Dog Jowls Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Some canine features are loved universally, while others are divisive. However, there’s one aspect that causes more debate than all others: dog jowls.

If you’re familiar with the breeds with saggy lips, you know how frustrating it can be to care for dog jowls. But, on the other hand, your dog’s cuteness and jowls might go together like peanut butter and jelly. 

What Are Jowls?

happy dog with jowls
Some dogs have jowls

Jowls are the loose skin around a dog’s mouth. While some breeds have more obvious loose skin, all dogs have jowls, even breeds with a sleeker profile.

Large-jowled canines are known to spill buckets of drool. However, some dog owners believe the saggy skin and wrinkles allow for more emotive expressions, such as the appearance of smiling.

Jowls are symmetrical, so it’s unlikely to meet a dog with a singular jowl. However, if the drool is escaping more from one cheek than the other, it can signify health issues.

Why Do Dogs Have Jowls?

Besides making panting look like a cheeky grin, jowls have practical purposes.

snoozing boxer dog
A snoozing boxer dog. Jowels!


Well-trained dogs won’t bite unless antagonized, but if your dog comes face to face in a dog fight, the jowls serve as a protective layer. 

There’s no comfortable place to receive a bite, but jowls have fewer nerve endings and blood vessels. So if their jowls are damaged, dogs will still be able to function normally. Plus, jowls are slippery, making it trickier for a biting dog to get a good hold.

Keeping your dogs out of fights is still preferred, but if an incident occurs, it’s better to puncture some loose skin than other sensitive parts of their face.


For the many dogs that love to swim, and the few that accidentally slip into the water, dog jowls form air pockets. While not nature’s best floatation device, jowls allow water dogs to breathe easier while swimming.

Waterdogs, bred to fetch or flush game out of the water, often have enlarged jowls. Standard Poodles, Newfoundland Labradors, Portuguese Water Dogs, and Labrador Retrievers are examples. 

If you’re familiar with these breeds, picture them dog paddling. It’s hard to imagine water dogs without their jowls floating up or puffing out like they stuffed a couple of walnuts in their cheeks.

a tired pit bull snoozes
A tired pit bull relaxes


Think of your favorite hunting dog breed with their nose glued to the ground and jowls dusting every surface they sniff. It might seem like a nuisance. After all, humans don’t wipe their lips over a flower we’re sniffing. However, this dusting is by design or evolution.

Dog jowls waft scents, carrying the smell profile to the dog’s nose.


We all know a dog that wolfs down food. But, like a snake unhinging its jaws to swallow a tasty morsel, there are a few dogs that somehow fit impossible amounts in their mouths. 

How does man’s best friend manage to shove in mouthfuls of kibble without it tumbling out? Jowls allow dogs to open their mouths wide and store a little extra in their cheeks while chewing. As a result, they can enjoy more food at a time without too much spillage.

Unfortunately, that also means dogs devour dinner before they know it. Dog jowls are to blame for that sad look your pup gives you when their bowl is empty too soon.

young bull mastiff
A Young Bull Mastiff looking happy


Imagine a hot day with the sun beaming down with nary a shadow for cover. You’re ready for water by the gallon, but your big-jowled dog is drooling. How does their mouth remain hydrated while your lips are cracking?

Since you’ve already read the title of this article, it’s no surprise that dog jowls help retain saliva. Of course, your dog still needs to drink water to create a drool supply, but more prominent jowls reduce the odds of drying out.


When mouth health is cared for, dog jowls have limited health problems. But it’s helpful to know what to watch for and how to care for their wrinkly skin folds.

bernedoodle review breed guide
Cuddly, soft and GIANT – the Bernedoodle is an amazing Poodle Mix breed.


It’s not a guarantee that your dog with pronounced jowls will leave a dripping pool in their wake, but it is more likely. In particular, the mouth structure of larger breeds with saggy lips can’t hold saliva as effectively.

Jowls also tend to carry liquid with them after your dog walks away from the water bowl, bath, or swimming pool. Adding a mat around their water bowl and giving their mouth a quick wipe down after a soak can eliminate some dripping.


Warts or oral papillomavirus spreads between dogs in close contact. The virus causes bumpy pink growths inside the mouth and jowls. More enormous jowls don’t cause more severe or more frequent infections, but sighting warts can seem more prominent. So it’s crucial to watch for the papillomas, especially if they bleed or become painful. 

giant dogue de bordeaux
What a face! The super large dog breed known as Dogue de Bordeaux


Dogs owners with droopy-lipped dogs don’t need to clean jowls more regularly than other dog breeds. Unless recommended by your veterinarian, a regular mouth care routine is satisfactory.

However, dog jowls can create the perfect storm for bacteria because there are many folds and potentially a lot of moisture. So smell, usually, is the most significant sign you need to inspect your dog’s jowls. 

Whether it’s bacterial, viral, or leftovers that overstayed their welcome, if an unpleasant smell lingers after brushing Fido’s teeth, it’s time for a vet check. You don’t want to discover leftovers from that bird Fido hunted three weeks ago.

It’s also wise to clean your dog bowls more often for breeds with puffy jowls. You never know what they’re carrying back and forth between outdoor excursions and their feeding bowl.

Lip Fold Dermatitis

Frictional trauma, or rubbing of loose skin folds, can cause intertrigo or lip fold dermatitis. It can range from mild inflammation to painful ulcerations. Veterinary assistance is required to treat any bacterial growth. However, if your furry friend frequently suffers from intertrigo, it’s best to practice prevention.

Other symptoms include odor, scabs, and itchiness. In addition, dogs might increase licking or lip-smacking.

Veterinarians may prescribe ointment, antibiotics, or other treatments if they find fungal or bacterial infections. Rarely, the vet might suggest surgery to reduce the skin folds if infections are frequent and severe.

At home, preventative measures include cleaning the jowls, shaving hair to keep the surrounding area dry, or washing with an antibacterial soap. 

Some vets will recommend applying cornstarch topically or apple cider vinegar with their food, but it’s best to consult with your vet before trying either method.

Great Dane walking in a park on pavement
A Great Dane takes a walk in a park. What a huge unit!

How to Clean Dog Jowls

Set aside some time, especially if your furry friend struggles against mouth care. If your pup has plenty of saggy skin and cavernous folds, it might take a few minutes.

When cleaning, you’ll need to spread apart the skin folds. Use either a cloth or wipe soaked in a cleaning solution. Gently and deeply rub the skin. When possible, consult a vet about which cleaning solution is best. For example, you might use classic soap and water. Or antibacterial and antifungal detergents.

Finally, dry thoroughly. While moisture is necessary for your dog’s mouth, it also creates the perfect spawning grounds for bacteria and fungus.

Dog Breeds with Large Jowls

If you’re all in for dog jowls, or you’re concerned enough to avoid pronounced jowls, here are breeds known for their droopy jowls. 

Some Labrador Retrievers have more prominent jowls, although they often fall more into the medium jowl range.


Dog jowls, from small to large, are unavoidable. But, now that you know more about this divisive feature, do you love the character of jowls, or are you frustrated by the drool pockets? 

We hope this guide shared a few helpful tips about caring for your dog. We also encourage you to search for images featuring the cheery grin of a jowly dog.