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Dog Lip Fold Dermatitis: Causes, Symptoms and Remedies

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

Lip fold dermatitis is most common in certain breeds.

Lip fold dermatitis is most common in certain breeds.

Dog Lip Fold Pyoderma vs. Dermatitis

You may have never heard about dog lip fold dermatitis or dog lip fold pyoderma until your vet mentions it at your dog's physical exam. In some cases, dog owners aren't aware of this condition, but in some cases, they suspect something is amiss based on the dog's behavior. But, what exactly is lip fold dermatitis in dogs, and what causes it? Let's take a look.

Dermatitis vs. Pyoderma

First, a bit of clarity: The terms "dog lip fold dermatitis" and "dog lip fold pyoderma" are often used interchangeably, leading to much confusion. But, what's the difference?

  • Dermatitis is a simple term that means inflammation of the skin. The word derma means skin, and as a general rule, anything ending with -itis is an inflammation. Indeed, when you get "colitis," it's an inflammation of the colon, and when you get tonsillitis, it's an inflammation of your tonsils, and so forth.
  • Pyoderma means simply any purulent skin disease with the formation of pus. It comes from the words pyo meaning "pus" and derma meaning "skin.''

What Causes This Condition?

Why does it occur? The most likely cause is the accumulation of saliva and food debris, which causes bacteria and yeast to thrive due to the presence of moisture. Sometimes, the friction of the skin folds rubbing against one another may also be a contributing factor. It may all start as a local irritation that then progresses to inflammation and then to infection when left untreated.

What Are the Symptoms?

  • Irritation: You'll initially notice damp, red and irritated lip skin folds.
  • Odor: At times, you may notice an unpleasant odor.
  • Ulcers and scabs: As the condition progresses, there may be hair loss, the presence of ulcers and scabs.
  • Discoloration: The color of the surrounding fur may become discolored and turn reddish, brown or black from the saliva and proliferation of yeast or bacteria.
  • Scratching and lip-smacking: You'll notice that some dogs may scratch at their lips and then smell/lick their foot, and they may repeatedly smack their lips.
  • Pain: Some dogs may clearly appear to be in pain.

Which Dogs Are Likely to Get It?

As the name implies, this condition affects the dog's lip folds; therefore, it's mostly seen in dogs with pronounced saggy folds of skin, such as Bloodhounds, St Bernards, Shar Pei, Springer Spaniels, Neapolitan Mastiffs, and Bulldogs. However, it can also be found in other breeds, especially in the bottom jaw area where the upper canine tooth sits on the lip.

How Your Vet Will Treat Lip Fold Dermatitis

When you see your vet, he'll likely examine the area, and he may also take a bacterial or fungal culture so he can figure out the most appropriate treatment. Depending on his findings, treatment may involve the use of a medicated antibacterial shampoo if there's no infection. If there's a fungal infection, he may prescribe an ointment, and if there is a bacterial skin infection, the dog may need to be put on antibiotics. In severe cases that tend to recur, the vet may recommend surgery to correct the folding areas.

Remedies to Help Your Dog at Home

You can help your dog heal by cleaning the lip fold areas after your dog eats, so it's free of debris and dry. Shaving the hair in the area may also help keep the area dry. Just Answer veterinarian Dr. Fiona recommends washing the area with an antibacterial soap such as a chlorhexidine scrub, Hibitane or Hibiclens at least three times a day for three days and then washing daily for an extra four days. She also mentions applying cornstarch to keep the area dry.

In the video below, veterinarian Greg Martinez recommends shaving the area, washing it with mild soap and warm water and then applying plain Neosporin on the area daily. However, some dogs may need a course of antibiotics to clear the infection up.

If you are into home remedies, Dr. Carol Jean Tillman recommends adding about 1/2 to 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar to the dog's food two times daily. Applying it topically (better diluted) may also help, but please consider that in some dogs it may sting.

For Further Reading

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    Giving your dog a pill doesn't have to be a stressful task. If your dog dreads pills, this guide will give you some options on how to make pill-pilling fun and rewarding for your dog.
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    If you're looking for premium dog food with no chicken byproducts, you're at the right place. Learn what chicken by-products are and which dog foods are without chicken or poultry by products.
  • Why is Dog Flea Treatment not Working?
    Why is your dog still scratching despite using flea products? Learn the possibilities and how to eradicate fleas once and for all from your home.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: What is lip fold pyoderma in dogs?

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Read More From Pethelpful

Answer: The word dermatitis, simply means a general inflammation of the skin. Pyoderma, is a more involved skin condition that often occurs secondarily to abrasions on the skin's surface that occur as a result of scratching. So if your dog has lip fold dermatitis and scratches the area or if pesky bacteria set in, it can become a case of lip fold pyoderma.

© 2013 Adrienne Farricelli


Stierle Paul & Elizabeth on April 11, 2020:

Hallelujah An answer to our issue since last September This after two very visits OMG And I can handle the treatment plan Thank you so much

Barbara Miller on November 10, 2019:

Braunschweiger can also hide a powdered medication, flatten it like a pancake place powder in middle, wash fingers from medication powder, then roll it up so no powder is detected , or place another flattened peice on top, and roll it.

MARLA WILSON on July 22, 2019:

My Poodle ( Randall Willie) has folds on his mouth. The folds are swelled / inflamed the bacteria seems to be very hard. I have washed them with light Dawn soap mixed with hydrogen peroxide and warm water then applied Neosporin can anyone tell me what this is? it looks very painful for him

Linda on February 11, 2019:

Wouldn't the dog lick the Neosporin?

leslieb82 on July 03, 2017:

My 5 year old Maltese/mixed breed licks his upper lip and nose quite often. He has what I call a mustache or his "filter"(long hair under his nose). He always has it tucked inside his mouth & under his upper teeth. He has long hair on his whole head. Including a beard under his chin. It gets kind of grubby so I trim it very short. Has a small patch of redness under the front of chin. Nothing severe. Has always had bad breath & won't let me brush his teeth. So they are very dirty. Recently he has a different, very bad smell by his mouth & nose area. I was able to really look for the cause of the smell. Inside lower lip is maybe a growth? By upper K9 tooth, it extends up along outside of lower teeth, but inside of upper K9 tooth. Not sure if it was always there. It seems a maybe little swollen, didn't see any pus or discharge. Based on his reaction, it's causing some pain or discomfort.

CraftytotheCore on September 19, 2013:

This was very useful. I have a pitbull who has very wrinkled skin underneath his jaw. I will definitely know now to keep this in mind!

Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on September 19, 2013:

Great to know. i do see my dogs scratching their chins every once in a while and make sure that nothing is infected. This is useful information. Voted up and shared!

Marcy J. Miller from Arizona on September 18, 2013:

As useful and excellent as I've come to expect from your hubs! Because I haven't seen this in any of my own pack, it was completely new information -- good to know for future reference. Great job!

Best -- MJ

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