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What's That Bump on the Roof of My Dog's Mouth?

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

Does your dog have a bump on the roof of its mouth?

Does your dog have a bump on the roof of its mouth?

Swollen Incisive Papilla on a Dog

Have you recently noticed a bump on the roof of your dog's mouth? If so, you may already be in panic mode, wondering if it's cancer or some other terrible malady.

You likely have never noticed this bump before, and only discovered it when your dog was lying belly-up with his head on your lap and did a big, wide-open yawn.

Therefore, you may rush to your vet, wondering what the lump is. You likely feel nervous, perhaps because you've heard how lumps and bumps in a dog's mouth can have a bad prognosis in some cases.

What Happens at the Vet's Office?

So, you're finally at your vet's office with your heart pounding as your vet examines your dog's mouth. Your dog may not be too collaborative in having the roof of his mouth checked, but your vet manages to take a quick peek up there.

You wait in anticipation, dreading a worrisome answer suggesting it's nothing good or that more testing may be required to determine exactly what you're dealing with.

Instead, your vet tells you that there's no need to do any testing. Alarmed, you think of the worst-case scenario: "What do you mean there's no need to do anything? Is it that bad already? How did it get out of handy so quickly if I just noticed it today? Please tell me I won't lose my baby to some terrible cancer that will make him suffer so much!"

Instead, your vet smiles and tells you that the bump is perfectly normal, and that's why there's no need to do anything. At this point, you can completely trust your vet and go on living your life as if nothing ever happened. Or, if you are a suspicious fellow, you may be wondering if you perhaps need a second opinion just to make sure.

Or, you may opt for the third option, which is to simply ask your vet more questions. By asking for more information, you can try to find out how it can be possible that the growth is perfectly normal and doesn't warrant any testing or monitoring. Hopefully, however, your vet beats you to the punch and offers you a clearer explanation.

Introducing the Incisive Papilla!

Introducing the Incisive Papilla!

When Is a Bump on the Roof of a Dog's Mouth Normal?

If the bump is on the roof of your dog's mouth, right in the middle, just behind the top two middle teeth and is sort of diamond-shaped, you are likely dealing with something perfectly normal.

Introducing the Incisive Papilla

"That bump is called the incisive papilla, and it's one of the top reasons why pet owners make a panic vet appointment dreading the worst," explains veterinarian Dr. Truli on his website VirtuaVet. The incisive papilla derives from the term "incisive," referring to the incisor teeth and "papilla" meaning bump.

This bump, like many other body parts, has a precise function. In the middle of it, there's a hole that leads to a duct that communicates with the dog's Jacobson organ (also known as the vomeronasal organ).

The Jacobson organ connects to the dog's amygdala, an important part of the brain that plays a big role in emotional reactions. So when you put all these puzzle pieces together, you can get a clear picture of how the incisive papilla allows dogs to emotionally respond to molecules, such as pheromones, that travel up the incisive duct.

Interestingly, when they smell something that intrigues them, dogs chatter their teeth. They are basically sending large scent molecules towards their incisive papilla (with some help from the tongue).

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Then, once those scent molecules reach your dog's brain area responsible for interpreting smells, your dog may undertake some decision-making based on his findings. Perhaps he'll just urine mark on top of the sniffed area or leave.

Signs of Trouble

Normally, a dog's incisive papilla doesn't give any problems. However, according to the Animal Dentistry and Oral Surgery Specialists LLC, it may swell in some cases. For example, this could occur in the case of a malocclusion where the lower teeth puncture the roof of the mouth.

If your dog's incisive papilla appears large, see your vet. Consider your dog's breed though; according to veterinarian Dr. Marie, for some reason, the incisive papilla appears to be larger in Golden Retrievers.

Did you know? Humans also have an incisive papilla, but in humans it has a different function. According to Joel S. Teig, its purpose is to provide internal padding to protect the nerve exiting the palatal bone, which is found right behind the two upper front teeth.

The Bottom Line

The incisive papilla is normal and a part of your dog's anatomy. It plays an important role in your dog's ability to assess molecules and react accordingly. However, if the area appears swollen, or if you notice an abnormality or the bump on the roof of your dog's mouth appears to be in a different location from where the incisive papilla is supposed to be, consult with your vet.

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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: Is it a sign of a big problem that our vet has found a pinhole opening from the hard palate, near the bump that you are talking about?

Answer: I wonder whether your vet has found the beginning of what's called an oronasal fistula. An oronasal fistula is an opening that creates a passage from the mouth and the respiratory tract.

It can present in the area you describe as a result of a malocculsion (incorrect bite) causing a canine tooth to puncture the roof of the mouth.

These can be problematic because food and fluids may leak into the dog's respiratory causing inflammation or infections.

Question: Is the top palate in a dog's mouth supposed to be hard or soft?

Answer: A dog's upper palate is supposed to be made of ridges and they should feel hard. For a good reason, it is known as "hard palate." However, the back portion of the palate is relatively soft, hence why it's known as "soft palate."

© 2015 Adrienne Farricelli


Zeena valenzuela on June 07, 2019:

My dog has a pea size bump on the outside of his mouth. Firm and doesnt seem onfected

Tina on January 13, 2019:

Thank you! I did panic. Decided to give it a week as our Bloodhound incessantly chews on various sized rocks from our yard. Checked today and the bump was still there. I am at ease now reading your article. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Although I will keep an eye on it for changes I feel a whole lot better.

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