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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 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.

Note: This post contains affiliate links from Share a Sale and Amazon, meaning if you click on a link above and then make a purchase, Fidose of Reality will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you. You help us keep the site up and running and in exchange, you get to shop for items you love. Wags!

A dog lover of the highest order is how Gayle King introduced Carol Bryant, when she appeared with her Cocker Spaniel on Oprah Radio’s Gayle King show to dish dogs. Carol created and owns the trademark, My Heart Beats Dog® and lives that mantra. A 30-year veteran of the dog world, she is President of the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) and the 2020 DWAA winner for Best Dog Blog.


  1. Emma says

    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. Ashley Sparks Mullins says

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

  3. Cathy Armato says

    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. Tonya C says

    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. Dolly the Doxie says

    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

    • Carol Bryant says

      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.

      • Reggie Greenleaf says

        I am so glad I saw this! My toy poodle started having issues only after having most of her teeth pulled. Now in the area where her canine teeth that were left meet her bottom lip and under her chin food tends to gather and cause this irritation. Glad to learn about the ointment and the pads. It itches her horribly so now I can clean it after she eats with the pads and use the ointment for healing!

  6. Jen says

    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!!!

    • Carol Bryant says

      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. Angela Proctor says

    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!!!

    • Carol Bryant says

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

  8. Launa Strickland says

    Our 5 year old Lab/Beagle mix was just diagnosed with ‘Cocker Mouth’. We aré applying a prescription antibiotic ointment, but he licks it off. We had switched to natural antler chews from Nylabone about 3 weeks before this started. My husband is sure the antlers are the cause. I don’t know. I just hope we can get it cleared up and avoid surgery. I appreciate the advice here very much.

    • Carol Bryant says

      Hi Laura – Those folds can get quite yeasty. It would not be the antler as much as it would be the buildup of bacteria in those folks. I would use the cleaning pads and then apply something from the vet that he prescribes. Let us know how it goes

  9. vikki wood says

    Very good article. We’ve just returned from the vet after having to put my Great Dane under general anaesthetic to look for why her breath was so bad. Been to vet twice before we decided to do this. she’s a bit skittish and wouldn’t let me or vet look at mouth. At no point was this a probable diagnosis. Low and behold though today this is what she’s been diagnosed with and we are home with steroid cream you wrote about. She must be in quite a bit of pain. They said her teeth were in good order. £260 to find out it wasn’t her teeth in the first place! Glad we’ve got to the bottom of the smell though. We could hardly go into the room with her it was that bad.

  10. Lorna says

    How can I tell if its lip fold dermatitis or oral melanoma. I had a cocker that had oral melanoma and now a coker that was diagnosed with lip fold dermatitis the smell is the same and I am a little paranoid. It took my old vet a while to figure out that my previous coker had oral melanoma which is why I am a little paranoid. Is there a way to tell the difference?

    • Carol Bryant says

      Since the dog has a history of oral melanoma, I’d go back to the vet to have that double checked. Lip fold dermatitis has a terrible odor in most dogs.

  11. Karen says

    Just found our Watson has this Lip Fold Pyoderma, and wanted to share my story in case it helps other dogs – he had zero smell! We clean his teeth every night with an electric toothbrush btw which means less moving the brush around, shorter time but better results. Anyhoo, we noticed this last week he was lethargic, and air licking, a new behaviour. We checked every inch but found nothing. We took him to the vet yesterday and after much detective work, the vet checked his lips closely and lo and behold, a big infected lump that was well hidden by his labradoodle fur. We have antibiotic cream but once its healed I’m going to start work on keeping them clean – so many things fell into place about 3 year old Watson – now we know why he rubs his face against furniture constantly, and is always itching his face and hates his beard being touched! Sadly I can’t get any of your recommend wipes or solutions in UK but will ask the vet and will potentially use diluted Hibiscrub with a cotton bud. Thanks so much for your helpful post!

  12. Chris says

    The problem with Hibiscrub (chlorhexidine) is that, as with antibiotics, the bacteria develop an immunity to it – in other words, don’t use it unless you really have to, and certainly not all the time. It would be useless if it didn’t work when you really needed it to. It can also be an irritant.
    Herbal pet supplies in the UK make a lip fold wash that works well for one of our old Italian Spinone girls – we give her lip folds a quick spray about twice a week, which keeps them free from irritation and (very smelly) infection.

  13. CJ Charles says

    I really enjoyed (!) reading this because our mixed breed hound has a mouth and saliva that stinks to high heaven. No one wants him near or the stink gets on them. He is a very loving and mouthy dog. I asked our vet, but she thought he might be emptying his full anal glands himself, rather than having mouth issues. I’ve not witnessed him doing that but it is possible. He is crated while we work. I will try the pads and move on to the wrinkle balm. Thank you for posting this.

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