Skip to Content

Do Dogs Have Lips?

Veterinary reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon.
This post may contain affiliate links. Read more here.

Humans, like many animals, have a visible and distinctive looking upper and lower lip which is separated from the cheeks.

But when you look at your dog, you won’t be able to locate them immediately.

Do dogs even have lips or is the Canis lupus a lipless race?

Spoiler: Dogs do have lips.

But there are a couple interesting facts regarding dog lips.

What are the lips called? Are there anatomical differences between breeds? Why do dogs have black lips?

Everybody with a newly discovered interest in their dog’s lip will finally be able to satisfy that itch by getting to know a bit more about their dog’s intricate anatomy.

Dog Mouth Anatomy

When looking at a dog’s head and mouth, you will see the forehead, floppy ears, a wet nose, and the muzzle.

The mouth consists of sharp teeth with a lot of flesh protecting them. But lips seem nowhere to be found.

Although our mouth and the dog’s mouth visually don’t have much in common, lips are still an important part of their snout anatomy.

While we are mostly using lips to consume food and as a sensory organ, dogs are utilizing the floppy lips quite differently.

Dog holding tennis ball in his mouth with dog lips exposed.
Photo by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash

The main function of dog lips is to form continuous protection around the jaw and teeth but they also play an important role in body language and they help to transport scents to the nose for better olfaction (the process that forms the perception of smell).

The lips of a dog are not clearly separated from one another which creates a very different form compared to ours.

A more significant difference can be found in the length of the jawline.

Long canine jawlines are so distinct from our anatomy that it’s hard to believe that they even have them.

Despite our comparably small jaws, we have cheeks that come equipped with better capacity.

While a canine needs more bite force to break bones and tear through flesh, we are drinking water and eating our spaghetti without any effort due to suction.

Have you ever wondered why there’s often a puddle on the floor after your dog took a sip or why he can’t seem to manage his drooling in the car?

The connection of your dog’s cheek and lips isn’t as developed, which is why dogs have a hard time living up to our expectations concerning their manners.

What Are Dog Lips Called?

You might not visually notice it when looking at your dog but canines have two separated lips.

The upper lip is called “flew” and comes in many forms and sizes. The bigger the flew and jowls the more drool you will be finding around the house. The lower lip is simply called “lower lip”.

Dog breeds that have big flews include the following:

  • Bloodhound
  • Bulldog
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Newfoundland
  • Saint Bernard
  • Bull Terrier
  • Basset Hound
  • Boxer
  • Bullmastiff
  • Dogue de Bordeaux
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Spinone Italiano

The flews of these dogs are so big that you will have a hard time finding the lower lip without pulling the skin back.

If you want to learn more about your dog’s mouth and how to keep the lips and jowls clean, then read my article on Everything You Need to Know About Dog Jowls.

What Are the Bumps on Dog Lips?

No one really talks about the serrated lips of dogs despite them being such a striking feature.

The human mouth and lips are pretty smooth with proper care but the lower dog lip is loaded with these weird bumps, especially around the edges.

During hunting and eating, the long jawline with sharp teeth could severely injure the surrounding skin and gums.

Humans have such a small mouth and we still manage to painfully bite on our lips sometimes while eating.

Every canine tooth could easily pierce through the skin that is protecting the whole mouth area.

When watching your dog eating a bone, you will notice how the bumpy lips grip the bone to help keep it in place and to protect the outer layer from interfering with the chewing.

Make sure not to get the bumps on your dog’s lips mixed up with dog pimples or acne which might be partly covered by the lips and jowls too.

Oral Papilloma Virus

If you discover large clusters of bumps on your dog’s lips and gums then he might be infected with the oral papillomavirus.

This highly contagious virus causes small benign tumors to develop in various parts of the mouth.

Your dog can get infected by simply greeting another dog or sharing toys.

Uninfected papillomas are asymptomatic and won’t require treatment. Infected warts may cause pain and swelling and should be treated with a course of antibiotics.

Dogs under the age of 2 years (another study from Korea places the age at around 1 year) are more prone to be affected by this illness because their immune system is not yet fully developed.

Check this post on oral hygiene to keep your dog’s mouth free from pesky viruses or bacteria.

These are my favorite products to clean my dog’s mouth:

Why Are Dog Lips Black?

The color of a dog’s nose is always similar to the color of the gums and lower lip. Not all dogs have black lips and you may find dogs with grey or brown coloring.

The color is determined by the level of melanin production in the canine’s body.

More melanin means darker lips, skin, and coat. Over the course of his life, your dog might change this color.

Pigment changes are normal and can be caused by the growth hormone and many other underlying causes.

Do Dogs Smile?

Dogs don’t smile the way we do. We often perceive a wide-open mouth with a tongue sticking out as a smile.

If your dog is just relaxing on the couch, this type of “smiling” simply means that he is calm and satisfied.

But the more common submissive grin is a sign of discomfort, fear, and anxiety.

This nervous facial expression is often misinterpreted as the “guilty look“. It is accompanied by shivering, laid back ears, and a nervous tail wag.

If your dog is using this “smile” often then something might be wrong.

There is another type of smile that your dog might be using to mimic you. If your dog has learned in the past that a smile will get your attention or a reward, it will quickly become a habit.

Do Dogs Kiss?

Now that we have found out that dogs have lips, the question arises: What they are using them for – maybe to give you a kiss?

It might disappoint you to hear but dogs don’t kiss out of love. Neither their owners nor other dogs.

Licking on your skin can have many reasons and most of the time your dog just likes the salty taste of it.

But proper licking and nipping are grooming behaviors and can be perceived as a form of affection.

You can still share some kisses with your dog but keep in mind the nasty things he might have had in his mouth before. But once in a while, everyone will be guilty of it.

Pin This:

Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

Equipped with 5+ years of expertise as a Rottweiler owner, I partner with licensed veterinarians and trainers to share research-backed and actionable advice for you and your furry friend.