Yawning and Licking His Lips in Dogs

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 06/13/2017Updated: 10/29/2021
Veterinary reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS
Why is my dog yawning and licking his lips?

What are Yawning and Licking His Lips?

Often, pet parents will see their canine exhibit behavior that is not commonly seen. The combination of yawning and lip licking can be seen in a pet who is feeling nauseous, has dental issues, is under stress, or is experiencing other health issues.

  • Digestive issues
  • Dental problems
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Bloat
  • Inhalation or swallowing of a foxtail
  • Intestinal parasites

If your dog is continuously licking his lips and yawning, he should be seen by a veterinarian. For example, the removal of a foreign body or the eradication of parasites may be the solution needed to curb the behavior.

Why Yawning and Licking His Lips Occurs in Dogs

Digestive Issues

Your dog may be experiencing nausea. A change of diet, pancreatitis or an intestinal obstruction may be causing your dog to have an upset stomach.

Dental Issues

The yawning and lip licking may be caused by a loose tooth, fractured tooth or abscess.  Gingivitis can also be the culprit behind a dog yawning and lip licking as the gums may be very sore and irritated.

Stress and Anxiety

Your dog may be yawning and lip licking due to stress or anxiety; he may be feeling nervous or fearful. Please note that a dog that is feeling fearful and cornered may bite.


Bloat can cause yawning, lip licking, retching and drooling. Bloat can be described as an enlarged stomach which contains food, liquid and/or gas.  This condition is more common in deep-chested dogs. Bloat can be a fatal condition.  The abdomen will look visibly distended. If you suspect bloat, please take your dog the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Dog Inhaled or Swallowed a Foxtail

Foxtails are awns, described as spiky grass seeds.  If a foxtail is lodged in your pet’s throat, it can be causing a great deal of discomfort.

Intestinal Parasites

Intestinal parasites live inside a dog’s gastrointestinal tract. Intestinal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms may be causing your dog to feel sick and nauseated.

What to do if your Dog is Yawning and Licking His Lips

After examining your companion, the veterinarian may recommend a complete blood count, serum chemistry panel, urinalysis and a fecal exam.  If the veterinarian suspects a digestion problem, he may suggest x-rays or an ultrasound.  If the x-rays and ultrasound are inconclusive, he may schedule your dog for an MRI or CT scan. 

Dogs with dental or gum issues he may well need a dental cleaning. If your dog is diagnosed with bloat, he will need emergency surgery to correct the issue. Post-operative instructions will be provided by the veterinary surgeon.  Your dog will need to wear an Elizabethan collar until the sutures are removed.

Intestinal parasites will be treated with a de-wormer.  The dog’s bedding, kennel and toys must be washed in hot water.  The household flooring should be cleaned with a diluted bleach solution to help kill any surviving eggs. It is important to remove any feces from the back yard.  If there are other pets in the household, they too should be de-wormed.  Some parasites such as roundworm and tapeworms can be transmitted to people.

If the veterinarian must remove a foxtail from your dog’s throat, general anesthesia will be administered. Antibiotics may be prescribed to help prevent a bacterial infection. If the veterinarian believes the yawning and lip licking is a behavior issue, he may recommend a canine behaviorist.

Prevention of Yawning and Licking His Lips

Intestinal parasites can be prevented by regular deworming. Your veterinarian can recommend the product most suited to your dog. Many dental issues can be prevented with regular dental check-ups as well as daily tooth brushing. Digestion issues can potentially be avoided in some dogs by providing at all times, a high-quality dog food, and not feeding your pets fatty table scraps.

Deep-chested canine breeds with a family history of bloat may benefit from a gastropexy. A well exercised and socialized dog will usually be less stressed and anxious.

If you have foxtail grass in your yard, it should be removed to prevent the dog from getting hurt from the grass seeds. If this is not possible, monitor your dog when he is outside to ensure he does not ingest the foxtail grass. The grass seeds are like barbed, razor-sharp needles. Check your dog all over when he comes in the home, and remove any visible awns.

Cost of Yawning and Licking His Lips

Treating a canine who has experienced bloat may cost up to $5000. The expense for pancreatitis therapy may range from $800 to $6000. Intestinal parasites may cost $300 to eradicate.

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Yawning and Licking His Lips Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals





2 Years


33 found this helpful


33 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Lickjng Lios And Yawing
Is there something wrong

Nov. 17, 2020

Answered by Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

33 Recommendations

Lip licking and yawning are non specific signs but can indicate nausea, anxiety or a source of pain. We can also see these signs with mouth pain such as occurs with dental disease. A vet check would be the next step so we can examine the patient and determine why these symptoms have started.

Nov. 17, 2020

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Ten Years


3 found this helpful


3 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Keep Licking His Mouth(Excessively) And Yawning At Random Times
Has had 14 teeth removed because they were rotten and given antibiotics three months ago

Sept. 26, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

3 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. It is possible, with that degree of dental disease, that there were complications. It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment for them.

Oct. 18, 2020

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