What are dog lips called

Do dogs have lips

dog lipsIf you take the time to study the contours of a dog’s mouth you will indeed see that they do have lips. However, they are different in design and function than our own lips. A dog’s lips form a continuous protective circle around the outside of a dog’s mouth.

The main difference between a person’s lips and a dog’s lips is the cheeks. As a dog generally has a longer jawline and a smaller cheek capacity. In humans, the cheek and lip muscles work together which enables as to provide suction to keep food and liquid in our mouths. Have you ever seen a dog suck up a long piece of spaghetti?

You will notice in a dog’s mouth the ridges on the roof of the mouth are much more defined than our own. These serve a similar function to our cheeks but are not so precise and functional. This is why so much falls out of a dog’s mouth when eating and drinking.

What are dog lips called

But what are dog lips called? A dog’s lower lips are simply called the lower lips. The upper lips are called “flews”. The flews of a dog vary depending upon their breed. Some breeds have long, flews that hang over their upper jawline. Breeds with large jowls include many of the scenting breeds such as Hound dogs, fighting breeds such as Mastiff and many water breeds such as the Newfoundland. These are known as “jowls” Read “Why do dogs have jowls” to learn more about the function of a dog’s jowls for the varies breeds.

Why are dog lips serrated

If you take a close look at your dog’s lower lips you will notice that they have a serrated edge. There are quite a few different opinions on why this is but no one knows for sure. However, nature doesn’t include anything in its design without a good reason or function.

If you watch a dog chew on a bone it seems that it would be easy for them to bite their lip. One reason a dog lips are serrated may be to grip the bone and keep the lips out of the way from the top teeth.

Another reason may have more do with how the mouth is designed. If you pull your dog’s flews up while their mouth is close you can see that at the side the top and bottom teeth intertwine. The top teeth actually sit on the outside of the lower lips. This design may be again to keep the lips out of the way of teeth when the mouth is shut. If you look at the front teeth, you will notice the lips are not serrated.

We may never know the real reason unless a dog actually tells us. And that is only if they know themselves.

Why are dogs lips black

You may have noticed that most dogs have black lips. This is not true in all cases as some dogs have lips that are liver which is a shade of brown or they have blue lips (which is more of a grey). Melanin production is what causes all eye, skin, and coat color variations in a dog.

The exception is white and pink, which are more expressions of lack of color. The levels of Melanin production is generally determined by genetics but other factors which can affect the production level of Melanin are also cold temperatures and age. Read this article to learn more about the function of Melanin in determining your dog’s lip and nose color.

Health issues affecting dog lips

Dog lip infection

A dog lip infection rarely occurs without some original source of irritation. Lip infections are especially common in dogs with overhanging upper lips and exaggerated lower lip folds such as Bulldogs, and Spaniels. The lip folds frequently trap debris which can become infected by getting into small abrasions in the lips and gums. Even tighter-lipped dogs are susceptible to lip infections. Any lip abrasion that goes untreated or is not kept clean is subject to infection.

Infections of the outer lip may initially appear raised or even blistered with clear secretions. On the inner lip,  infections are generally accompanied by obvious abrasions, inflammation, and discoloration. Infections occurring inside lip folds will be accompanied by thicker discharge and crusty skin. Foul breath and/or excessive salivation may also indicate an infection.

Many lip infections can be treated by you, but in more serious infections veterinary treatment may be required. Consult your vet if you have any doubts. Read this article to learn more about lip infection signs and symptoms and treatments. 

Lip fold dermatitis

If your dog has really bad breath and odor coming from the mouth it may be a dental issue. However, in many cases, the cause of this odor is Lip fold dermatitis. Dogs with saggy flews droopy jowls are prime candidates for lip fold dermatitis. That area where the lip folds can cause pockets of saliva to pool inside. This can harbor bacteria, and eventually produce a very offensive odor. Quite often you will notice a reddy stain around the area. This is saliva staining.

The key to avoiding dermatitis and odor in this area is prevention. Using a pet wipe or a damp cloth clean and wipe this area daily to prevent bacteria from building up. If this is an ongoing problem, your vet may be able to suggest a medicated or antibacterial cream to use on the area.

I hope this article was helpful in answering any questions you may have had about dog lips.


2 Replies to “What are dog lips called”

  1. christian Foster says:

    From a design point of view, I’ve noticed that when a dog is hot and as we all know perspiring dogs have wide open mouths and extended tongues.
    From observation of my dogs on a hot day I believe that the ‘serrated lips’ provide a larger surface area for a panting dog to cool the blood.
    Please let me know if you think this makes sense or if any actual scientific research has been done to aid this theory.

    1. David Barker says:

      Thanks for your comment. This may be a possible reason for the serrated lips. At this point in time, no one knows the reason for sure. Hopefully one day scientists may give us the answer.

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