How to Control Lip Fold Dermatitis in Dogs

My dog’s mouth stinks. Lip fold dermatitis is the cause.

I get at least one email a week, if not more, asking me what a dog mom or dog dad can do to help alleviate their dog’s smelly mouth. If you are diligently providing at-home dental care for your dog on a regular basis, seeing the veterinarian for regular oral checkups and examinations, and the smell still exists, it may not be a dental issue at all. Lip fold dermatitis can rear its ugly head—and smell—and it must be brought under control. Here’s the scoop:

Lip fold dermatitis is probably a diagnosis your dog has received or you landed on this page because you want to know why your dog’s mouth stinks. When my sweet Cocker Spaniel developed what appeared to be a smelly mouth that would not go away despite twice daily brushing, off to the vet we went. The vet later told me that he knew what Dexter’s diagnosis was the moment we entered the exam room. Lip fold dermatitis has a very distinct stink. It will quite literally knock you over.

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dog dental care

Dogs with saggy or thick lips and/or droopy jowls are prime candidates for lip fold dermatitis. That small area where the lip ever so gently “folds” and pockets of saliva can pool inside can harbor bacteria, and eventually produce a very offensive odor. In addition to the lips, a fold dermatitis may affect other parts of a dog’s body, wherever sagging skin causes skin folds to occur. So think of a Shar Pei with all those thick wrinkles. Clumber Spaniels, Basset Hounds, and any dog with thick jowls probably have a pet parent who will relate to the smell the jowls can produce.

lip fold dermatitis

What to Use on Lip Fold Dermatitis

The key is prevention in lip fold dermatitis. To keep it at bay and to keep the jowls clean and free of bacteria, we use EvoraPet sprinkled on his food once a day and wipe with Mal-a-ket Wipes at least once a day in the warmer months and as needed the rest of the year.

In the warmer months when my dog pants and drools a bit more, we are extra diligent. Any time you have a dog with folds in the lip or even on the ski, the propensity for bacteria to form in that nice, dark, warm place is high. Bacteria and yeast thrive in such an environment; consider the dark and hairy ear canal: Yeast and bacteria often cause ear infections.

We cannot guarantee the same results on your dog’s lip fold dermatitis, but we recently discovered a product that has been very helpful, organic in nature, and easy to apply. The key is in making sure you apply the product to the exact area of the lip fold: Not to the mouth, not in the mouth, but in the fold, as shown here:

dog jowl

Our vet many years ago prescribed:

Pyoben antifungal shampoo: One droplet to be massaged into the area, cleaned out and then followed up with….

Pyoben ointment

The success for us has been with the Mal-A-Ket pads and now with the newly released Wrinkle Balm by the folks at Natural Pet Company who make Snout Soother. We received a free sample in the mail because we inquired about it for our dog’s smelly lip fold prevention.

Lip fold dermatitis in dogs

The organic Wrinkle Balm is an all-natural balm specially formulated to treat and prevent skin fold disease, infection and discomfort. It contains gentle, yet powerful, extracts with anti-fungal properties to eradicate yeast, bacteria and crusty buildup. I use it on Dexter once or twice a week.

I have nothing to gain by telling you this, no one paid me, and because this is an issue with a lot of dogs, helping to eradicate lip fold dermatitis is key for us. Have your dog’s veterinarian show you how to keep the folds clean and exactly where they are located. On a side note, I’ve been using the Snout product from Natural Dog Company with great success over the winter months. It kept my dog’s flaky nose post respiratory infection nice and smooth and healed it up.

By the way, your vet may need to prescribe an antibiotic and show you HOW and WHERE to apply the ointment or any other sort of treatment. You don’t want the dog ingesting anything and the area in question is NOT the lip, but specifically that dark, dank place called the lip fold.

The Merck Vet Manual, aka the Bible for Pet Care, says, “Medical management of lip fold dermatitis includes clipping the hair, cleaning the folds 1–2 times/day with benzoyl peroxide or a mild skin cleanser, and keeping the area dry.”

Dog lip fold surgery

What If Nothing Helps

Sometimes, in extreme cases, lip fold surgery is performed. Our friend at MyGBGVLife.com has a wonderful blog post about dog lip fold surgery. Please take the time to read that.

Click This: Joy of My GBGVLife has her take and latest update on lip fold dermatitis. Be sure to read it for a full picture of this stinky condition in dogs.

Dexter and Bailey

How to Prevent Lip Fold Dermatitis

Prevent this nasty condition by keeping your dog’s lip folds clean and dry. Gently wipe the lip folds/jowls and be sure to brush your dog’s teeth. Keeping the mouth clean is essential. Never scold your dog and don’t clean the mouth right before he or she eats. Also make it a very happy experience and start slow. If you’ve never cleaned your dog’s mouth or lips before, you need to make it an easy process. Do not yell at the dog. Take your time.

You know that area where the upper canine tooth sits on the lower lip of the dog? Think of all the saliva, germs, and bacteria that can harbor in that small and seemingly innocuous area. Keep it clean.

A local irritation from something as simple as the material of the dog’s food/water bowl can cause lip fold issues. The same thing happens to people when we have a reaction or allergic issue.

Any sort of friction or moisture can also flare up lip fold dermatitis.

We shave the hair in the area of my dog’s lip folds; in fact, we have a professional groomer do this every 5 to 6 weeks and I am learning to do it, too. Keeping the area clean, dry, and free of bacteria is helping us greatly.

Learn more

Did This Article Help You?

Click This: Help! My Dog’s Mouth Stinks

Click This: 10 Tips for Dogs Who Hate Their Teeth Brushed

QUESTION: Have you ever heard of this condition and/or dealt with it in your dog(s)?

Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog post is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. These are our experiences and things that have helped us under veterinary care. In no way, should it replace professional veterinary advice. If your dog has a health issue or lip fold issues, seek veterinary care.

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Comments

  1. Ha! We got a few more tips now from you to add to our arsenal. It sure is a pest of a problem that never will go away 100%, so vigilance is the key to prevention. Thanks for posting with us 🙂 So many dogs need help with this condition and don’t know what to do.

  2. I’ve never heard of this condition. Thanks for all the info. I’ll be sure to pass this along.

  3. I’ve never heard of this condition and fortunately haven’t experienced it. Im always interested in natural & organic products so thanks for telling us about Natural Pet Co. Very informative post, I’m sharing.

  4. Thanks for letting me know about this. Our dog drools a lot! He doesn’t really have many folds, but I’ll be keeping a nose out for that smell!

  5. Taffy’s mouth odor improved after getting some ointment from the vet. A few weeks later and it’s starting to come back. Think we’ll check out the Wrinkle Balm as we used their Snout Soother before for her and liked that. Taffy wants to keep her breath fresh for Dex! Taffy’s Mom

    • Dex sez hubba hubba. Try those Mal a Ket pads – you have to keep on top of it or it stinks to no end. You can get them on Amazon.

  6. We had that issue with a past pup….I forgot about it and now i wonder if it’s an issue with Sonny and Brynley. They have stinky breath!!!

    • Once you get that fold clean, it really helps. I use Mal-a-Ket wipes (from Amazon) on Dex nightly and I clean his lip folds after each meal, too. Coupled with nightly teeth brushing, no stink 😉

  7. Our dog had the stench and for weeks tried every breath thing going even going to the vets who never explored his joules. Then one day he was laid on his back exposing those lovely joules and my god raw ulcerated flesh I was horrified!

    It’s flared up once since but now much more aware and prevention techniques help. More poor dog must have been in agony!!!

    • Happy to hear you got it controlled – it sure does cause issues. Thanks for stopping by!

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