Why Do Dogs Lick Their Nose? Understanding The Dog Body Language

Dogs lick pretty much any part of their bodies that they can reach. More often than not, they do it for the purpose of self-grooming. However, there are parts of their body where the constant licking serves more of a purpose than just ensuring proper hygiene.

Take their nose for example. Dogs lick their nose for many reasons, ranging from innocent grooming with occasional licking to an attempt at soothing an irritation of the nose with constant licking. It is important to understand every likely reason why your dog is licking its nose so you know when to intervene.

To help you out, let us take a closer look at all the reasons why your dog may be licking its nose excessively, both the innocent and insidious causes. For the latter, we shall also dive into a few strategies that will help you put your dog out of its misery.

What Does It Mean When A Dog Keeps Licking Its Nose?

Image from Paw.com

For the most part, it is normal for your dog to keep licking its nose and it does so mainly for the purpose of keeping the nose clean, moist, and cool enough to function.

Here is a bit more on all these reasons why your dog may lick its nose under normal circumstances.

Grooming

A dogโ€™s nose is their chief tool when it comes to exploring the world around them. This means it often gets dirty whether it is mud from the puddle your pooch was checking out or dust from when they were exploring under the couch.

Your dog will then lick its nose to clean out all the debris from the environment as well as from inside the nose itself.

To Moisturize When Dry

During dry and cold seasons like summer and winter, your dogโ€™s nose loses more moisture than normal. Other factors, such as warm and dry air from air conditioning and heater units, could also cause your dogโ€™s nose to get dry.

In these cases, licking is your dogโ€™s way of moisturizing its own nose to avoid the irritation that comes with the dryness.

To Enhance Sense Of Smell

Dogs and other animals including snakes have a special organ on the roof of their mouths known as the Jacobsenโ€™s organ. Your dog uses this organ as a secondary smell center to enhance the perception of a smell.

When your dog licks its nose, it transfers any particles on the nose surface to this organ which then perceives them as the sensation of smell.

This comes in particularly handy for scent hounds that use smell to track their targets.

To Cool Down

During hot weather, your dog may also lick their nose in an attempt to cool down. When a breeze flows over the recently wet nose, it creates a cooling effect that can actually go a long way towards offering comfort to your pooch.

Is It OK If My Dog Is Licking Its Nose?

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While most of the reasons why dogs lick their noses are innocent, others like irritation and psychological distress should cause you to worry.

Here are four worrying reasons why your dog licking its nose excessively is not okay.

Anxiety

When a dog is anxious or feels threatened, they will often lick their noses and lips a lot. This may be accompanied by other features of psychological distress including aggressive behavior, restlessness, and increased vocalization.

Pain

If your dogโ€™s nose is tender, your dog may constantly lick it as a way to get some relief. The pain could be from anything from cracking as a result of dryness to injuries sustained during playing or fights with other animals.

Itchiness

An itchy nose is another common worrying reason why your dog may be licking their nose a lot. This is more often than not a result of issues like allergies.

If your dog is suffering from allergies, the excessive nose licking will be accompanied by:

  • Generalized itchiness and scratching
  • Rashes on the skin or the nose
  • Red or puffy eyes
  • Sneezing and a runny nose

Unpleasant Or Irritating Smell

Finally, your dog may be licking their nose a lot if they inhaled something unpleasant or irritating. More often than not this will be associated with excess production of saliva and mucus due to irritation of the oral and nasal surfaces.

The most common culprits in this case include smoke, strong perfumes, detergents, and household cleaning productsDog grooming products with a lot of chemical additives could also irritate the dogโ€™s nose and cause them to lick excessively.

What Should I Do If My Dog Is Licking Its Nose Excessively?

If your dog is licking its nose excessively, the most important thing to do is to identify the cause of the irritation and address it directly.

Letโ€™s take a look at some of the most common insidious causes of nose-licking and their solutions.

Dryness โ€“ Using A Nose Balm

dry nose pad that is not addressed, things can get really bad with your dog getting cracks and infections that are very painful and uncomfortable for the pooch.

Investing in a good nose balm will make all the difference in these cases and will help keep your dogโ€™s nose adequately moisturized through even the harshest of weather conditions.

For this purpose, we recommend Bodhi Dog USDA Certified Organic Nose Balm. Its organic shea butter ingredient and beeswax help soothe and moisturize the dry nose of a much happier dog who can continue its smelling activity without fail.

USDA Certified Organic Nose Balm for Dogs & Cats | Natural Soothing & Healing for Dry Cracking Rough...
  • SOOTHE, MOISTURIZE & PROTECT DRY & ROUGH NOSES: A dried out, crusty nose is uncomfortable for your pet & dampens their...
  • MADE WITH ORGANIC INGREDIENTS: Our balm is 100% USDA CERTIFIED ORGANIC PRODUCT TO FOOD STANDARDS because pets love to...
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Psychological Distress โ€“ Calming The Dog Down

If you have a strong bond with your dog, you can stop the anxiety or fear-driven nose-licking by reassuring your pooch that they are safe. This may involve holding them, petting them, or removing them from whatever situation it is that is making them feel threatened.

For a new pooch, giving the dog space and time to get comfortable on their own timeline may be your best bet.

Itchiness From Allergies โ€“ Withdrawing Allergen

If you know your dogโ€™s allergy triggers, make sure to withdraw them from your poochโ€™s environment when they start excessively licking their noses or showing other features of allergic reactions.

If you donโ€™t know the cause, make sure to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible for an allergy test so that you can prevent recurrence of the same reactions.

Irritating Smells โ€“ Get Some Fresh Air

Image from Embark Vet

For situations where irritating pungent smells are the likely cause of excessive nose-licking, the remedy is getting your pooch some fresh air or outdoor time. A fresh bowl of water to drink will also be useful as whatever it is probably also irritated the dogโ€™s oral cavity and throat.

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Pete Decker