Because licking is a typical behavior in dogs it is not always easy to diagnose whether it is a behavioral problem or indicative of an underlying medical condition. Some of the reasons include:
A Foreign Object in his Mouth
Your dog may have got something caught between his teeth, or if he has been chewing a stick it may have got caught on the roof of his mouth. Try to see if you can see or feel any foreign objects that may be causing discomfort. Also check his gums and make sure he doesn’t have any loose teeth that could be painful.
A Compulsive Disorder
Like people, dogs can also develop compulsive disorders where they display repetitive behavior. Some dogs can develop compulsive disorders because they are bored or stressed or it may be an attempt at attention seeking.
Suffering from Anxiety
If something is upsetting your dog and making him anxious, the best bet is to find out what it is and try to eliminate it. It could be a loud neighborhood noise that is stressing him out or possibly the introduction of a new pet.
Sometimes air licking is a result of boredom so make sure your dog gets enough exercise and provide an interesting environment to stimulate him.
If a dog is feeling nauseous he will often start to lick his lips or other surfaces before vomiting. Make sure your dog hasn’t eaten something that is causing an upset stomach and also ensure the food being fed agrees with your dog.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Licking the air can indicate some kind of gastrointestinal problem. The obsession with licking things is also called “excessive licking of surfaces,” or ELS. A Canadian study which tested 19 dogs with ELS found that 14 of the 19 dogs had gastrointestinal diseases ranging from irritable bowel syndrome and chronic pancreatitis to gastric foreign bodies and giardiasis.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
If your dog is elderly he can develop canine cognitive dysfunction which is a bit like Alzheimer’s in humans. It can result in the onset of air licking and other repetitive behaviors. While it can’t be stopped it can usually be managed with medication and diet and it remains important to play with your pet and take him for walks every day.