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Dog Jowls: Everything You Need to Know

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Neapolitan Mastiff dog jowl_Mary Swift_shutterstock

What exactly are dog jowls? Put simply, dog jowls are defined as the loose skin around your dog’s mouth and throat. While all dogs have relatively loose skin on their mouth and necks, some dogs have far more pronounced and identifiable jowls. Just picture the mouths of Mastiffs and Bulldogs to get a better idea!

Besides the adorable and unique aesthetic value that jowls give some breeds of dogs, jowls actually serve an important function. That being said, large, pronounced jowls can cause issues in certain breeds and need special attention and care.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything that you need to know about dog jowls, including their function, how to look after them, and possible disorders associated with your dog’s jowls.

divider 9What are dog jowls for?

female saint bernard outside
Image credit: Artush, Shutterstock

Dogs with larger than average jowls were specifically bred this way, either for fighting, hunting, or aesthetics. But all dogs have jowls and they serve an important function.

Your dog’s jowls are vital in helping them pick up scents, and this is why Scent Hound breeds typically have larger than average jowls. When these dogs are tracking a scent, they hang their head low to the ground to allow them to “scoop-up” and collect scents. Their large jowls collect and waft these scents toward their nose.

Dogs bred for waterfowl hunting and swimming also have large jowls to help them breathe when in water. Their jowls act as a large air pocket to help them breathe better while swimming. While not all swimming breeds have the large jowls of Bulldogs, they are still relatively larger than non-swimming breeds.

Large jowls offer protection during fights and create a cushioning around their face to help protect against bites. The loose skin also offers more mobility during a fight, and even when an opposing dog is firmly latched onto a dog’s jowls, they still have a large enough range of motion to bite back.

Many of these functions are irrelevant these days unless the dog is employed for hunting and scenting. Thankfully, dogfighting has been outlawed around most of the world, but a dog’s jowls can still offer some protection in case of a fight.Divider 4

Top 5 Popular Dog Breeds with Large Jowls:

To help you get a better idea of the function and appearance of jowls, here are well-known breeds with pronounced jowls.

1. Bulldog

a french bulldog lying on the grasss
Image Credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay

Bulldogs were originally bred for “bull-baiting,” and their loose and droopy jowls were useful protection. They have also historically been a popular breed for dogfighting, and their large jowls gave them an upper hand of added protection. Thankfully, both these “sports” have been largely outlawed, and their droopy and loving expression has made them a popular family breed.

2. Mastiff

English Mastiff drooling
Image Credit: GoDog Photo, Shutterstock

The Mastiff family of dog breeds has long been used as loyal guard dogs, hunting dogs, and unfortunately, dogfighters. Their large jowls were useful protection in fights, as well as picking up scents for hunting.

3. Saint Bernard

Saint Bernard sitting in meadow
Image Credit: rokopix, Shutterstock

The Saint Bernard is famous for its large and floppy jowls and friendly nature. These dogs were bred in the snowy Swiss Alps as search-and-rescue animals, and their large jowls helped them pick up the scents of lost mountaineers.

4. Basset Hound

Sleeping Basset Hound on chair
Image credit: Daniel Myjones, Shutterstock

The Basset Hound is a Scent Hound that was bred for hunting and tracking down scents. Their large jowls helped them pick up scents more accurately, as well as their long droopy ears and low-to-the-ground stature.

5. Newfoundland

Newfoundland dog
Image Credit: Pandas, Shutterstock

Known for their gigantic size and friendly temperament, “Newfies” were bred as water dogs to help fishermen on boats and retrieve in water. This knack for swimming has made them popular search-and-rescue animals in water, and their pronounced jowls helped them breathe well while swimming.

Jowls and drooling

While all dog drool somewhat and this behavior is completely normal, dogs with large jowls drool much more. This is because their jowls act as large bags to catch and build up saliva, which eventually accumulates and overflows. Excessive drool is perfectly normal in these large-jowled breeds, and there is usually no reason for concern.

Sometimes, excessive drooling may point toward a deeper issue, though, and your pooch may have a dental issue or something lodged in their mouth. If the excessive drooling has any other accompanying symptoms, like lack of appetite or lethargy, a visit to the vet may be necessary.

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Common jowl-related health issues

Dogs with large jowls are susceptible to certain health issues and diseases and are more likely to suffer from infections. This is why it’s vital to keep their teeth and mouths clean. If you notice that your dog’s jowls are red and swollen or there is a foul smell around their mouth, there may be an underlying infection that needs to be addressed.

  • Oral papillomavirus is a common issue that affects the mouths of dogs and is characterized by small growths similar to warts on the inside of their mouths. This disease is caused by a virus and is thus contagious between dogs. These growths rarely cause any big problems and usually disappear on their own within a few months. However, if the growths are particularly large or there are a large number of them, surgery is sometimes required.
  • Lip fold dermatitis is also fairly common in dogs with large jowls and is caused by trauma from constant friction and results in inflammation and even infection from the large number of microbes present in a dog’s saliva. This disorder is usually treated topically with antimicrobial wipes or ointments.

Good oral hygiene is vital for breeds with large jowls, as the accumulation of bacteria can swiftly result in infections. Food can easily get stuck in these folds of skin too. Regular teeth brushing and wiping their jowls down regularly with a clean damp cloth will help tremendously to prevent infections.

Divider 2Dog Jowls: Final Thoughts

If you own a breed of dog with particularly large jowls, you’ll need to pay special attention to oral hygiene to help avoid any infections. While drooling excessively may point toward health issues, it is relatively normal with these breeds, and there is usually no reason to worry.

Hopefully, this article has cleared up any confusion that you may have had about your dog’s jowls and helped you understand the important role that their jowls have had in their history.

Featured image credit: Mary Swift, Shutterstock

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