I have a condition known as chronic lip fold dermatitis. Many dogs suffer from occasional lip fold issues, and for some of us, it becomes a chronic problem. The horrid, foul odor coming from your dog’s mouth area will let you know your dog has a problem! Many pet parents are at a loss as to what to do for their dog, and many have asked me for advice. I’m going to talk about the causes, why it needs to be treated, and several treatment options. I’m not a veterinarian, and am only sharing my knowledge of this condition and information I have found to be useful. Please consult with your own veterinarian before starting any treatment.
Lip Fold Dermatitis
What is Lip Fold Dermatitis?
The most likely cause is the accumulation of saliva and food debris in the lip fold areas. The damp, dark, warm environment is ideal for the growth of bacteria which starts to cause irritation in the skin, and eventually an infection. In the above photo you can see how my lip fold hangs down, creating a pocket for bacteria to gather in. Symptoms can be redness in the lip fold area, pain, the foul odor coming from the dog’s mouth, and severe cases can cause hair loss and scabbing.
Why is Lip Fold Dermatitis a problem?
There are several reasons this condition needs to be treated as soon as possible and prevented.
- The first and most important reason is all the bacteria and infection in the lip fold area will be spread throughout your dog’s body. This is not healthy, and could eventually cause other health issues.
- I know first paw all about how painful this condition can be. I wouldn’t let anyone near my beard for over a year because my lip folds hurt so bad. You most certainly don’t want your dog to be in pain!
- Once the bacteria has turned into an infection, your dog will need antibiotics to clear it up. We all know, antibiotics shouldn’t be overused. If you have a lip fold infection once, chances are good you will have one again down the road and need even more antibiotics.
- In many cases, the lip fold dermatitis turns chronic. If you can catch it early the first time and work hard on preventative measures, you may be able to keep it from becoming a chronic condition.
What are the treatment options for Lip Fold Dermatitis?
It took us a long time, about two years to find a good veterinarian to diagnose my condition correctly, and by that time, my condition had become chronic. After getting the right diagnosis, surgery, and tips on keeping my lip folds healthy, I’m finally pain free, and even let Mom comb my beard any time she feels like it. Having lived with lip fold problems for years now, we have several tried and true methods for keeping them at bay. Some suggestions are from our veterinarian, some are things we have discovered on our own.
- The first thing I do is to keep my beard hair shaved in the lip fold area. I see my groomer every two to three months and she shaves down my beard hair in that area for me. No one notices as my top beard hairs cover my lips, and not being a show dog, it doesn’t matter. The wet beard adds to the likelihood of bacteria starting to grow, so shave it off!
- For me the time of year makes a difference. In the winter when the air is dry, I have much less trouble. When it is humid and during the summer, I’m more prone to infection. Now whenever my beard is real wet from drinking water, or walking in wet conditions, Mom blow dries it off for me. It took a few times before I let her do it, but now I don’t mind a bit. It dries out my beard and lip area which helps keep the bacteria from growing. Always hold the dryer a good distance away and never use a lot of heat.
- I get my beard shampooed with an anti bacterial shampoo a couple times a month. You wouldn’t believe how much stuff accumulates in that beard hair! Your entire dog doesn’t have to have a bath, just the beard.
- Keep the lip folds clean. After meals and snacks, wipe the area down to get rid of excess food and saliva build up.
- Your veterinarian may prescribe a cream or mousse to apply when you notice your lip folds getting irritated. I don’t like it much, but it works. I have DOUXO mousse which is prescription.
- Brush your dog’s teeth and make sure they have good dental health. Any extra dental bacteria from teeth ending up in the lip folds can start an infection as well.
- In extreme cases like mine, lip fold surgery is also an option. I had lip fold surgery on both lip folds in October 2013. The above photo is one of my lip folds currently, 2 1/2 years after surgery. As a dog ages, the skin loses elasticity which means your lip folds sag more and more. For me surgery was life changing! It’s been almost two and a half years now, and most of the time my lip folds are great. Despite the surgery, we still follow the tips one to six above to prevent the condition from coming back.
Bailie has real thin furs, so she hasn’t had any issues. In this photo, she is posing with our friend Dexter who also battles with lip fold issues. Stop over to his blog today, Fidose of Reality, to see what tips he is offering to help battle lip fold dermatitis.