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Causes of Swollen Lips in Dogs


Swollen lips in dogs are more than a cosmetic ordeal and you may be wondering what you can do about it. The causes of swollen lips in dogs can be various and some of them can be potentially serious. It is best to see your vet as soon as you can to detect and treat the underlying cause and play it safe. Dogs can often be allergic to substances they come in contact with and the swollen lips can sometimes be an early sign of an anaphylactic shock which can quickly turn out being life threatening if not treated in a timely manner.

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Swollen Lips in Dogs from Allergies

Swollen lips in dogs can be due to some form of allergy. The allergic reaction can be from anything your dog got in contact with such as a bug bite or exposure to poison ivy or poison oak.

In cases where the dog is not having trouble breathing or showing signs of swelling spreading to the face and eyes, plain Benadryl (diphenhydramine) with no added ingredients in it (make sure there is no decongestant!), can be helpful.

According to veterinarian Dr. Fiona, plain Benadryl can be given at a dosage of 1 mg per pound. Benadryl should not be given to dogs suffering from glaucoma. Generally, the swelling should start subsiding in about 30 minutes but it may persist for up to 36 hours.

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In some instances, swollen lips in dogs and its associate reaction may be severe and require injectable antihistamine and often steroids by your vet so to bring the swelling down. In some cases, severe lip swelling can progress to anaphylactic shock.

See your vet immediately if your dog's lip swelling gets worse, you notice facial swelling or hives, your dog has a hard time breathing or develops weakness and pale gums. Your dog may need an injection of epinephrine.

A Sign of Infection

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In some cases, a swollen lip can be indicative of the presence of an infection. An infection can cause cause swelling in a dog's gums and lips, explains veterinarian Dr. Deb Jankura. 

If you inspect the swollen area, there may be chances you can identify a cut or abrasion that has become inflamed and infected. Caution is needed though as the area may be painful and even a good dog can bite when in pain.

To help your dog until you can see the vet, if your dog permits, you can hold a warm compress over the swollen area for about 5 to 10 minutes so to bring the swelling down. If there is an abscess, the warmth may also help the abscess to come to the surface, further explains Dr. Jankura.

Additionally, it may help to feed the dog some soft food. If the dog is on kibble, you can try soaking it with warm water for 20 minutes, and if your dog is on canned food, you can mix in some water to make a gruel.

If your dog has an infection or abscess on his lip, your vet may prescribe a course of oral antibiotics or a topical antibiotic/antiseptic to get it to heal.

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Other Causes of Swollen Lips in Dogs

Swollen lips in dogs can be caused by a variety of other problems. For instance, dogs can have masses and growths on their lips which can cause them to look swollen. These growths can be benign as in the case of warts or they can sometimes be malignant as seen in several mouth cancers in dogs.

Sometimes a tooth problem may be the culprit. When a dog develops an infected tooth, the lip that's located closer to that tooth can become very swollen, explains veterinarian Dr. Erika Raines. This can be fortunately diagnosed easily by physical examination, and possibly dental x-rays.

In some cases, a swollen lip in dogs can be triggered by snake bites, so if there are snakes in your area, and the swollen area has two holes draining a blood-tinged discharge, suspect a bite from a venomous snake. See your vet immediately therefore if you live in an area with venomous snakes.

While swollen lips in dogs are often triggered by allergies, as seen, there can be other various causes. It is always best to see the vet to determine the underlying cause and treat it accordingly.

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