What are the bumps on my dog’s lips?

The below article talks about the parts of a dog’s mouth, its functions, structure, and some frequently asked questions about parts of a dog’s mouth and their health. 

What are the bumps on my dog’s lips? Do I need to take my dog to the vet?

It is quite often noticed that dogs’ lips have bumps on them, this is NOT a cause of concern. It is an integral part of your dog’s mouth and is usually present along the upper and bottom lips of any dog. These bumps are known as papillae, and their main function is to help dogs to grip onto their food while eating. These bumps keep dogs from biting their own tongue or lips while eating, since dog teeth are sharper, an accidental bite with adequate force could injure them. The papillae keep this from happening by providing friction to the food being held between the dogs’ lips. 

Parts of a Dog’s mouth

At the very basic level, the parts of a dog’s mouth are quite similar to humans, in which they have lips, gum, tongue, and teeth. Since there is a higher incidence of diseases occurring in a dog’s mouth, the mouth of a dog is one of the most checked aspects during a visit to the vet. There are various diseases that could affect a dog’s mouth, and they have been elaborated on towards the end of the article. The article also talks in detail about the inner workings and structure of a dogs’ mouth. In the most basic sense, below is a diagram, that depicts the main parts of a dog’s mouth. 

Source: Heinzlmann A. (2019)

Understanding a dog’s mouth and its functions 

A dog’s mouth is lined with mucus membranes, and the roof of its mouth is known as the palate. There is a hard palate and a soft palate, and they have different functions. The hard palate separates the mouth from the nasal pathways, and the soft palate forms a soft barrier at the back of the dog’s mouth and the dog’s nasal cavity. A dog’s tongue is long, muscular, and a mobile organ. It aids them to taste and obtain food and is located on the floor of their mouth. The tongue of a dog, just like its lips has papillae on them, and these have tiny holes that lead to taste buds. The tongue of a dog consists of a mix of muscles with strong and tough connective tissue. Due to a large number of blood vessels in a dog’s tongue, it will bleed profusely when hurt. The tongue is surrounded by the salivary glands. 

Functions of a dog’s tongue include guiding food and water into the throat of the dog, assisting with chewing and swallowing, using it as a ladle for drinking water or other liquids, tasting food, etc. The tongue of a dog is crucial to maintaining its body temperature, as the air passing over its tongue while it breaths through its mouth, is cooled, and this cooling is enhanced as saliva evaporates. A dog also uses its tongue to clean itself in hard-to-reach spots, tend to its wounds, stimulate urination or defecation in puppies, etc. 

Teeth are located on both upper and lower jaws, and on both sides of the mouth. Each tooth would have a crown that is visible when the dog opens its mouth and could have one or two roots depending on the type of tooth. The roots of their teeth are usually anchored within the bone. The root of a tooth lies below the gum in a dog’s mouth and is embedded into a socket. In contrast to human teeth, dogs usually have 28 baby teeth and 42 adult or permanent teeth. Permanent teeth would usually include six pairs of sharp incisors in the front of the mouth, surrounded by two pairs of large canine teeth, following these, there are premolars and molars that are located towards the back of the mouth. Each tooth contains 4 distinct tissue elements, namely:

  • Pulp: which is the innermost tissue of any tooth, it is the only soft tissue in a tooth, resides at the very center of the tooth, and is more prominent towards the root ends of the tooth. The pulp of a tooth consists of connective tissue, blood vessels, and nerves. The blood vessels nourish the tooth and the nerves help to transmit any pain or other discomfort to the tooth. 
  • Dentin: the hard yellow substance that surrounds the pulp of the tooth. It makes up most of a tooth and gives the tooth its color. Dentin is harder than bone and is made of mineral salts and water. It is formed by cells known as odontoblasts. 
  • Enamel: covers the pulp and dentin in a tooth and forms the outermost covering. It is the hardest tissue in the body and provides the dog’s teeth to withstand the pressure placed while eating or chewing. Damaged enamel could hurt dogs and increase sensitivity in their teeth. 
  • Cementum: covers the dentin along the root of a tooth, the cementum in a tooth starts where the enamel ends and is hard as bone. 

Dogs would usually have 2 sets of teeth. The first set, the baby teeth, also known as deciduous teeth, are temporary. They erupt and are used in the first couple of months of the dog’s birth. As the dog matures, the jaws will grow larger and longer, and the smaller teeth are no longer adequate to meet its needs. Therefore, they shed, and are replaced with the permanent adult set of teeth. The adult teeth are larger than the deciduous set, and as the jaw grows, more teeth are added to the back of their mouths. The teeth towards the back of the mouth are known as molars. Teeth play an important role in a dog’s mouth, as it aids in tearing and chewing food. The food is broken down into smaller pieces by the teeth, and there are 4 different types of teeth in a dog’s mouth and they all have different functions: 

  • Incisors are primarily used for biting
  • Canine teeth bite and tear
  • Premolars shear, mash, and grind 
  • Molars are responsible for fine and rigorous chewing 

The mouth of a dog includes the space outside of the teeth, tongue, and gums, and the space inside the lips and cheeks. The main parts of the mouth are bound by the hard palate and the soft palate, on the front, the teeth and lips form the major boundary, and on the bottom, the tongue and adjacent tissue would form the floor of the mouth. Other structures of the mouth include the upper and lower lips, cheeks, numerous glands, etc. There are several glands located inside the dog’s mouth, the main ones being the salivary glands, which help dogs to maintain their body temperatures, and they mostly sit under the tongue of the dog. The mouth has several important functions, including the secretion of saliva which lubricates the food it eats, helps to hold food together, indicates the body to start digestion processes, cleanse the tongue, provides another entry for air to enter the respiratory system, and is a crucial element to maintaining their body temperatures. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): What are the parts of a dog’s mouth?

What are some mouth diseases that dogs may be vulnerable to?

  • Dental calculus build-up and subsequent periodontitis are the most common affliction amongst dogs. 
  • Stomatitis is an infection anywhere in the oral cavity and can be caused by trauma, injuries, microorganisms, etc. 
  • Glossitis is the infection of the tongue. Most commonly observed due to previous injuries of the mouth, ingestion of any harmful substances, licking of sharp items that may lacerate its tongue, biting into dangerous items like electrical cords, etc. 
  • Ulcers could occur anywhere in the mouth and are more common in the gums. They are often common when your dog may be facing any deficiencies, and treatment usually includes items that could restore its immune system and health. 
  • Epulis is a condition that refers to benign tumors that may be formed in the mouth, usually in the gingiva. It has been observed that certain breeds are more prone to Epulis, such as boxers. 
  • Lip-fold dermatitis refers to inflammation at the fold of the lips and usually follows periodontal inflammation. It could also be a result of ingestion of any toxic substances, allergenic substances, leaching of certain chemicals from toys or items that are commonly used by your pet, etc. 

What are the functions of a dog’s lips?

A dog’s lips have 4 primary functions, namely:

  • A dog can use its lips and mouth to smell things, in addition to smelling using its nose. It is a way of closer inspection, it uses its lips and mouth to send the object’s scent through a channel at the top of its mouth into an organ called the olfactory bulb – located between its nasal cavity and the roof of its mouth.
  • The lips of the dog help it to grip onto food and avoid any accidental bite to its tongue or mouth, the lower lip of the dog is also used as a shovel of manner, and can push the food across the mouth depending on their current needs. 
  • Dogs use their lips to communicate with humans, especially when they are hungry or need something. It would usually stick out its lower lips and move its head forward indicating that it needs something.
  • Dogs also use their lips to show aggression, and they use it to look tough. Their lips help them express various emotions. 

References 

Heinzlmann A. (2019, March 18). Oral cavity, tongue, salivary glands, teeth. Department of Anatomy and Histology. Veterinary University. Viewed on 02-13-2022. https://univet.hu/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/digestive-system_1.pdf 

Horn L. (2022, January 23). Do dogs have lips? Here’s the answer. Every Creature Counts. Viewed on 02-13-2022. https://www.everycreaturecounts.org/do-dogs-have-lips/#h-functions-of-a-dog-s-lips-and-mouth 

Kidd R. (2020, May 17). Your Dog’s Mouth. Whole Dog Journal. Viewed on 02-13-2022. https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/health/your-dogs-mouth/ 

Spielman B. (2015, August 03). Structure and function of the Tongue, Teeth, and Mouth in Dogs. Disease Conditions of Dogs. Pet Place. Viewed on 02-13-2022. https://www.petplace.com/article/dogs/pet-health/structure-and-function-of-the-tongue-teeth-and-mouth-in-dogs/ 

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