In October 2013, I had lip fold surgery. It was one of the best things I have done, and now after a year of living with the wonderful results I wanted to tell my friends a bit about it. The last year before my surgery, I was not my happy usual self because of my chronic infections, but since the surgery, I’ve been my happy old self once again. Please remember, I am not a medical expert and I am only sharing my personal experience with lip fold surgery. If you suspect you may be a candidate for the surgery yourself, please consult with your own veterinarian.
About two years before I had the surgery, I started getting ornery about having my teeth brushed and my beard combed. Next a foul odor started coming from my mouth. Mom thought maybe I had a tooth that was bad, but things looked alright to her. At that time, we still had not found a vet we really liked since moving back to the US from Germany, so we went to the one we were seeing at the time. They said it was just a small infection in my lip, gave me some antibiotics and sent me on my way.
The smell returned a few months later, I was completely refusing to have my beard combed and I wasn’t thrilled about getting my teeth brushed. I had always loved having my teeth brushed so this was odd. We went back to the vet and were given the same diagnosis and antibiotics. Mom doesn’t like us taking antibiotics unless it is really necessary, so when this happened a third time, we didn’t go to the vet right away. The smell from my mouth was really bad. If you know what a yeast infection in an ear smells like, multiply that by about 100. I could clear a room. Mom was embarrassed and also felt so bad for me. We went to a different vet we had found, but they also said it was just an infection, probable from chewing a bone or something, gave me antibiotics again and sent us on our way. The next time the odor occurred, which was happening more frequently, we found our current vet and asked for some help.
Finally, I was diagnosed with Lip Fold Dermatitis. I had to be given antibiotics to get rid of the infection, but I was also given a dental rinse to keep my lip folds clean and hopefully infection free. What is Lip Fold Dermatitis? It is a condition that affects dogs with lips that sag. With age, lips tend to sag more which can increase the problem. (See my sagging lip in the photo above. We don’t have photos of my lips inflamed because I wouldn’t allow anyone near my lips when that was the case.) Moisture and all kinds of food and debris can get caught in the folds which irritates the skin and can develop into ulcer like sores and/or infections (bacterial and/or yeast). The dark, moist environment is the perfect spot for problems to develop. My beard also contributed to the bacteria growing in the lip fold area. Not only is the odor very unpleasant for humans, it is a real painful condition for us dogs.
At first thought, Mom felt she had neglected my hygiene and it might be her fault, but that wasn’t the case. The condition started slowly, but since previous vets had not diagnosed it properly, we weren’t given proper treatment early on causing the condition to become chronic. Some dogs are simply prone to lip fold problems too, while others never have an issue. The more infected my lips got, the less I would let anyone near the area, thus the situation only got worse. Lip fold issues are most common in dogs with saggy lips, often in dogs that drool a lot. The lip fold surgery is used to cure lip fold dermatitis, but is also commonly used as a cosmetic procedure to prevent drooling.
My vet suggested we get the infection cleared up, shave off my beard to help keep the area dry, and use a special oral rinse twice a day to see if we could keep the situation under control. Unfortunately, it did not work. Being as I was only seven and would have this condition forever, we opted for the lip fold surgery.
Both sides of my mouth had the same problem, although the left side was a bit worse. The operation involved going in and cutting the lip fold, removing a portion, and then stitching the remaining lip back together to make it a tight normal lip. My case was one of the worse my vet had ever seen and he has been a vet for quite some time. The surgery sounds painful, but it really was not bad. I could eat normal food the next day, just had to avoid chewing things for about a month, and no rough play for a few weeks.
Once my lips healed Mom started gently brushing my beard and working harder on my teeth again. It took months before I realized it did not hurt me anymore to have these grooming procedures done. Now Mom brushes my beard every morning and my teeth every night. No more clumps or matting in my beard, no more foul odor from my mouth, the plaque has disappeared, and it feels great. It is also much healthier for me in the long run as all that bacteria and infection constantly in my body would not be good for me.
This is a photo of my lip a year after the surgery, looking beautiful! At my last physical, my vet could not even tell I had ever had problems or surgery on my lips! We not only learned a lot about the lips of a dog, but we learned once again, you need to have a vet you can trust. Those other vets had no idea how to help me, but at our current clinic, they nailed it right away and knew all about it and what the options were. If you are not sure your vet knows what they are talking about, never be shy to get a second opinion.
I’m joining BlogPaws in celebrating Pet Health Awareness Month. Join in the discussion with your own post and read about pet health obstacles, challenges, and tips for keeping pets healthy.