Your cart is currently empty.
Dog Jowls: Unraveling the Mystery of Your Pooch's Droopy Cheeks - PawSafe

Dog Jowls: Unraveling the Mystery of Your Pooch’s Droopy Cheeks

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

dog jowls

When you think about dog jowls, those floppy bits of skin around a dog’s mouth, you might picture a big, slobbery Saint Bernard. But did you know that jowls serve some important purposes for our canine friends? Beyond giving certain breeds their distinctive looks, jowls help protect dogs’ teeth and gums from the elements and can even aid in scent detection.

Many breeds, from bloodhounds to mastiffs, have pronounced jowls. The shape and size of a dog’s jowls can affect how they eat, drink, and pick up scents. Dogs with longer jowls, for instance, might be better at trapping scent particles, which is super helpful for tracking or hunting breeds. On the other hand, those droopy jowls can also be a bit of a mess when your pup is drinking water or playing with a slobbery toy!

But having a dog with heavy jowls means a bit more responsibility (and wet wipes) than for other dog breeds. So to give you a complete low down on what you need to know about canine lips, we’ve looked at the best research and studies on canine facial muscle anatomy and skin.

Some dogs have what we call “heavy jowls” – those droopy, floppy bits of skin around their mouths. Now, there’s a special word for dogs with really flat faces: “brachycephalic.” Imagine a Bulldog or a Pug; their faces are squished in, right? 

That’s what brachycephalic means. Dogs with these flat faces often have those heavy jowls too. These jowls can make them look really cute and cuddly, but they also have a purpose. They help the dog pick up scents better and protect their teeth. 

However, because of their unique face shape, these dogs might need a bit extra care to keep them happy and healthy. They may need extra care of their skin folds as well a bit more help with breathing issues. 

As someone who had a Neopolitan Mastiff, I can tell you that heavy jowls can come with a whole set of problems, especially drool. It’s a good idea to keep a drool towel close by to dry off their mouths throughout the day. 

And here’s a pro-tip, if you have a super drooler and you’re getting dressed to go somewhere, wrap a towel around yourself until you have left the house. Otherwise, you will get a whole bunch of dog goober all over your fancy outfit before you leave.

Anatomy of Dog Jowls

The jowls are made up of layers of skin, muscle, fibro-elastic tissue, and mucosa. If you have a dog like a Newfoundland or a Neapolitan Mastiff, you’ll be familiar with their large jowls. These aren’t just an iconic breed characteristic; they’re a functional part of your dog’s anatomy. 

Flews, on the other hand, are the upper lips that sit right below the nose, and they can significantly impact drooling, especially in breeds with more pronounced features.

Functions of Jowls

The jowls serve several vital purposes –  they help dogs hold food, regulate their body temperature, and pick up scents. For a breed like the Bloodhound, known for its excellent sense of smell, the jowls also play a role in their olfactory prowess by aiding in scent detection. Dogs with more substantial jowls, such as the Mastiff or Great Dane, might be more prone to overheating due to the difficulty in cooling themselves effectively.

Why Are Dog Jowls Bumpy?

Ever wondered about the corrugated texture on the inside of your Rottweiler’s or Boxer’s mouth? These are rugal folds or ruga, and they’re quite functional. They act as grippers for food and protect the gums from those sharp canine teeth. 

If you think the bumps on your dog’s lips are abnormal.

For a Saint Bernard or Basset Hound, the ridges also provide shock absorption. Furthermore, these ridges form part of the dog’s natural tooth-cleaning system, although it’s important to check these spots regularly to keep them clean. Bumps in the jowls even assist in creating suction to help your dog eat and drink effectively, part of the remarkable design of your dog’s mouth.

What Dog Breeds Have the Largest Jowls?

Saint Bernard dog with heavy jowls

When you’re observing different dog breeds, you might notice that some have distinctively large jowls. Those are the floppy, loose areas of skin around a dog’s mouth. It’s hard to say which breed of dog has the biggest jowls or flews, but the Neapolitan Mastiff, English Mastiff, Basset, and St. Bernard generally has the biggest jowls of all dog breeds.

Here’s a quick look at which breeds sport the most prominent jowls.

  • Bloodhounds –  They’re famous detectives in the canine world, and their jowls are just as noteworthy. Their jowls are not just for show; they help trap scent particles which aid in their tracking abilities.
  • Saint Bernards –  These gentle giants are not only known for rescuing travelers but also for their oversized droopy jowls. These features contribute to their friendly and approachable expressions.
  • Neapolitan Mastiffs –  With their impressive stature, they have matching massive jowls. These folds are not just for looks; they serve as protection for the face during battles in their historical roles.
  • English Bulldogs –  While they are smaller, Bulldogs have quite the pair of jowls. Those flaps play into their iconic, grumpy appearance, but don’t be fooled, they’re quite the friendly companions.
  • Basset Hounds –  Short-legged and long-eared, their jowls are hard to miss. Much like the Bloodhound, their jowls assist in their scent work, picking up and holding on to smells.

Remember, while large jowls can give these breeds character and aid in their functionality, they also require proper care to avoid infections in the skin folds. If you have a dog with large jowls, it’s a good idea to keep them clean and dry!

Common Dog Jowl Health Issues

close up of Boxer dog with heavy jowls may have health issues like skin fold dermatitis

Whenever you’re giving your pup a little face rub, it’s good to keep an eye out for jowl health issues. Dogs often experience problems right in the droopy parts of their cheeks, so knowing what to look out for can help keep your pup comfortable and healthy.

  • If your dog’s jowls are always wet, they might be dealing with lip fold dermatitis. This is when the skin folds are a bit too cozy for nasties like bacteria, leading to redness, soreness, or even infection. Keeping the jowls clean is vital, and sometimes medicated wipes or washes come in handy.
  • Spot some odd growths? It could be oral papillomavirus, which is a virus that makes warty bumps pop up, often around the mouth area. These bumps can sometimes also become infected. A chat with your veterinarian will help you understand if this is the issue and what steps to take. Often, they’ll sort out your pup with things like antibiotics.
  • For dogs that love to slobber, drooling can become a problem if not kept in check, leading to bacterial infection. And when it’s hot outside, those swollen jowls could be making it hard for your doggo to keep cool, as they might block airflow causing overheating.
  • Dogs with heavy jowls, like Bulldogs or Bloodhounds, can also have a tougher time cooling off, especially on hot days. This can make them more prone to issues like heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  You know how dogs pant to chill out, right? Well, when they do, air flows over their tongue and mouth, taking away some of their body heat.

 But, when a dog has those big, floppy jowls, it’s like having a bit of a roadblock for the air. Those jowls can trap the air and make it harder for it to move around freely. So, these dogs might not get as cool as quickly because their panting isn’t as effective. It’s important for owners to keep an eye on them and make sure they don’t overheat, ensuring they stay healthy and comfortable.

Your vet can guide you on cleaning techniques specific to your dog and might suggest cleaning dog jowls regularly with appropriate products. They might even introduce you to some medicated washes.

Remember, several common problems with dog jowls, such as lip fold pyoderma or papillomavirus in dogs, require professional advice. Treating swollen lips in dogs can be tricky, but with the right care, most issues are manageable. Keep those jowls in check, and your buddy will thank you with lots of wet, happy kisses!

Signs & Symptoms of Jowl Infections In Dogs

If your dog’s got jowl infections, you’re looking out for a few telltale signs to get them the help they need. Here’s what to keep an eye on:

  • Redness and Swelling: Just like when you get a cut and it gets all red and puffy, the same can happen to your dog’s jowls. If they’re looking redder or more swollen than usual, it’s something to watch out for.
  • Bad Smell: Nobody expects a dog’s breath to be like fresh mint, but if you notice a really bad smell coming from their jowls that wasn’t there before, that’s a heads-up. Infections can get pretty stinky. Also, be on the the look up for smelly hot spots.
  • Discharge: If you see any kind of goo or pus coming from the jowl area, that’s another sign. This could be clear, white, or even a bit yellow.
  • Pain or Discomfort: Your dog might flinch away when you touch their jowls or not want to eat because it hurts. If they seem to be in pain around their mouth, that’s a red flag.
  • Loss of Appetite or Difficulty Eating: Most dogs love their food, so if yours is turning their nose up at dinner or having trouble chewing, something’s up. An infection in the jowls could be making mealtime no fun.
  • Excessive Drooling: Sure, some drool is normal in dogs, but if it’s more like a waterfall, it’s time to ask why. Infections can make the drooling switch stay on.

Remember, if you’re seeing these signs, it’s time to call your vet. They’ll give your pup a look-over and tell you the best way to get them back to their happy, healthy selves.

How Do I Clean My Dog’s Jowls?

owner wiping drool from the corner of the mouth of a Great Dane to clean their jowls with a towel

Cleaning your dog’s jowls is super important, especially for dogs with lots of skin folds around their face like bulldogs or mastiffs. These guys can drool more than other dogs, and let me tell you, moisture loves to hide in those jowly folds, which can make for a not-so-fresh smell or even an infection if you’re not careful.

So, what’s the best way to keep your dog’s jowls clean? First, you will need: 

  • A soft, damp cloth or sponge;
  • Canine-friendly wipes (optional); and
  • Dog-safe cleaning solution (if recommended by your vet).

Here’s a straightforward way to do it: 

  1. First, get your dog to sit or stand in a comfortable position.
  2. Gently lift their lip, so you can see the inside of their jowl.
  3. With your soft cloth, wipe inside the jowl. Be sure to get into those folds!
  4. If you’re using a cleaning solution, apply it to the cloth — never directly on your dog’s skin.
  5. After you’ve wiped the inside, move to the outside of the jowls.
  6. Dry everything off with another clean cloth.
  7. Give your pooch some love and maybe a treat for being such a good sport.

Doing this regularly, like once a day or every couple of days, is a good habit to get into. It helps prevent any yucky stuff from building up. And hey, your dog will feel fresher, and you’ll appreciate the cuddles even more without any stinky dog jowl odor!

Dog Jowls And Drool

Bullmastiff with heavy jowls drooling

You might’ve noticed that some dogs seem to drool a lot more than others. Well, this drooling often has to do with their jowls. Jowls are the loose, floppy skin around a dog’s mouth, and they serve a few purposes.

Why Do Dogs Have Jowls?

  • Protection: They give important cushioning to protect teeth and jaws during skirmishes or play.
  • Scent: Help trap scents, aiding in tracking and sniffing out things.
  • Heat Regulation: Allow dogs to pant more effectively, which helps them cool down.

Drooling and Its Uses

Some drool is totally normal, especially if your dog has big jowls! Dogs with giant jowls like mastiffs often drool more because those floppy lips don’t keep the saliva in as well. Saliva helps them start the process of digestion, and it’s also useful if there’s something yucky in their mouth they need to get rid of. 

If you’re curious about why dogs pant so much, this article might give you some insights.

When to Be Concerned

If your dog is drooling way more than usual, it might be a sign of: 

  • Nausea: Like during a car ride.
  • Dental Problems: Maybe something’s stuck in their teeth or gums.
  • Health Issues: Excessive drooling can be a symptom of health troubles.

If the drooling just started or there’s a lot of it, it might be a good idea to check in with your vet. After all, you know your dog best and can spot when something’s not quite right. If you’re worried about health issues related to drooling, consult a professional.

Behavioral Aspects Of Jowls in Dogs

Bloodhound with heavy jowls uses jowls for tracking scents

When you’re looking to understand your dog’s jowls, it’s not just about the droopy skin; it’s about how it relates to their behavior. Here’s what you need to know.

Jowls and Dog Behavior

Your dog’s jowls might seem like just another adorable feature, but they’re actually quite functional. Hounds and other tracking dogs often have loose, hanging jowls. This isn’t just coincidence; those flapping bits of skin help capture and retain scents from the ground, making it easier for dogs to track their quarry or find what they’re looking for.

Of course, lifting the lips to show the teeth is the most common sign of a snarl or a growl. This is a typical sign of aggression, but with dogs with heavy jowls, they may not be able to snarl as clearly as other dogs.

Drooling and Its Impacts

Drooling can be a messy business, but for dogs, it’s all part of the game. Sure, excessive drooling might be a sign that something’s up, like pain or discomfort, so you should keep an eye on that. 

Otherwise, normal drool helps to spread scents on the ground, which is super helpful for tracking. Plus, that drool mixes with water when they drink, and it can help pick up scents better than a dry snout. So the next time your dog leaves a drool trail, remember, it’s just them being excellent hunters at heart.

Lifestyle Considerations for Dogs With Heavy Jowls

sleeping Boxer with heavy jowls drooling on furniture

When you’re living with a dog with droopy jowls, like a Labrador Retriever, it’s cool to know how their lifestyle can impact their jowls’ health. Let’s talk about things like swimming and chowing down, which can totally affect your pup’s mouth area.

Exercise and Jowls

Your dog’s exercise routine, especially if they’re a Labrador Retriever or another water dog, can make a big difference in jowl care. These types of dogs love swimming, right? Super fun, but keep in mind, all that time in the water can make their jowls more prone to getting irritated. After a swim, just give those jowls a gentle wipe-down to keep them nice and clean.

  • Swimming: Moisture can cause jowl issues, so dry them well.
  • Running, Fetch, Hunting: Physical activities that involve carrying items in their mouths could cause more drool, which might need extra attention.

Dietary Influences on Jowl Health

What your dog eats and how they eat is big news for jowl health. Bigger kibble pieces can sometimes help keep their mouth area cleaner. If you’ve got a dog with big, floppy jowls, like some hunting dogs, you might notice they can get a bit messy when eating. No stress, though—just a quick clean-up after meals can be a super help.

  • Eating Habits: Slow feeder bowls are rad for drooly dogs.
  • Food Type: Dry food can help limit jowl mess, but check if it’s right for your dog.

Remember, every dog is unique and so are their jowls! Whether they’re Labrador Retrievers who love water or a hunting dog with a love for adventure, their jowls are part of what makes them special. Keep an eye on their eating and exercise habits, and you’ll be set to take good care of those adorable droopy jowls. Cool, right?

Aesthetic and Social Perspectives

When you think of dogs, you often picture their faces, right? Well, for some breeds, jowls — a type of loose, fleshy skin hanging below their jaw — shape their appearance and how we interact with them.

The Image of Dogs with Jowls

Dogs with jowls might first strike you as cute or maybe kind of goofy. Think of a Bloodhound’s long face or a Boxer’s square jaw, both framed by those trademark drooping cheeks. These saggy jowls can even make a dog look like it’s smiling at you! But, there’s more to jowls than just the cute factor.

These flappy folds can also make certain breeds look more noble or majestic. Many people are drawn to these characteristics as part of a dog’s aesthetic appeal. For instance, a Saint Bernard’s thick, flowing jowls complement their large, imposing frame, adding to the breed’s gentle-giant persona.

  • Key Traits Linked to Jowls:
    • A Bloodhound’s smile seems to warm your heart.
    • The solid cheeks of a Mastiff denote strength.
    • A Bulldog’s jowls add to the breed’s unique face.
    • A Black and Tan Coonhound’s loose facial skin flutters in the wind as it runs, highlighting its athletic nature.

Social Interactions and Jowls

When you meet a dog with prominent jowls, your interaction may be different than with other breeds. Jowls can somehow make these dogs seem more relaxed or down to earth, which can make you feel more at ease.

However, remember that jowls serve a purpose too — they’re not just for show. For example, they help some dogs with scent tracking or give their face more flexibility for holding things. So, when you’re thinking about a dog with jowls, keep in mind these attributes aren’t just about looks — they’re part of the breed’s toolkit!

But don’t forget to pack a towel because dogs with jowly faces might just shower you with drool, making for a wet but memorable greeting. It’s all part of the charm, and those slobbery hellos are often seen as a small price to pay for the joy these dogs bring to your world.

Advanced Care

When it comes to the jowls of your dog, advanced care might include professional consultations, at-home treatments, and, in some cases, surgery. It’s important to recognize when these steps are necessary to keep your pup healthy.

Professional Care

If you notice your dog’s jowls are swollen, red, or bleeding, it’s time to see a veterinarian. They can check for signs of abscesses, allergies, tumors, or infections caused by fungi. Vets can also provide expert advice on managing these conditions and may prescribe medications or recommend further tests.

Home Treatments

For minor problems, like small wounds or irritation, you can do a bit at home. Keep the area clean; gently wipe your dog’s jowls with a soft, damp cloth. If your vet gives the go-ahead, you might use a safe, dog-appropriate antiseptic. Also, monitor your dog’s jowls regularly for changes, and ensure they’re dry to prevent fungal growth.

Surgical Options

In severe cases, such as large tumors or persistent bleeding jowls that don’t heal with medication, surgery might be necessary. It should only be done by a qualified vet. Post-operation, you’ll need to care for your dog’s lips and jaw, following the vet’s instructions on cleaning and giving any prescribed medications.

Seasonal and Environmental Factors For Dogs With Heavy Jowls

Dogs with heavy jowls require special attention during different seasons and environmental conditions. Moisture and extreme weather can particularly impact dogs with this feature, so it’s important for you to know how to care for your pup.

Summer Heat and Jowl Care

During summer, temperatures rise, and your dog’s jowls can retain more moisture which may cause discomfort or even lead to skin issues. Make sure to gently wipe your dog’s jowls with a dry, soft cloth to remove excess moisture, especially after they drink water. Always provide a cool, shady place for your dog to relax, as their jowls can make them more prone to overheating.

Swimming and Water Exposure

If your dog loves swimming, you’ll need to pay extra attention to their jowls. After a dip, it’s crucial to keep water out of their jowls to prevent infection. Post-swim, lift their jowls and check for debris or excess water. A good pat down with a towel under their chin can help keep their jowls dry and clean. Plus, it’s a nice way for you to bond with your buddy!

Remember, whether it’s their nose or jowls, keeping these areas dry can save you a lot of vet trips and keep your dog happy, especially in the warmer months.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you’ve noticed something unusual about your dog’s jowls, you’re not alone. Many dog owners have questions about jowl-related issues. Here are some answers to common concerns.

Why are my dog’s jowls all puffy and swollen?

Puffiness and swelling in your dog’s jowls could be signs of an allergic reaction, an infection, or even a dental problem. It’s important to keep an eye on any other symptoms like excessive drooling or trouble eating, and consult your vet if it persists.

What should I do if my dog’s jowls are red and looking sore?

Red and sore jowls can indicate irritation or inflammation. This might be due to a number of factors, including environmental allergies or jowl injury. Keeping the affected area clean and scheduling a vet visit should be your first steps.

Why does my dog’s one jowl seem to be sagging?

A dog’s jowl might sag due to various reasons such as muscle weakness, nerve damage, or age-related changes. If the sagging is sudden or accompanied by other health concerns, a vet checkup is recommended to rule out serious conditions.

What’s the reason behind the bumpiness of my dog’s jowls?

Bumpiness in the jowls may be due to benign lumps, such as fatty tumors, or could be a symptom of a dental issue impacting the structures around the jowls. A thorough examination by a veterinarian can determine the cause and advise on treatment or management.

Final Thoughts

When you look at your dog’s jowls, you might just see a part of their charm. But there’s more to it — those floppy bits of skin serve some pretty neat purposes.

  • Cooling Down:  Just like you sweat, dogs pant to cool off. When they pant, those jowls flap around and help release heat.
  • Drool Duty:  You’ve probably seen drool, that slimy stuff, slide off your dog’s jowls. It actually helps them eat and digest food.
  • Scent Sensation:  Believe it or not, those jowls enhance your dog’s sense of smell by trapping scents.

For certain dogs, like bloodhounds or basset hounds, those long jowls are super important. Their jowls help them pick up and hold onto the smell they’re tracking.

If you notice your dog’s jowls are ever red, swollen, or they seem bothered by them, that’s your cue to check in with your vet. Just like you’d look out for a buddy, you wanna make sure your dog’s jowls are all good.

Remember, each dog is unique. Whether they’ve got jowls that sway like a grandfather clock or are more on the modest side, they’re all part of your dog’s toolkit. So, give those jowls a gentle pat and appreciate the cool things they do for your pup.


Meet Your Experts

Avatar of author

Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.