeted with licks when you get home, or even when you get back from the mailbox. Your dog licks to groom himself and may end up more fastidious than the average cat. He may prefer to lick toys and treats before playing with or eating them.
However, no dog should lick all the time. If you keep saying to yourself, "my dog keeps swallowing like something is stuck in her throat," that's not something you just say to yourself. Tell your vet. Add constant swallowing to the mix, and your dog is telling you that something is wrong. The bottom line — if your dog is continuously swallowing and licking, he requires a veterinary examination and diagnosis.
Canine nausea and licking
If your dog keeps licking her lips and swallowing or you notice your dog keeps swallowing saliva, odds are she's feeling nauseous. As PetHelpful explains, nausea causes drooling in dogs, and the swallowing occurs because she's trying to eliminate all that saliva in her mouth. Some dogs with nausea start licking odd objects, such as the walls. If the licking and swallowing last more than 24 hours, it's time to call the vet.
Licking and swallowing may also indicate mouth issues, such as a foreign object stuck there, or teeth or periodontal problems. If possible, open your dog's mouth and inspect it, but take precautions so he can't bite you. Look under the tongue for swelling or gently feel under the animal's jawline for swollen areas. PetMD notes that the swelling may occur because fluid has accumulated in nearby tissues. A trip to the vet is necessary.
Esophagitis and acid reflux
If your dog is doing more swallowing than licking, esophagitis may prove the culprit. That's inflammation of the esophagus, and it's often caused by acid reflux. Symptoms may include not only constant swallowing but crying out when swallowing food or difficulty swallowing. Other esophagitis indicators include poor appetite, increased mouth secretions, and neck pain.
Dogs with esophagitis may often regurgitate food. That differs from vomiting since the food is commonly up shortly after it is swallowed from the esophagus, not the stomach. If the vet determines acid reflux is the problem, solid food may be withheld from the dog for a few days, while he is fed intravenously. The dog is then put on a low fat and low protein diet in which smaller meals are fed more often, rather than one or two large meals daily.
Dog trying to vomit
Sometimes, the dog is not just licking her lips, per se, but starts licking the carpet or other items. If she's outside in good weather, it's likely she would try to eat grass to make herself throw up and relieve her nausea. If she's indoors, or it's winter and no grass is available, the carpet may prove the next best thing, in her mind. If there is grass outdoors, you may want to take her out so she can try a bit of this natural canine remedy.
Often, the dog will keep swallowing vomit and may even try to eat it. Try to obtain a sample, or at the very least make detailed observations about the appearance of the vomit. This information can give your veterinarian important clues as to the cause. Some things to look for are:
- Is food present
- If food is present, is the food slimy
- Does it contain fresh blood, or old blood that looks like coffee grounds?
- How soon before or after eating does the pet vomit?
- Is the vomiting accompanied by unproductive retching?
Take a video
Although it's important for a vet to see your pet, there's a good possibility that your dog's licking and swallowing is intermittent. He may have frequent episodes, but he's not licking and swallowing all day long. That means when he's in the vet's office, the vet has only your description to go by. For that reason, it's wise to use your phone to video your dog licking and swallowing so you can show your vet exactly what your dog is doing.
A video certainly won't preclude a physical examination and other testing, but it does give your vet insight into the type of problem your dog is experiencing. The exact way your dog is swallowing, whether it is constant but otherwise normal or if your dog seems to gulp for air, can also help your veterinarian determine the cause of your dog's discomfort.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.