You may think your pooch looks pretty silly when he whines and licks the air, but he's actually trying to communicate. There are several reasons a pet might do this. While some are behavioral and generally fine, others indicate potential health problems that you should address with your vet.
Both whining and licking are submissive behaviors. Dogs licking the air demonstrate a fear-based submission while those who lick other dogs' faces demonstrate an appeasement submission. Whining can occur from anxiety or appeasement submission. If your dog tends to whine and lick the air while around other dogs or people, he may be demonstrating that he's submissive and you (or another dog) is the alpha.
Constant licking is a type of compulsive disorder. If your dog whines and licks the air for long periods of time, such as for several hours, he's probably suffering from a disorder -- there may be a psychological trigger, such as stress, or an environmental trigger, such as allergies. Your veterinarian can evaluate your pet to ensure he's healthy, and he can provide medication to soothe your pet if needed.
Since excessive licking is one symptom of dog nausea, your dog may have an upset stomach. If your dog doesn't usually lick the air and whine, he may have eaten something that's bothering his tummy. Other signs of nausea include drooling, dry heaving, chewing and diarrhea. If the nausea has only been occurring for a couple of hours, your dog may feel better on his own soon. If you suspect your dog ate something potentially toxic, head to an emergency vet.
Should You Worry?
You know your dog best and can evaluate why your dog is acting this way. Since these symptoms can also indicate health concerns such as dental pain, seizures and cognitive dysfunction, it's worth discussing this behavior with your vet. He can always perform a thorough exam to make sure your dog is well.
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