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Swollen Lips in Dogs: Causes and Treatment Options - PawSafe

Swollen Lips in Dogs: Causes and Treatment Options

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

swollen lips in dogs

Swollen lips in dogs are as uncomfortable for them as they look. When a dog’s mouth becomes inflamed, it can impact their ability to perform essential functions, which may lead to discomfort and even behavioral changes. In many cases, it can also be a serious medical issue.

Sometimes, that enlarged lip area might just be a passing annoyance that you can handle at home. But in other cases, it might be a sign of a more serious health issue that requires a vet’s touch. It’s all about how long the swelling persists and whether other symptoms like weakness, inappetence, and difficulty breathing accompany the inflammation.  

We explore the various causes and solutions for a swollen flew (upper lip) in dogs. Drawing on the knowledge of experienced professionals and expert guides, we hope to answer most of your questions regarding these mouth swellings.

If the swelling is accompanied by other symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or vomiting, seek veterinary care immediately.

These swellings typically refer to the upper lip (flew/ mouth jowl)  instead of the lower one. Our article on do dogs have lips notes that a dog’s lower lip is barely visible, so swelling here is possible but unlikely.

The enlarged lip can be as minor as this puppy hat reacted to a vaccine:

Or as severe as this:

@rodiguez2173

Rescue a dog with a mouth tumor that couldn’t breathe and a miraculous transformation #rescue #rescuedog #lovedog #dog

♬ Dream Away – Ramol

Recognizing Swollen Lip in Dogs

One of the most obvious signs of an enlarged upper lip in dogs is visible swelling or puffiness around the mouth that may look like a lump. The swelling may be accompanied by redness or irritation, and the dog may show signs of discomfort or pain when eating or drinking. A lot of the time, you may also notice facial swelling in dogs.

In some cases, the condition may also be accompanied by other symptoms, such as itching, scratching, or licking of the affected area. This can lead to further irritation and inflammation and may also increase the risk of infection.

If a dog owner suspects their pet has an inflamed lip, it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. The veterinarian can perform a physical examination and diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of the swelling.

Common Causes of Swollen Lips in Dogs

Dogs can develop inflamed lips for a variety of reasons. Here are some common causes:

1. Foreign Bodies

Foreign bodies such as splinters, thorns, sticks, or plant material can get stuck in a dog’s lip, causing swelling and discomfort. Dogs are curious animals and often explore their surroundings with their mouths, making it easy for foreign objects to become stuck in their lips.

If a dog has swelling in the mouth, it’s important to inspect the area for any foreign bodies. Careful examination of the lip can be done by gently pulling back the lip to reveal the affected area. If a foreign object is found, it should be removed immediately to prevent further discomfort and swelling.

In some cases, foreign bodies may be difficult to see or remove, and veterinary intervention may be necessary. A veterinarian can use specialized tools to locate and remove the foreign body safely and effectively.

It’s important to note that attempting to remove a foreign object without the proper tools or technique can cause further injury and discomfort to the dog. If in doubt, it’s always best to seek the advice of a veterinarian.

2. Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions to food, medications, insect bites, or environmental allergens can cause a dog’s lips to puff up. Other signs include itching, sneezing, coughing, rubbing the face on the carpet, and shaking the head.

In rare cases, dogs may experience severe allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis, which can cause rapid and severe swelling of the face and lips, often accompanied by breathing difficulties. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency.

3. Insect Bites

Insect bites, particularly from bees, spiders, wasps, and even ants, can cause a dog’s lips to swell. The swelling is usually localized and will go down on its own within a few hours. However, if the dog has an allergic reaction to the bite, the swelling can be severe and require veterinary treatment.

4. Lip Fold Pyoderma

Lip fold pyoderma is a bacterial infection that occurs in the folds of a dog’s lips. The infection can cause the lips to become red, swollen, and painful. PubMed research shows that extreme conformations for excessive folded skin increase the risk of this condition. Treatment typically involves antibiotics and keeping the affected area clean and dry.

5. Infections

Infections, such as bacterial or fungal infections, can cause a dog’s lips to become swollen. These infections can occur anywhere on the lips, including the corners of the mouth. Stomatitis, which is a painful inflammation of the mouth’s lining, is one of the problems that can lead to lip swelling.

6. Injuries

Wounds to the lips, such as cuts or bites, can cause swelling. If the injury is severe or becomes infected, veterinary treatment may be necessary. The swelling can also result from a dog fight if your dog gets bit in the mouth area.

7. Cysts & Abscesses

Cysts and abscesses can form on a dog’s lips, causing swelling and discomfort. These growths can be caused by various factors, including infections, foreign objects, or blocked hair follicles. Treatment typically involves draining the cyst or abscess and administering antibiotics.

8. Dental Disease

Dental diseases, such as periodontal disease or tooth abscesses, can cause a dog’s mouth to appear swollen. The swelling is usually localized around the affected tooth or teeth. Oral diseases cause discomfort to the dog and refusal to eat. If your dog keeps licking their lips and swallowing, dental issues are highly likely. Routine dental care is absolutely vital to prevent these kinds of issues.

9. Juvenile Cellulitis

Juvenile cellulitis, also known as puppy strangles, is a rare condition that can cause a dog’s mouth and head  to become swollen and painful. The condition typically affects puppies between the ages of three weeks and four months. Treatment typically involves antibiotics and supportive care.

10. Tumors

While less common, benign or malignant tumors can develop on or around a dog’s lips. These growths can lead to persistent swelling and should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

It is important to note that mouth swellings can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition, such as anaphylaxis or cancer. If a dog’s lips are severely swollen, or the swelling is accompanied by other symptoms, call your vet immediately. 

Symptoms of Swollen Lips in Dogs

It is important to identify the symptoms of puffy lips in dogs to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment. The following are some of the common symptoms of this condition:

Excessive Drooling

One of the most common symptoms of swelled-up flews in dogs is excessive drooling. Dogs may drool excessively due to the discomfort caused by the swelling. The drooling may be accompanied by other symptoms such as difficulty eating, pawing at the mouth, and reluctance to play or go for a walk.

Difficulty Eating

An inflamed mouth area can also make it difficult for dogs to eat. Dogs may experience pain while eating or may avoid food altogether due to the discomfort caused by the inflated flews. In severe cases, dogs may develop a loss of appetite, which can lead to weight loss and other health problems.

Visible Swelling

Swollen mouth jowls in dogs are often accompanied by visible swelling around the mouth. The swelling may be localized to one side of the mouth or may affect the entire mouth. In some cases, the swelling may be accompanied by redness, bleeding, or discharge from the affected area.

Diagnosis of Swollen Lips in Dogs

In order to diagnose the underlying cause of the swelling, a veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination of the dog’s mouth and lips. During the examination, the veterinarian will look for signs of inflammation, infection, and trauma. They may also take a sample of any discharge or fluid present in the affected area for laboratory analysis.

In some cases, the veterinarian may recommend additional diagnostic tests, such as blood work, x-rays, or a biopsy of the affected tissue. These tests can help to rule out underlying medical conditions and determine the most appropriate course of treatment.

It is important to seek veterinary care promptly if your dog has an inflamed lip area, as untreated swelling can lead to more serious health problems. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most cases of puffy flews in dogs can be successfully managed.

Treatment Options for Swollen Lips in Dogs

Swollen lips in dogs can be a painful and uncomfortable condition. There are several treatment options available, depending on the severity of the condition and the underlying cause.

Medication

If an allergic reaction causes the swelling, medication may be prescribed to reduce the swelling and alleviate any discomfort. Antihistamines can be effective in reducing swelling caused by allergies. In some cases, corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation. The vet can also prescribe antibiotics and antifungal medication depending on the cause.

Surgery

If the issue results from an injury or a tumor, surgery may be necessary to remove the affected tissue. This is often the case if the swelling is severe or if it is affecting the dog’s ability to eat or drink. The veterinarian may also recommend surgery if the swelling is not responding to other treatment options.

Home Care

In some cases, the lips can be treated at home with simple remedies. Applying a cold compress to the affected area can help reduce swelling and alleviate any discomfort. It is important to monitor the dog closely and seek veterinary care if the swelling does not improve or if it worsens.

Can I give my dog Benadryl for a swollen face?

If your dog has a puffy lip or face, it is important to determine the underlying cause of the swelling before administering any medication. In some cases, a swollen face can be a sign of a serious medical condition that requires immediate veterinary attention.

If the swelling is caused by an allergic reaction, Benadryl may be an appropriate treatment option, but only with the vet’s instruction. Benadryl is an antihistamine that can help reduce swelling and other symptoms associated with allergies. 

The correct dosage of Benadryl for dogs depends on the dog’s weight and overall health. Giving your dog too much Benadryl can cause adverse reactions, such as drowsiness, dry mouth, and gastrointestinal upset. It is important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully and never exceed the recommended dosage.

 Both the MSD and the Merck Veterinary Manual recommend giving 2-4 milligrams of medication per kilogram of weight, or 0.9 to 1.8 milligrams per pound.

In addition to administering medication, there are other steps you can take to help reduce swelling in your dog’s face. Applying a cold compress to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and provide relief. If the swelling is caused by an insect bite or sting, removing the stinger and applying a topical antihistamine may also be helpful.

Prevention of Swollen Lips in Dogs

There are a few things dog owners can do to prevent future occurrences of swelling around the mount:

Firstly, it is important to maintain good oral hygiene. Regular brushing of the dog’s teeth and gums can help prevent gum disease, which can lead to swollen lips. Additionally, providing the dog with chew toys can help keep their teeth clean and healthy.

Another way to prevent this problem is to be mindful of the materials that they come into contact with. Some dogs may have an allergic reaction to certain materials, such as plastic or rubber, which can cause swelling of the lips. It is important to monitor the dog’s behavior and look for signs of an allergic reaction, such as redness or swelling around the lips.

Also, protect your dog from insect bites by using appropriate flea and tick prevention methods. Your veterinarian can recommend and prescribe the best products for your dog’s specific needs.

When your dog is playing with other dogs or toys, supervise the playtime to prevent dog-on-dog fights and injuries that could lead to swollen lips. Intervene if play becomes too rough or unsafe.

Additionally, some dogs may be prone to developing swollen lips due to their breed or genetics. In these cases, it is important to consult with a veterinarian to determine the best course of action for prevention.

When to Consult a Vet

If a dog has a swollen lip, it is crucial to know when to consult a veterinarian. While some cases may be minor and resolve on their own, others may require medical attention. Here are some signs that indicate it is time to seek veterinary care:

  • If the swelling is severe or rapidly worsening, it may be a sign of an allergic reaction or infection.
  • If the dog is experiencing difficulty breathing or swallowing, this could indicate a serious problem and requires immediate medical attention.
  • If the dog is in pain or discomfort, this may be a sign of a more serious underlying condition that requires treatment.
  • If the swelling is accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy, this may indicate a more serious problem.

In general, if a dog’s swollen lip is causing concern or discomfort, it is best to consult with a veterinarian. They can help determine the underlying cause of the swelling and provide appropriate treatment. It is essential to seek veterinary care promptly, as delaying treatment can lead to more severe complications.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the symptoms of a dog mouth infection?

A dog with a mouth infection may exhibit symptoms such as bad breath, drooling, difficulty eating or drinking, bleeding gums, and swelling in the mouth or face area. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is crucial to take your dog to the vet for a proper diagnosis.

How can I treat my dog’s swollen lip?

The treatment for a dog’s abnormally large flews will depend on the underlying cause. In some cases, the vet may prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medication. In other cases, the swelling may be caused by an allergic reaction, in which case the vet may recommend an antihistamine or other medication. It is important to follow your vet’s instructions carefully and to monitor your dog’s condition closely.

Why is my dog’s upper lip raw?

A dog’s upper lip may become raw due to a variety of reasons, including allergies, infections, or injuries. It is important to take your dog to the vet to determine the underlying cause of the rawness and to receive appropriate treatment.

What are some home remedies for a dog’s swollen face?

While there are some home remedies that may help reduce swelling in a dog’s face, it is important to consult with a vet before trying any home remedies. Some home remedies may be harmful or may not be effective for your dog’s specific condition.

What can cause a dog’s face to swell on one side?

A dog’s face may swell on one side due to a variety of reasons, including infections, abscesses, allergic reactions, or injuries. It is important to take your dog to the vet to determine the underlying cause of the swelling and to receive appropriate treatment.

Final Thoughts

A swollen lip in dogs is a common occurrence that various factors can cause. It can be a minor issue that can resolve on its own or a symptom of a more serious underlying health condition. It is important to observe the dog’s behavior and other symptoms to determine the cause of the condition.

Pet owners should seek veterinary care if the swelling persists or if there are other symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, lethargy, or fever. The veterinarian can perform a physical examination, run diagnostic tests, and prescribe appropriate treatment depending on the underlying cause.

Prevention is key to avoiding enlarged mouth jowls in dogs. Pet owners should ensure that their dogs are not exposed to allergens, toxins, or other irritants that can cause swelling. They should also maintain good oral hygiene and provide a balanced diet to promote overall health.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

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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.