If you have ever looked closely at your dog, you may have noticed ridges on their lips, or serration, similar to that which you would see on a serrated kitchen knife. The bumps are soft and naturally occur in different breeds of dogs. Oddly enough, this is a topic that has been discussed for many years among dog owners, vets, scientists, etc. and the result is that no one knows for certain the logical or evolutionary reason that dogs have these bumps on their lips, but there are a few different theories for why this occurs. In this article, we will dive deeper into those theories and how these ridges have come to form – come along for the ride!
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Theories on Why Dogs Have Serrated Lips
To Protect Lips from Teeth
This theory is amongst the most common when it comes to the question of why dogs have serrated lips. The theory states that dogs have this special kind of lip in order to protect their lips from their teeth, especially the sharper canine ones that overlap when their mouths are closed. The theory is that these serrations protect their lips from getting cut or scraped, which could lead to infections if dirt or other bacteria were to get into the cuts caused by their teeth.
Some people deny this theory because they do not believe that dogs’ teeth are sharp enough to cut their lips, but if you consider the fact that dogs are believed to be descendants of wolves, this theory makes much more sense!
To Have Better Grip When Holding Things
It’s no secret that dogs frequently use their mouth to grab or grip onto different items. This can range from a bone, a ball, a toy, etc. Many dog enthusiasts and professionals believe that this is the reason for serrations on some dogs’ lips. Another popular point of view that goes along with this theory is that some people think that the serration allows dogs to use their lips in combination with their teeth when carrying their tiny and fragile newborn puppies.
The rebuttal to that reasoning is that a dog will instinctively know how much pressure to use when carrying their babies, so an extra layer of protection would not be necessary once instinct kicks in.
To Clean Teeth
This theory stems from the mind of Frederick Wood Jones, a professor of anatomy who stated that the reason for the serrated bumps, along with other elements of a dog’s mouth, was all evolution’s work in keeping the dog’s teeth clean. People who agree with this theory today have pointed out that this may make sense, as today’s toys that claim to clean our dog’s teeth usually have ridges, spikes, bumps, etc. to rub on their teeth when they are chewing, similar to the way those serrated bumps may do so inside of a dog’s mouth.
To Increase Taste
This theory is one that many believe is not true, but some still hold out hope. The idea is that the bumps on your dog’s mouth may increase the area in their mouth, creating more taste buds which would enhance their levels of taste. Many people have pointed out, in disagreement with this theory, that taste buds live on the tongue, so these bumps on their lips would not have taste buds on them.
Additionally, dogs rely on smell much more than taste, which is why they come running when you start cooking in the kitchen or open a jar of peanut butter in another room!
To Allow the Mouth to Open Fully
Moving along with our list of theories, we come to “open the mouth fully,” this theory states that the serrated bumps act as extra space for our dog’s mouth to open up to the full extent. The bumps stretch out, providing more room when the mouth opens. This seems logical, but again we have no concrete research to prove this correct. All we can say is, can you imagine if humans had these bumps to help our mouths open wider!? Thanksgiving would certainly look a lot different!
An Important Trait From Puppy Days
Just like humans have leftover traits from when we were babies, such as birthmarks, scars from a fall, etc. This theory goes along with that mentality, saying that the bumps on a dog’s mouth are leftover tools from when they were a puppy and used the bumps to better grip onto their mother when feeding.
It makes sense that a puppy would need to be able to get a good grip and make a tight seal when suckling, and the lip serration may help with this. We feel like this may be a top contender as the reason for our furry companion’s serrated lips, but we’ll let you be the judge.
A Cooling Mechanism
Have you ever noticed your dog panting when they are hot? Our final theory states that the serrated lips aid in this process of cooling off your dog more efficiently when they are overheated.
Bumps on Your Dog’s Lips That Are Cause for Alarm
We’ve discussed these serrated bumps on our dog’s lips – no matter what their purpose may be, it’s good to know that they are absolutely no cause for alarm. Unfortunately, if you are noticing bumps besides these serrations, this may mean a trip to the vet for your pup. Here are a few examples of bumps you can find in your dog’s mouth that you should be concerned about:
- Canine Acne: These will look just like pimples that humans get, They can be treated with a cream or serum and are painless for your dog. But, if left untreated, it could lead to more severe infections.
- Cancerous Tumors: These will look more like large lumps, and can be present on a dog’s tongue as well as their mouth. These need to be addressed immediately by your veterinarian.
- Oral Papillomas: Also known as canine warts, are small benign tumors on your dog’s mouth. They can have one or many of them, and they usually affect dogs under the age of two. These will go away on their own, but you should consult a vet and be sure to keep them away from other dogs, as this condition is highly contagious.
Conclusion to “Why Do Dogs Have Serrated Lips?”
As you have learned today, the topic of these naturally occurring bumps on our dogs’ lips is one that is widely talked about, yet has scarce research to give us a true reason. Our theories range from giving our pup’s extra grip, protection or mechanisms for cleaning and cooling. After reading this article, it’s up to you to decide which, if all, you believe to be the most logical! If you believe these bumps are some that we described as cause for alarm, we encourage you to reach out to your trusted veterinarian for examination and treatment. We hope you enjoyed our “Why Do Dogs Have Serrated Lips?” article!
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