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Sagging Skin Under a Dog's Neck

Humans often complain about double chins and sagging skin, but dogs can also develop loose, sagging skin under the neck area, a' la "Winston Churchill" style. While surgery neck lift for dogs has yet to be invented, it's important to understand that in dogs, loose skin under the neck can have medical causes especially when it's something new that the dog never showed signs of before. Sure, there are several dog breeds known for having sagging skin, but if your dog seems to suddenly develop loose skin under the neck, it's best to schedule a vet visit just to play it safe.

dog dewlap

Giving it a Name

Under normal conditions, certain breeds or types of dogs have some extra sagging skin under the lower jaw or neck area. This extra flap of skin in dogs is known as the "dewlap."

In some breeds this characteristic is part of the breed standard and is even desirable, while in some other breeds excessive "throatiness" is considered a fault. Sometimes, the condition of having excess skin is referred to as "wet neck."

In these cases though, dogs have naturally loose, saggy or wrinkly skin that has been there for most of their lives.

The following paragraph will list several dogs breeds who are naturally gifted with dewlaps.

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A Matter of Breed


There are several dog breeds known for having sagging skin around the neck area. There are dogs with a slight dewlap and dogs with a very pronounced onr.

The Neapolitan mastiff is known for having heavy wrinkles and folds that extend from the outside margin of the eyelids up to the dewlap.

The voluminous dewlap and skin folds are considered such a staple of the Neapolitan mastiff breed, that, according to the American Kennel Club standard, a lack of wrinkles and folds is means for disqualification.

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Other dog breeds with a very pronounced dewlap includes the basset hound, the blood hound, English mastiff, English bulldog and Chinese shar-pei, just to name a few. 

Labrador with tragic face

Labrador with "tragic face."

Signs of Trouble

While sagging skin in a dog's neck can be a normal part of anatomy, in some cases it can be a sign of a medical problem. For instance, hypothyroidism in dogs is known for causing what's called "the tragic face of hypothyroid."

In these dogs the drooping skin of the chin, neck and face, gives them a sad look on their faces, explains Dr. Ralston.

Other causes of what may look like sagging skin in the neck area are enlarged lymph glands or fluid leaking out of blood vessels, considering that the area under the dog's neck is not an uncommon place for fluids to "hang out," explains Dr. Elizabeth.

If there is a history of injury to the area (like from a dog bite or puncture wound) some dogs may develop a "knot" under the skin of the neck area due to the formation of an abscess (infected skin) or a seroma (collection of fluid under the skin). A vet can easily differentiate the two by performing a needle aspirate in the area and drawing some cells or fluid out, explains veterinarian Dr. Marie.

Some dogs may also develop a salivary cyst, which may cause a large pocket of saliva to form under the jaw at the base of the neck. According to Pet Education, in some cases the salivary cyst can become so large that it fills the entire area below the jaw and may feel sort of like a balloon filled with honey.

Did you know? There's belief that the sagging skin by the basset hound's neck has a purpose: to trap scent amplifying this breed's already powerful sense of smell.

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Disclaimer: this article is not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your notice sagging skin in your dog, please see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Photo Credits

  • The Mastiff has a distinctive head with dewlap and flews. The black mask is visible even on this brindle, by Pleple2000 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Characteristic changes in the facial skin of a Labrador Retriever with hypothyroidism, self - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

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