If your dog keeps licking his nose, you know that something must not be right. Dogs typically engage in some quick nose licking occasionally, and the behavior is often barely noticeable. Problems start when your dog starts licking his nose excessively which is often indicative of some problem going on. Some dogs develop this problem suddenly, while others have been licking their nose for quite some time but appear normal (eating, drinking and acting just fine) otherwise. If your dog keeps licking his nose, there are a few possible causes, but a vet visit is in order to make sure the underlying issue is addressed correctly.
A Sign of Nasal Discharge
Deprived from the manual dexterity humans have, when dogs get the sniffles they have no better way than to use their tongue to clear any annoying trickles of nasal discharge.
Not always you may be able to see any discharge. Dogs may sneeze it out or readily lick it away and swallow it. If there is thick discharge that is yellow or green, this can be a sign of a respiratory infection. If your dog is sneezing and acting lethargic, he may be running a fever.
Sometimes, the licking of the nose may be more pronounced at night. This happens because when the dog is lying down and sleeping, drainage may be pooling in his sinuses and the back of his throat which causes lip licking and swallowing when the dog wakes up.
If the nasal discharge is clear, allergic rhinitis (inflammation inside the nose) may be a cause. If your vet suspects allergies, he or she may suggest giving plain Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) and see how the dog responds.
"Quite often with dogs who seem to lick their noses a lot, I have found that it has been due to seasonal allergies and a "post nasal drip" of clear fluid that the dog is licking away. When this is the case, I have found that anti-histamines can help."~Dr. Fiona, veterinarian
Problems With the Nose
Sometimes, foreign items may be stuck inside a dog's nose. If your dog has a sudden onset of violent sneezing, pawing at the nose and licking the nose, there may be chances that a foxtail (plant awn) or some other particle or foreign body may have lodged. Foxtails can be very problematic and require removal from the vet.
Sometimes, nasal polyps or certain types of nose cancer in dogs may cause the sensation of something stuck in the nose along with associated nose licking, discharge from one nostril, nose bleeds and sneezing.
To check for certain problems affecting the nose, your dog may need to be sedated and undergo scoping of the nose. The nose this way can be inspected internally and any internal problems may be identified, which is impossible in an awake dog.
Problems With Nausea
When dogs suffer from nausea, they are prone to salivating more. The excess saliva has to go somewhere. Some dogs may start drooling while some other dogs may lick their lips and nose as a way to get rid of excess saliva.
Dogs who lick their lips and noses at night may be suffering from gastroesophageal reflux. A change in appetite or vomiting along with the licking makes it highly suspicious of nausea.
Your vet may decide to do a trial with anti nausea medications and see how your dog responds. Pepcid (famotadine) is a common medication vets may suggest trying, any Prilosec (omeprazole) is another good drug.
A Dental Problem
If your dog keeps licking his nose, in some cases, excess licking of the nose may be indicative of dental disease. Dogs show signs of pain in different ways than humans, and several dogs increase their licking as a way to manifest discomfort or pain. Along with pain, affected dogs may have red gums, foul breath and, or buildup of brown tartar on the teeth.
A tooth root infection may be a cause for this type of behavior. Some of the dog's large teeth have roots that are quite long and they can reach into the dog's sinuses. These can cause problems when they become infected.
A fractured tooth, a loose tooth or some type of foreign item stuck in between the dog's teeth or on the roof of the mouth are other possible problems.
To rule dental problems out, the dog may need to have dental x-rays done which sometimes require sedation.
Onset of Stress /Anxiety
In some cases, dogs may lick their lips and nose as a sign of stress or anxiety. Generally, these licking episode persist for the duration of the anxiety-inducing situation and then resolves. For instance, in a dog fearful of thunder, the presence of a storm may evoke excess nose licking for its duration.
Sometimes, stress may be ongoing though. It helps to evaluate whether the affected dog may be suffering from any type of stress such as from recent move, the addition of a baby or another pet or being in a new home with new owners.
In some cases of excessive nose licking, the dog may be suffering from an obsessive compulsive disorder. This is similar to the hair pulling or nail biting observed in humans. It's a way for the dog to cope with stress and relieve anxiety. Soon, the behavior puts roots and becomes a strong habit that is difficult to eradicate.
My Dog Keeps Licking His Nose
In some cases, what seems like simple nose licking is actually a type of a "focal" seizure. Pain is also another thing to consider and this may include joint pain, back pain, should pain, neck pain or any other forms of pain that need to be evaluated.
Presence of injuries in the mouth such as cuts may trigger excess nose licking and so may presence of growths or ulcers.
As seen, there are several potential causes when a dog keeps licking his nose. It may not be easy identifying the underlying causes without the intervention of the vet.
Some cases may require an emergency visit such as when the affected dog is sneezing violently, develops a nose bleed, suffers from reduced appetite, lethargy, a body temperature temperature over 103.5, difficulty catching breath, pale gum color, pacing and unable o rest more than a few moments at a time.