Just like people, dogs can suffer from chapped lips. Fortunately, however, dog chapped or cracked lips are very uncommon. They may be caused by allergies, bacterial or yeast infections, autoimmune diseases, or other health issues. Home remedies can help soothe dog chapped lips, but it's very important to see a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause.
Normal healthy dog lips
Do dogs have lips? They sure do, and they perform important functions, too. Not only do the lips protect a dog's teeth, but it's the lip muscles that control a dog's facial expression — like that irresistible smile.
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The size of dog lips varies, depending on the breed. Most dogs have black lips, as this pigmentation protects them from sun damage. It's normal for a dog's lip color to fade as they get older.
Small bumps, called papillae, on dog lips are also normal. The purpose of these bumps is to help dogs grip the food they eat.
If a dog's lips are chapped or cracked, it can sometimes indicate an underlying health issue.
Causes of chapped dog lips
Some dog breeds are more prone to chapped lips, and this condition can also be related to various health problems such as allergies or infections.
Dog breeds with large lip folds
Dog breeds with large, drooping lip folds, such as bassett hounds, English bulldogs, spaniels, and Saint Bernards, are very likely to develop an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast in the lips, which could lead to chapping or cracking.
Dog allergies can cause lip problems
Infections in dogs can cause chapped lips
Chapped lips may also be caused by secondary bacterial or yeast infections. They are often associated with cheilitis, an inflammation of the lip tissue, which may be symptomatic of an infection in the dog's mouth
If your dog licks a skin infection or an infected wound, the infection can spread to their lips. Gum disease or inflammation inside a dog's mouth can also lead to inflammation of the lips.
Benign growths called papillomas on dog lips are caused by a canine papillomavirus infection. These infections are the most common in younger dogs.
Lip-fold dermatitis is an inflammation of a dog's lip folds that can be associated with periodontal inflammation, but it may also be caused by toxic substances in plastic food or water dishes. To avoid this, use stainless steel, porcelain or glass dishes instead.
Autoimmune skin disease in dogs
Dog lip irritation can be caused by autoimmune skin diseases such as pemphigus vulgaris, which causes ulcers in the mouth, or bullous pemphigoid, a rare condition that causes blisters on the lips and around the mouth.
Lip wounds in dogs
Lip wounds due to chewing on sharp objects or being stuck with objects like thorns or burrs are common. If a lip wound isn't treated, an infection and chapping may result.
Home remedies for dog chapped lips
If your dog has chapped lips, it's very important to first see a veterinarian to determine the cause before trying any home remedies.
Mild lip irritation may be relieved with the following treatments. Just be aware that your dog will likely try to lick off any substance you put on their lips. This could cause salivating and foaming of the mouth, and, less commonly, vomiting. Stop using the treatment if your dog shows any of these symptoms.
Hydrogen peroxide for healing dog lips
Prepare a solution using one part hydrogen peroxide and five parts water. Soak a washcloth in the solution and then apply it to your dog's lips. Use another washcloth to dry your dog's lips to remove any excess solution.
Steroid cream for chapped dog lips
Apply an antibiotic steroid cream to your dog's lips. Use your finger to rub the cream into the chapped area.
Preventing dog chapped lips
To help prevent your dog from developing chapped lips, you can try applying aloe vera gel, petroleum jelly or coconut oil to their lips daily. However, if your dog licks off the substance and begins salivating or foaming at the mouth, stop using it.
Prepare a hydrogen peroxide solution using one part hydrogen peroxide and five parts water. Soak one washcloth in the solution.
If your dog's chapped lips persist, make sure to visit the veterinarian to treat any underlying problems. If left untreated, chapped lips may impact your dog's appetite and lead to weight loss.
- LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital: Atopy
- Cornell Margaret and Richard Riney Canine Health Center: Canine skin autoimmune diseases
- Every Creature Counts: Do Dogs Have Lips? Here’s the Answer
- Today's Veterinary Practice: Skin Fold Dermatitis (Intertrigo) in Dogs
- Merck Veterinary Manual: Disorders of the Mouth in Dogs