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Do Dogs Have Lips? Learn About Their Mouth Anatomy and Lip Functions (2024)

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do dogs have lipsYou’ve probably wondered if your canine companion has lips. Indeed, on closer inspection, you’ll notice their mouth has an upper and lower lip, though less pronounced than humans’. While subtle, a dog’s lips serve important functions. Gripping food, drinking, and expressing emotions all depend on their dexterous design.

Though their lips may not be as prominent, they are specially adapted for a dog’s needs. Understanding their anatomy engenders greater appreciation for your pup’s capabilities. Now let’s explore in detail the form and function of your dog’s distinctive lips.

Key Takeaways

  • Dogs have muscular folds of skin around their mouth that serve various functions, such as creating a seal for eating and drinking, gripping and holding food, and protecting the mouth and teeth from debris.
  • The position and movement of a dog’s lips can express different emotions and communicate feelings, with an upturned mouth indicating happiness, lips pulled back indicating aggression, excessive lip licking communicating stress, and clenched lips potentially indicating pain or nausea.
  • Dogs’ lips play a role in creating suction when drinking liquids, as they curl inwards to form a seal around liquid containers, generate negative pressure to draw up liquid, prevent spillage while lapping up water, and act as a flexible straw for fluid intake.
  • Monitoring lip health is important, including watching for abnormal color changes, noting any persistent wounds or swelling, cleaning between lip folds daily, checking for stuck debris during meals, and feeling for new lumps, bumps, or growths.

Dog Lip Anatomy

Dog Lip Anatomy
Your pooch has folds around its mouth that hold food and show feelings, don’tcha know.

These folds of skin around Fido’s mouth are made of rigid muscle, not the soft tissue of human lips. That’s why your pup’s lower lip doesn’t droop down quite the same. Some breeds like Rottweilers have pronounced folds with black lips that stand out.

But every dog uses its lips to keep debris out of its mouth while chowing down. Those folds also let your furry friend communicate emotions through subtle positioning. Monitoring your dog’s lips helps spot problems early, ensuring your pup stays happy and healthy.

Lip Functions in Dogs

Lip Functions in Dogs
Let’s discuss how your dog utilizes its lips for eating, drinking, and communicating. Your pooch’s lips enable them to grip, hold, and effectively chew their food. The lip muscles also allow them to create suction to lap up liquids for drinking.

In addition, a dog’s lip positioning can convey different emotions they are feeling. Now that you understand your pup’s lips serve various critical functions beyond just protecting their mouth, you can better monitor their health by paying attention to any changes.

Gripping and Chewing Food

Lemme tell ya, its lips grip ‘n’ hold chow down real good.

  1. Powerful muscular folds
  2. Perfect pucker ‘n’ pout
  3. Grips kibble, bones, toys
  4. Holds treats ‘n’ snacks
  5. Laps water, soup, gravy

Your pooch’s lips allow it to effectively grip, hold, and chew food. The muscular skin folds around your dog’s mouth create suction to lap liquids and prevent debris from entering the canine’s mouth while eating.

Fido’s lips are precisely adapted for gripping, manipulating, and consuming all kinds of nourishment.

Creating Suction for Drinking

Allowing pups to slurp, those folds pucker to produce suction when lapping water, as a toddler grips a sippy cup.

Lips Create A
Curl Suction Secure
Inward When Grip
Around Drinking On
Cup To Liquids

A dog’s lips act like a flexible straw, the reddish-pink border sort of seals around a bowl or bottle to generate negative pressure for drawing up fluids.

Communicating Emotions

You curve them to show your feelings. Dog behaviorists state that our expressive faces help convey a range of emotions. Your dog’s facial expressions are their way of self-soothing and communicating. Though less muscular than our own, a dog uses their lips to form telling expressions.

Why Do Dogs Have Lips?

Why Do Dogs Have Lips
Now that you understand how your dog uses their lips, let’s discuss why dogs have lips in the first place.

Unlike human lips that are soft and supple, your dog’s lips are composed of folds of skin around the mouth called rugae or rugal folds. Whereas human lips are made mostly of muscular and connective tissue, your dog’s lips are formed from rigid muscle that allows them to grip and hold objects securely.

Certain dog breeds, like Basset Hounds, have especially prominent lips and flews (upper lips) that aid in scenting and holding onto bones or other food items.

So in summary, dogs’ lips are anatomically adapted for functions like eating, communicating, and facial expressions, though they serve different purposes than lips in humans. Monitoring any changes in your dog’s lips can help identify potential health issues.

Common Dog Lip Problems

Common Dog Lip Problems
When examining our dogs’ lips, we may notice concerning abnormalities. Lip wounds, lip fold infections, viral papillomas, melanomas, and pigment changes indicate illness requiring veterinary attention.

Monitoring your dog’s lip health allows for early identification and treatment of these common dog lip problems.

Lip Wounds

You’ll need to check your dog’s lips regularly for cuts or wounds that could get infected:

  • Watch for redness, pus, and swelling.
  • Clean gently with saline solution.
  • Apply antibiotic ointment if needed.
  • Monitor swelling and discharge.
  • See the vet for deep wounds.

Monitoring your dog’s lip health can prevent painful infections. Their lips allow eating and communicating but need care. Dark lips suit some breeds naturally through individual genetics. Your dog’s anatomy adapts lips for life’s functions.

Lip Fold Dermatitis

Your pup’s lip folds need regular cleaning to prevent irritating dermatitis. The anatomy of your dog’s lips features creases prone to moisture buildup. Gently cleanse debris from the delicate folds daily. Monitor for redness and infection.

Oral Papillomas

Bumps on Fido’s lips likely aren’t acne but oral papillomas, a viral infection. Over 35% of puppies under the age of 2 get these wart-like growths that usually go away on their own. Consult your veterinarian about treatment options for persistent fungal infections on your dog’s lips.

Dog Lip Cancer (Melanomas)

Pigmented areas on their mouth that rapidly change in size or color may indicate melanoma, so monitor any dark patches closely and schedule a vet visit if concerned. Canines with darker fur coloring have more melanin and are prone to developing aggressive melanomas around the mouth.

Consult your veterinarian about treatment if you notice dark pigmentation changes.


Notice changes in your pup’s lip color right away, as this could mean something’s up.

  1. Monitor the mouth for dark patches.
  2. Check the teeth and gums for abnormalities.
  3. Note any increased redness or swelling.
  4. Schedule a vet visit if concerned.

Variations in lip color often signify an underlying health issue. Remain vigilant of your dog’s oral health and contact your veterinarian if you observe any concerning discoloration.

Dog Mouth Anatomy

Dog Mouth Anatomy
Dogs have lips that serve as an important protective barrier for their teeth and gums. Their lips aid in smelling by helping to direct odors to the olfactory receptors. Lacking cheek muscles, dogs use their lips to communicate emotions through various positions and movements.

Without full cheeks, drinking can be messier for dogs as they rely heavily on their lips to lap up water and other liquids.

Lips as a Protective Barrier

You’d best watch that potty mouth, lest those flappers get slapped around here! Your pup’s lips protect their sharp teeth from debris, shielding that dental work. The pliable tissue forms a barrier along the vermilion line, keeping their grin gunk-free.

Aid in Smelling

Better give those things a good sniff ’round town, pal. They catch all the smells worth chasing.

Your pup uses their lips in many ways:

  1. Sniffing out tasty treats
  2. Scenting other dogs’ behinds
  3. Finding the perfect pee spot
  4. Locating you after a long day
  5. Snuffling up all life’s pleasures

Your dog’s lips are built to experience the world through smell.


Course, those flappers telegraph all kinds of hints ’bout your pooch’s mood. A dog’s lips help express different emotions, though they can’t smile like humans.

Lack of Cheek Muscles

You’re not gonna see big chipmunk cheeks on a dog because they lack those muscles. Instead, pups have heavy flews framing sharp canines inside their mouths. Pink lips and black lips wrap around dog teeth to aid gnashing.

What Are the Lips of a Dog Called?

What Are the Lips of a Dog Called
You’ve got dog lips that protect your precious teeth, without them, your smile would be incomplete.

  • The lips of a dog are a valid anatomical term called labium.
  • This compact lip structure wraps snugly around the teeth to shield them.
  • The lip anatomy allows dogs to grip and hold objects in their mouth.

The lips play an important role for dogs. When relaxed, they help regulate body temperature through panting. Their various positions communicate emotions better than a human-like smile ever could. From drinking to eating, dog lips serve critical functions due to their unique anatomy.

What Are the Bumps on Dog Lips Called?

What Are the Bumps on Dog Lips Called
As we covered, your lips allow you to grip and protect your teeth. Now let’s explore those bumps on your lips that make them extra cute.

You’ve got noticeable lips that add character to your adorable face. Those bumps on your pup’s lips are called circumvallate papillae.

Here’s a quick overview:

  • Location: Center of your lips
    Function: Protect sensitive skin

  • Location: Edges of your mouth
    Function: Aid grip while chewing

Some breeds like Rottweilers have black lips packed with papillae. Others have pink dots blending with fur. Either way, these bumps help you experience delicious flavors and textures. Though harmless, keep an eye out for any abnormal swelling which may indicate illness.

Your lips allow you to explore the world through taste and touch. Those bumps enhance your abilities while adding to your unique look.

Can Dogs Smile?

Can Dogs Smile
You don’t have facial muscles for smiling like humans, but your tail wagging and raised eyebrows betoken happiness. Though your loose lips may appear like a grin, true smiles require cheek muscles lacking in your anatomy.

Without control of your mouth, any upturned lips are just a relaxed open mouth, not an intentional smile.

However, a happy dog will express joy through a loose mouth, wagging tail, and bright eyes. While you can’t make a true smile, your body language clearly conveys your mood. An exception is if skin stuck on teeth pulls lips upward, which may signify illness or nausea.

Be observant for signs of distress masquerading as smiles. Your loose lips and wagging tail communicate how you feel without needing to smile.

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Lips?

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Lips
Heya hooman, your pup probably licks his lips to gather tasty info ’bout his surroundings.

  1. To clean debris ‘n bacteria off the inner lip surface.
  2. Moistening mouths to keep ’em clean ‘n healthy.
  3. Anxiety ‘n nervous habit to self-soothe.
  4. Communication of emotions like confusion, nausea, etc.

Lippin’ lips helps pups smell ‘n taste stimuli from food to pheromones. It can indicate excitement, nausea, or stress too. Excessive lip lickin’ may signify illness or anxiety though, so observe if it calms or continues.

Overall, lip lickin’ is a natural doggo behavior gatherin’ sensory information ’bout their environment. Just monitor excessive lickin’ as communication of distress requirin’ attention. Your pup’s lippin’ likely means he’s explorin’ the world, not necessarily cause for concern.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Do Dogs Use Their Lips?

You use your lips to grip food when eating. They protect your teeth as you chew and enable you to lap up water. Your lips also express emotions, curling when you’re happy or tense. Overall, they’re essential tools for eating, drinking, and communicating.

Do All Dogs Have Pigmented Lips?

No, not all dogs have pigmented lips. Some breeds, like Labs and Golden Retrievers, often have pink or non-pigmented lips. But many breeds do exhibit black or darker lips, like Rottweilers, Chow Chows, and Chinese Shar-Peis.

The color is based on skin pigmentation, not their fur. Regardless of lip color, they serve key functions like gripping food and communicating.

How Do Dogs Show Happiness Without Smiling?

You can tell when dogs are happy by their tail wagging and raised eyebrows. Since they lack facial muscles for smiling like humans, they express joy through body language instead. Their tails wag excitedly and their eyebrows lift up when they’re feeling happy and excited to see you.

What is the Proper Care for Dog Lips?

You should gently clean your dog’s lips daily with a soft, damp cloth. Use a dog-safe lip balm if they appear chapped or irritated. Check for stuck debris between the folds and wrinkles. Look for cuts, swelling, or loss of pigment, as these may indicate an issue requiring veterinary attention.

When Should I See a Vet for Dog Lip Problems?

You should see the vet if your dog’s lips show persistent wounds, swelling, bleeding, or loss of pigment. Also, watch for bad breath, drooling, or pain when opening their mouth, as these signs could mean an illness needs treatment.

Getting prompt veterinary care helps prevent minor issues from becoming major ones.


You’d think dogs lack the ability to smile since their faces lack our expressive muscles. Yet when you gaze into their eyes as their lips curl upward, tail wags excitedly, you can’t help but smile back.

While dogs don’t have lips like ours, their unique mouth anatomy serves essential functions – gripping food, protecting teeth, aiding smell, and charming their humans. Remember, when a dog grins your way, they’re sending love, even without lips to pucker.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief with a team of qualified veterinarians, their goal? Simple. Break the jargon and help you make the right decisions for your furry four-legged friends.