Mouth Folds are Very Painful: Lip Eczema in the Dog

We call lip eczema a painful inflammation of the lower lip in dogs. Learn how to recognize lip eczema, why it happens, and how to treat it.

What is Lip Eczema?

What the lips are with us, the lips are with the dog. The skin is a bit more sensitive here. Irritation of sensitive skin can make it more prone to inflammation. Because bacteria settle more easily on damaged skin. Lip eczema is a special form of pyoderma in dogs that is limited to the folds of the mouth. It is also similar to the typical skin fold dermatitis (intertrigo) that often occurs in four-legged friends with wrinkles. Other names for lip eczema are lip fold pyoderma, lip dermatitis, and colloquially “lip rot”.

Causes of Lip Eczema in Dogs

Above all, the physical constitution influences the development of lip eczema.

Facial wrinkles

Lip eczema occurs particularly often when skin rubs against the skin – in this case, on the lips. This affects dogs that have drooping upper lips that rub against the lower lip. These include, for example, Cocker Spaniels, St. Bernard dogs, and other dogs with drooping or wrinkled lips.

Long hair

Dogs with long hair in the head area are more likely to suffer from lip eczema than short-haired dogs. Because under the long hair, a warm and humid climate quickly develops, as well as friction on the sensitive skin, which promotes the development of inflammation.


Another risk of developing lip eczema is allergies, as a 2016 study with 110 dogs found: Two-thirds of the four-legged friends examined with lip eczema had an allergy. Allergies weaken the skin barrier, making it easier for bacteria and fungi to play. According to this study, the breeds Golden Retriever, French Bulldog, German Shepherd Dog, and West Highland Terrier were particularly often affected by lip eczema.

Poor oral hygiene

For a long time, it was assumed that tartar promoted the development of eczema of the lips. The study mentioned above could not prove this: Contrary to expectations, there was no connection between tartar and the development of lip eczema.

Symptoms: How to Recognize Lip Eczema

Especially in dogs with drooping upper lips, you should take a daily look at the lower lip and the corners of the mouth. The sooner you recognize the onset of lip eczema, the better! Symptoms for this are:

  • painful swelling of the lips;
  • “bad breath”, which actually emanates from the lips;
  • redness in the corner of the mouth and in the area of the lower lip;
  • crusts;
  • hairless spots on the lips;
  • Itching of the lips;
  • in severe cases: refusal to feed due to pain, apathy.

Important: The final diagnosis can only be made by a veterinarian! This is because lip eczema can be confused with other skin diseases such as mucocutaneous pyoderma, which often occurs in sheepdogs.

Lip Eczema in Dogs: Treatment

If you suspect your dog has lip eczema, you should see a veterinarian with him. He confirms the diagnosis with a swab of the affected skin. In this way, he can also determine which bacterial or fungal infestation is present in order to adapt the treatment accordingly. Unfortunately, drug treatment of advanced or recurring eczema is difficult and not always successful. Surgery can help many dogs.

Treat mild lip eczema

For mild forms, the veterinarian may prescribe an antiseptic that you should use to clean the lips on a daily basis. There is also an ointment that sticks to the skin so that your four-legged friend cannot lick it off. If the lip is very tender, it can be difficult or impossible to apply the ointment – ask your vet for advice or alternatives. After a few days, there should be an improvement.

Treat lip eczema with medication

Antibiotics are the drug of choice for bacterial eczema. Make sure you follow the veterinarian’s instructions correctly. Because if you stop taking the antibiotic too early, you risk a relapse.

Lip surgery

If the four-legged friend repeatedly suffers from lip eczema because he has a congenital skin fold, only an operation will help. The vet shortens the skin on the lower lip so that it becomes firmer. If the skin fold disappears, the breeding ground for bacteria and inflammation disappears. If your vet advises such an operation, you shouldn’t wait too long before making a decision. Because in many cases you can put an end to such a chronic ailment relatively easily, instead of having to “doctor around” over and over again. Painful chronic diseases such as pyoderma can severely reduce a dog’s joy of life.

Homeopathy for the treatment of pelvic eczema

At best, you should consider homeopathy in order to prevent the recurrence of lip eczema. To do this, contact an experienced animal health practitioner. Homeopathic remedies are not suitable for treating acute eczema because they do nothing against the bacteria.

Can You Prevent Lip Eczema in Dogs?

If you have a dog with allergies or wrinkles on the lips, it is particularly important to check the lips regularly. Ask your species for individual advice for your dog. It can help to clean the lips every evening or after each feed to help prevent bacterial inflammation. If the dog has long hair, it can be useful to shorten it in the mouth area. If you are looking for a puppy, you should also look at the parent animals: If they have pronounced skin folds around the lips, eczema is inevitable. The extent to which good oral hygiene prevents lip eczema has not been clearly established. In any case, it helps to prevent tartar and inflammation in the mouth, which is reason enough to take care of healthy teeth.

Alice White

Written by Alice White

Alice White, a devoted pet lover and writer, has turned her boundless affection for animals into a fulfilling career. Originally dreaming of wildlife, her limited scientific background led her to specialize in animal literature. Now she happily spends her days researching and writing about various creatures, living her dream.

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