Inflammation of the lips (Cheilitis)

Diseases of the mouth (Continued)

Lesions (wounds) on the lips are fairly common in dogs and cats, especially playful puppies and kittens. They love to chew on things – anything, sharp objects included. The wounds can be quite serious (deep gashes or extensive electrical burns).

20130407pet cornerDuring the mating season male dogs tend to be more aggressive towards each other, and these confrontations often result in bite wounds on the lips.

In addition, wounds of the lips can be the result of thorns, grass seeds, fish hooks, etc.

As a result of these wounds, a bacterial invasion can take place and an infection can take root. But, even though this is true, I have to admit that most of the lip infections I have seen in my 46 years of practice stem from infections that have their origin elsewhere in the body.

In fact, if I were to do a statistical analysis of the Cheilitis patients I’ve seen, I think that most of the infections of the lip were infections that spilled over from the mouth itself. For example, a bad case of gingivitis (gum disease) could spread on to the lips. In fact, so can other dental problems or Stomatitis (sore mouth). Of course, if the dog or cat has an itch-associated infection on a part of the exterior (skin, paws, etc), this could make the animal bite at the spot, thus infecting the lips and lip folds.

I can recall once treating a Cocker Spaniel with Otitis (an ear infection). Interestingly enough, because the ears were so long and hung down, touching the lips from time to time, the infection had spread from the ears to the lips.

I should mention that the wise text books list a deficiency of the B-Vitamins, allergic reactions and mange (demodectic and sarcoptic mange) as causes of Cheilitis. Other scientists posit that certain breeds, especially those with the droopy lips, have a predisposition for lip infections.



The signs of a lip infection are:-

             Scratching and rubbing of the lips

             Foul-smelling odour coming from the lips

             Excessive salivation

             Loss of appetite


Later, as the infection becomes chronic, the hair around the lips is discoloured and constantly moist with an obnoxious discharge.

The lips become hyperaemic (reddened and swollen) later on; if left untreated, ulcers can develop. I should hasten to add that some lip infections result in a dry and crusty appearance of the lips. When this occurs, the skin of the lips will crack.


Look for the underlying cause. If the infection, at the outset, is in the mouth and is spilling over to the lips, one should treat the original infection. Oral hygiene is always recommended. If the problem is not extensive and is only concentrated on some small portion of the lip, then an antibiotic cream should suffice. If the lesions around the lips are mild, it is possible for a Gentian Violet solution, painted twice daily on the lips, to suffice. If there is ulceration, then I would recommend any good germicidal detergent, plus antibiotics (given orally).


The problem with lotions, creams and ointments is that soon after rubbing them into the lip, the dog/cat licks it off. You may be advised to rub the medication into the infected area for about two minutes, then stand guard over the animal to try to prevent the liking, which, I admit, is not always possible. In some more advanced cases, your vet might advise a mild chemical cauterisation with a five per cent silver nitrate solution. Vitamin B complex tablets seem always a good supporting treatment. Let your vet, having seen the patient, advise you.


Enjoy your week!

Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-Heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals.  Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.


Around the Web