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Everything You Need to Know About Dog Jowls

Veterinary reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon.
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What are jowls? Jowls are defined as loose flesh on the cheeks and throat.

Every dog has this skin around his mouth but certain breeds are specifically bred to have floppy and unique looking jowls.

But they have a purpose beyond giving dogs a cute wrinkly face, they are actually very important for dogs.

The jowl protects the whole area around the mouth. More jowl equals more protection, right?

While you might think the more jowl the more protection, too much jowl material is extremely prone to trap bacteria or fungi which may lead to infections and oral diseases.

Some working groups like hunting dogs are usually dogs with jowls as it helps them to do the following jobs:

  • Collect more scents from the ground and transport them toward the nose
  • Support the head while swimming
  • Provide protection to the jaw during fights

But what should you do if your dog’s jowls are swollen and how should you clean them?

Cleaning Dog Jowls

Especially breeds with a lot of jowl material will require regular cleaning to prevent infections.

It’s very uncomfortable for dogs to get touched or grabbed around the mouth but early desensitization will help with that.

Start really slow and work with positive reinforcement to create a good association with mouth cleaning.

Grab some yummy treats and start by only touching your dog’s mouth once, followed by a reward.

Repeat every step multiple times and start massaging the jowls while feeding small pieces of treats.

Depending on your dog, the desensitization could take a few hours or a couple of days. Be really patient and gentle and understand that your dog might refuse to be touched at first.

  • For regular cleaning, get a clean cloth and pet dental spray.
  • Dip the cloth in warm water and wipe between the skin folds and the jowl area.
  • Apply the dental spray according to the instructions.
  • Alternatively, you can use wrinkle wipes to smoothen and clean skin folds.
  • To keep your dog’s mouth clean on a regular basis, you can simply use some water additive.

For extra prevention, remove excess hair around the jowls occasionally and brush your dog’s teeth regularly.

Removing hair is not necessary with my Rottweiler, but I do use grooming wipes regularly.

If you’re feeding your dog a raw diet, clean up after he eats raw meat.

Switching to a ceramic bowl instead of metal can also help.

Dogs that Drool Excessively

Drooling dog in green fields.
Photo by Mpho Mojapelo on Unsplash

Certain dog breeds are more prone to drooling because of their loose jowls. These dogs include

  • Bloodhound
  • Bulldog
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Newfoundland
  • Saint Bernard
  • Rottweiler
  • Basset Hound
  • Boxer
  • Bullmastiff
  • Dogue de Bordeaux
  • Spinone Italiano
  • Cane Corso
  • Labrador Retriever (to some degree)

However, excessive drooling can also be caused by medical issues like mouth diseases, nausea, anxiety, and digestive issues.

If the drooling occurs suddenly and is accompanied by other symptoms like fever or pain, take your dog to the vet immediately.

Oral Papillomavirus in Dogs

The oral papillomavirus usually occurs in young dogs under the age of 2 years and is caused by a virus leading to benign tumors around the mouth.

This disease is transmitted through direct contact with infected dogs.

The tumors look like pink clusters with irregular surfaces that can occur on the outside and inside of the mouth. They can be really painful and will affect overall oral health.

Often times the papillomavirus is asymptomatic, so treatment would only start if they get infected.

Antibiotics might be utilized against the tumor unless a specific case requires surgical removal.

If you notice any difference in your dog’s mouth like swelling or bumps, take him to the vet for a check-up.

Dog Lip Fold Dermatitis

This condition is very common in the breeds I have mentioned above that have lots of skin around the jowls.

Dermatitis may also occur in other folds of the body around the vulva or the tail.

The infected skin appears swollen, red, and moist. Usually, a strong smell evolves from irritated body parts.

Treatment will involve a thorough cleaning of the area twice a day for two weeks and hair removal.

Dog Jowls Swollen Red

Facial swelling can have many different causes including dental problems, abscesses, and allergies.

Take your dog to the vet immediately if you recognize any difference in the jowls or the mouth.

Your dog could also suffer from punctured wounds when smelling a hedgehog or fighting with another dog.

Examine your dog’s mouth regularly and pay attention to any redness, swelling, bad breath, teeth issues, and tumors.

You can also get your dog dental routine cleanings while brushing his teeth at home.

In general, if your dog has lots of pimples or canine acne around his jowl region, oral hygiene might help.

Why Is My Dog Drooling So Much

Dogs drool the most in the summer months when walking or playing outside. Depending on what type of dog breed you have, he might drool a lot.

It is always advised to keep dogs cool in the summer, especially large breeds and dogs with lots of jowl material.

Keep your dog in the shade whenever possible and avoid going outside in the mid-day heat. Provide your dog with lots of water!

I like to feed my girl watermelon to keep her hydrated while serving a yummy treat.

Sudden excessive drooling could indicate a heatstroke and your dog should be brought to a cool place immediately with enough ventilation.

Call emergency if your dog is struggling to breathe or gets lethargic.

Cool down your dog after every walk by providing a cool drink and letting it lay on a self-cooling mat.

Dog Drooling Excessively from One Side of Mouth

If your dog is drooling mostly from one side of his mouth, it may indicate a muscle weakness that makes your dog’s jowl droop.

Facial paralysis can be caused by many medical conditions and will also lead to problems while eating.

Other potential causes include dental disease, oral abscesses, or foreign objects in the mouth.

However, excessive salivation (ptyalism) can also have more trivial causes.

Wounds are a very common issue and may lead to bleeding, pain, and drooling.

Your dog could have also consumed something poisonous or gotten infected with bacteria or a virus. Nevertheless, take your dog to the vet if you notice something different than usual.

Dog Jowls Bleeding

Blood dripping from your dog’s mouth can be very shocking. It may happen that he hurt his gums when chewing wood (i.e. when carrying small branches) but continuous bleeding is always serious.

Trauma will cause a different amount of bleeding which depends on the severity of the accident.

A dog that got hurt in a car accident or fell on his mouth will need immediate medical attention.

Gingivitis is another cause of gum bleeding which can be really painful for the dog.

If your dog has the very severe illness Von Willebrand’s (blood clotting disorder), he will always need medical attention for even the smallest cut or he might bleed profusely, possibly resulting in an emergency.

If your dog has lost a lot of blood, he will need a transfusion performed by the vet team and an IV to keep him stabilized.

It really helps to know your dog’s blood type in case of an emergency.

If you’ve ever encountered any of these problems with your dog’s jowls, let us know in the comments.

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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.


Monday 24th of August 2020

I noticed that my dog when he is leaning on his face and jowls that there is a little blood nothing bright he is 10.5


Tuesday 25th of August 2020

Hey Nadeen,

if you're unsure what's causing your dog's jowls to bleed, I'd definitely advise you to see your vet. Could just be an injury or temporary infection, but it could also indicate something serious.

Have a great day, Danielle

Laura W-

Tuesday 23rd of June 2020

Thanks for the helpful article! We recently rescued a beautiful adult Saint Bernard, Judy, and could not possibly adore her more! She is not super big or droopy and doesn't really drool alot - but her "stinky cheese jowls" are knocking us out! They don't seem irritated, but we sure are! Any more specific suggestions re: this problem?


Wednesday 24th of June 2020

Hey Laura,

congrats on rescuing your Saint Bernard, love these big girls! Have you checked out my product recommendations? There's a dental spray as well as wrinkle wipes and water additives - natural fragrances might help with the smell.

A vet visit might be necessary to check your dog's health because extreme smell can be due to decaying teeth or other infections inside the mouth. You may also want to check out my article on naturally cleaning your dog's teeth.

Let me know if you need any further help, Danielle

Lori Bolduc

Monday 15th of June 2020

My dog seems to have a constantly wet chin from licking things and his bigger jowls. Any idea on how to keep this area dry to stop him from rubbing his chin and making it bleed?


Tuesday 16th of June 2020

Hi Lori,

you can keep your dog's chin clean and dry with grooming wipes that are fragrance-free which is important if your dog has irritated skin. Try to keep him from rubbing his chin as much as possible so the tissue will be able to heal. You can also apply some coconut oil which will help with hot spots, itchy or dry skin. Talk to your vet if your dog is rubbing his chin over and over again until it bleeds. It could be a sign of a skin problem.

Cheers, Danielle