Do Dogs Have Lips?

Beagle using its tongue and lips to drink water from its owners hand

As your canine companion gobbles up yet another meal, you take notice of what you think are lips. But wait, do dogs have lips? If you’ve asked yourself that question, you’re not alone.

Do dogs have lips? Dogs do have lips, and the lips are dual-layered. The upper lip is known as the flew and the lower lip is called just that, the lower lip. Some dog breeds like the Bullmastiff, Basset Hound, Saint Bernard, and Bloodhound have very distinct flews. 

I’m sure you have yet more questions about dog lips, and this article will seek to answer them all. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have a much better comprehension of what’s going on in your canine’s mouth! 

Do Dogs Have Lips? What Are Dog Lips Called?

As I established in the intro, dogs do indeed have lips. Like humans have an upper lip and a lower lip, so do our canine companions. Let’s take a closer look at dog lip anatomy now. 

A Dog’s Upper Lip

A dog’s upper lip is known as the flew. 

The flew comes in a variety of sizes and can be quite shapely depending on the dog breed. 

Together with the jowls, the flew can create a very pronounced upper muzzle. 

Jowl and flew size can influence how much your four-legged friend will drool.

The larger the upper lip and the jowl, the more drool is likely to fall from the dog’s mouth. 

I mentioned some dog breeds in the intro that have noticeably large flews. Some others include the Spinone Italiano, Labrador Retriever, Boxer, Bull Terrier, Newfoundland, and Dogue de Bordeaux. 

A Dog’s Lower Lip 

If the upper lip is called the flew, then what is a dog’s lower lip called?

A dog’s lower lip doesn’t have any sort of special name. It’s just known as the lower lip. 

The lower lip, especially in relation to the flew, is usually much smaller. Its shape is less pronounced as well.

Even in dog breeds that have larger flews, the dog’s lower lip won’t be nearly as noticeable. 

What Do Dogs Use Their Lips For?

Not every animal has lips, so why does a dog? Here are some uses that canine lips are designed for. 

To Protect Their Teeth and Jaw

Lips separate the mouth from the mucus membrane and thus serve a very useful purpose for dogs.

Additionally, lips (and the dog’s mouth in general) cover both the teeth and the jaw. Without that protection, an animal’s mouth would be exposed, making it an easy target.

Anything and everything would be able to get into an animal’s mouth as well, from insects to other unwanted debris. 

For Expression

Lips are a critical part of body language for canines.

When your dog pulls up its lips and bares its teeth, the canine is telling you to back off before it gets aggressive. 

Another warning sign that involves dog lips is called the fear grin. A dog will pull out its lower lip and then curl the flew on top of the lower lip. This too tells anyone who’s too close to move further away.

Don’t worry, as dogs can use their lips for more benign expressions as well. For instance, pouting.

That’s right, like a petulant child who wants something, a dog can pout its lower lip to indicate you should feed them extra treats or take them for a nice, long walk. 

Whether you see this behavior all the time or occasionally depends on how often you give in to it. Dogs will repeat the pouty behavior if it gets them what they want. 

Dogs can even smile, in a way. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on the context.

A relaxed, contented dog who looks like they’re grinning could indeed be happy. 

However, a dog with stiff body language who’s also shivering with its ears down probably isn’t so chill. The dog could be in pain or feeling anxious. 

Of course, I must point out the fear grin again, which is another time that a smiling dog means danger. 

To Eat

Another very useful purpose of dog lips is to aid a canine in eating. 

The lower lip enables a dog to ingest food. The food enters the dog’s mouth and moves towards the back of their teeth so they can chew and easily swallow.  

To Smell

The last purpose of dog lips is quite fascinating. A pup’s lips can help the dog smell!

When your dog begins licking or sucking with its lips, they’re often doing so to get a gauge on an object’s scent. 

Dogs have a channel at the top of the mouth that can read scents. The scent information gets transferred to the dog’s olfactory bulb, an organ near the roof of the mouth, and the nasal cavity. 

Once the food passes the smell test, your dog will happily eat! 

Do All Dogs Have Black Lips? 

You took a peek at your dog’s lips and noticed that the flew and lower lip are black. Do dogs all across the board have black lips?

Not necessarily, no!

The hue is determined by the amount of melanin a dog has.

Melanin is a black or dark brown pigment. The presence or lack of melanin influences the color of your dog’s coat as well as their skin and nose. 

Thus, if your dog has darker fur and a black nose, then you can reasonably expect the canine to also have black lips.

If not black, then your dog could have gray or brown lips. 

Keep in mind that regardless of how much melanin a dog has, its gums will always be pink. The reason for the color is the abundance of blood vessels underneath the thin gums. 

You want your dog’s gums to be pink. If they’re any other hue, it could indicate a health issue with your canine. 

Dog Lip Spikes or Bumps – What Are They and Should You Be Worried?

As you examined your dog’s lips, you also couldn’t help but notice the presence of strange spikes. 

In the mouths of some dogs, the spikes look more like bumps. What exactly are these and should you be concerned?

The serrated spikes or bumps are typically nothing to worry about.

Have you ever bitten your lip while you were eating? I’m sure you have, as it happens a lot in people due to how smooth the insides of our mouths are.

Well, dog teeth are a lot sharper than human teeth. If a canine bit its lip, the pointy tooth could cause some serious damage, even piercing through the lip.

Thus, dogs have developed bumps or spikes to prevent this unfortunate occurrence.  

The bumps add extra grip so food can’t slide to unintended places. 

While this is a cool feature for sure, you shouldn’t always look at the bumps in your dog’s mouth and necessarily write them off. 

In some instances, the bumps on your dogs lips are indicative of canine oral papillomas. 

Oral papillomavirus causes these oral warts, which are tumors.

The tumors can appear on the mouth, gums, and lips. In some cases, the tumors spread to the rest of the mucus membranes, but this is considered a rare occurrence.

If your dog is under two years old, then you should be especially cautious about what’s going on in its mouth.  

Dogs at this age are likeliest to develop oral papillomavirus since they have yet to build a full immune system.

A dog can spread oral papillomavirus to other canines in the household if the dogs share a water or food bowl, play with the same toys, or get physical with one another. 

Other pets like cats cannot develop this condition from infected dogs, nor can humans.

Dogs with oral papillomavirus may have bad breath, swelling around the mouth, and pain, but the condition is just as often asymptomatic. 

Although the tumors caused by oral papillomavirus are benign and the condition usually isn’t deadly, it’s still best to bring your dog to a vet.

After all, in some cases, the tumors can turn malignant and allow other cancers to propagate in your canine’s mouth.

A veterinarian will confirm a case of oral papillomavirus with a biopsy. To treat the condition, vets usually prescribe antibiotics for the pain. Your dog will likely have the tumors frozen or surgically removed. 

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