Why Do Dogs Like Lotion? – Complete Breakdown

Have you ever noticed how interested your dog is in your lotions? Even if they may sniff it and frown, it is intentionally poking its nose directly into the source of the smell – the bottle or your skin. Sometimes, your dog might even start licking the lotion. As a responsible parent, it is customary to question the safety of this activity. 

It is also normal to wonder – why do dogs like lotion? Dogs tend to experience the world through their noses which means they like to smell things. And when something smells good, dogs assume it would also taste good. So, considering that most lotions smell exceptionally well, the theory that they also taste amazing works for dogs. 

In general, it is advisable to discourage your dog from licking lotions. If licked in smaller amounts, most everyday lotions are not harmful, but they will cause your dog to have an upset tummy if licked excessively. On the other hand, prescription lotions may contain potentially hazardous ingredients for dogs. 

This article will explain why dogs like to lick lotions and why you need to discourage this behavior. We will also review the most common potentially troublesome lotions for dogs.



Generally speaking, there are four reasons why dogs lick:

  • Grooming – dogs lick themselves for hygiene maintenance and grooming purposes. Their saliva has antibacterial substances, and the mechanical tongue movements remove the debris, which ultimately results in a clean and well-kept coat. 
  • Communication – licking is one of your dog’s many forms of non-verbal communication. Your dog can lick you or other dogs. 
  • Compulsion – stress can be a powerful trigger, and many dogs exert excessive licking when facing a stressor. This is because engaging in a repetitive activity tends to contain stress. 
  • Affection – sniffing and licking you means your dog likes you or something you have put on your skin, like, for example, lotion. 
  • Medical skin issues – dogs with skin issues (infections, allergies, rashes) tend to lick themselves because the activity has a soothing effect. The relaxing effect is temporary as too much licking can sometimes aggravate the situation.  

Finally, it should be noted that in dogs, licking triggers the release of feel-good hormones. So basically, the more your dog licks, the happier it feels. 



Now that we have explained why dogs lick, it is time to explain why they like to lick on lotions specifically. 

As mentioned, dogs experience most of the world through their noses. And with such a keen smell, it is no wonder why this sense is most powerful to dogs. However, while the dog’s nose is complex and powerful, the dog’s reasoning is not that great. 

Namely, when the dog concludes that something smells nice, it assumes that it will also taste nice. Thus, lotions (both over-the-counter and prescription) are usually scented and will attract your dog.

Some of these scents might be unpleasant for us, but they are intriguing and definitely worth further investigation to our dogs. Of course, by further investigation, we mean licking and tasting. 



Best case scenario, if a dog licks lotion, the licked amount will be too small to cause an issue. 

However, suppose it licks a more substantial amount. In that case, it will probably develop gastrointestinal irritation and exhibit tummy trouble-related signs and symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, lethargy, and dehydration. 

Worst case scenario, if the licked lotion contained a hazardous ingredient (more common in prescription lotions), the dog will become intoxicated. 

Intoxications are life-threatening situations that warrant immediate veterinary attention. The severity of the intoxication depends on the troublesome ingredient and licked amount. However, an intoxicated dog is considered an emergency, and the promptness and adequacy of the treatment affect the outcome.



As already explained, over-the-counter lotions are generally associated with digestive issues. However, prescription lotions are more concerning. 

This is a short list of some popular lotions that can be dangerous to your dog (if ingested):

  • Steroidal lotions – steroids can also be used in dogs. Still, when a topical form is ingested, it can cause diarrhea, vomiting, panting, increased water intake, and increased urination (both quantity and frequency). 
  • Triple-antibiotic lotions – do not contain toxic ingredients but will upset the stomach and trigger a bout of vomiting and diarrhea. 
  • Sunscreen and antihistamine lotions – act similarly as the above-described group, causing diarrhea and vomiting 
  • Antifungal lotions – generally, they are poorly absorbed but in severe cases can cause diarrhea and vomiting. 
  • Diaper rash lotions – contain zinc oxide, which can be quite dangerous to dogs. Zinc oxide usually causes bloody diarrhea and vomiting because it damages the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. 
  • Calamine lotion – also contains zinc oxide. 
  • Moisturizing lotions contain emollients in contact with the body heat and turn into oils and oils that can irritate the stomach and intestines. 
  • Muscle rubs contain aspirin-like ingredients, which in dogs can cause stomach ulcers, bloody vomiting, and diarrhea. Even if they do not contain aspirin-like substances, they still contain menthol and capsaicin, which are also troublesome. 
  • Minoxidil – can cause fluid buildup in the dog’s lungs and heart failure. The intoxication usually starts with vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, and lethargy, but soon it develops into a life-threatening emergency. 



If you saw your dog eating lotion, grab your dog and whatever is left of the balm and go to your vet or nearest emergency vet clinic. Bringing the lotion bottle is vital as it will help the vet predict the event’s consequences and tailor the management strategy. 

If, instead of actual eating, your dog took a lick or two of the lotion, instead of rushing to the clinic, you can call your trusted vet and explain the situation. The vet will recommend what to do, based on the type of lotion your dog was licking. 

It is essential to stay calm. If you panic and do not think clearly, you put your dog’s life in even greater danger.



To avoid accidents, sleepless nights, and staggering vet bills, it is advisable to prevent your dog from licking or eating lotions in the first place. 

There are several things you can do:

  • Keep all lotions out of your dog’s reach (a high or locked cupboard) while keeping in mind that dogs can be pretty resourceful 
  • Never let your dog lick you if you have used a lotion (including creams, balms, sunscreens, ointments, hand sanitizers, perfumes)
  • If the lotion needs to be applied to your dog, there are two alternatives:
  • The lotion is formulated for dogs – in this case, the lotion will not contain ingredients that are dangerous to dogs. However, you need to keep your dog from licking because if the lotion is licked before being absorbed into the skin, its use will be inefficient. 
  • The lotion is formulated for humans – the lotion might contain harmful ingredients to dogs, and you need to be extra careful and preferably keep your dog entertained while the lotion is being absorbed into the skin. 


Licking lotions is a bad idea. But, sadly, dogs do not think the same way, and it is up to us to limit the opportunities and discourage the behavior. 

Sometimes, a dog’s lotion licking tendency can be harmless. For example, if it licked only a tiny amount of a regular over-the-counter lotion. However, other times, the consequences can be lethal, mainly if the dog devours the whole bottle of a prescription lotion. 

All in all, you should keep the lotions out of your dog’s reach and do not let your dog lick you if you have applied any. If your dog needs to be treated with lotions, keep it occupied for about 15 minutes after applying the cream until it absorbs into the skin. 

If your dog manages to get into lotion, call your vet and explain the amount and licked lotion and the type. The vet will explain how to proceed from there.


Can lotion kill dogs?

Yes, although the exact answer depends on the type and amount of licked lotion, a lotion can kill a dog. In most cases, the consequence of licking lotion is an upset tummy, but once again, based on the circumstances, your dog might be facing a life-threatening situation. 

What happens if my dog eats lotion?

More often than not, if your dog ate lotion, it will develop vomiting and diarrhea. It is advisable to react as soon as you realize what your dog did and before these signs develop. Seek veterinary help and ask for advice. If necessary, the vet will recommend bringing your dog for a thorough examination. 

Is there a lotion for dogs?

Yes, there are special lotions formulated explicitly for dogs. They are made of dog-friendly ingredients and can be used for various purposes – from moisturizing through specific care to ensuring a good smell. 

Is baby lotion toxic for dogs?

Same as adult lotions, baby lotions can be dangerous for dogs. The consequences range from gastrointestinal upsets to toxicities. In addition, just because a product is labeled for baby use does not mean it is safe for your dog to lick.


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of bulldogpapa.com. Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!