If you have noticed pink spots on your dog’s lips, you may wonder what they are and what to do about them, if anything. Why do dogs get pink spots on their lips? Is it normal? Will they go away by themselves, or should you do something? And if you need to act, what should you do? Here are the answers to all these questions and more.
So, why can a dog have pink spots on their lips? A dog can have pink spots on their lips if he has a skin pigmentation disorder, an infection, or a wound. Sometimes dogs get pink spots on their lips from allergic reactions, old age, or a change in seasons. Other times dogs get conditions like Papilloma or Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE).
As you can see, there are numerous reasons for them.
Some of these can indicate something is up, while others suggest nothing is wrong at all.
So let’s continue to delve deeper into these potential causes before turning to whether they will go on their own and what you should do in each context.
Why Does My Dog Have Pink Spots On His Lips?
There are many possible reasons for your dog’s lips to acquire pink spots – some are permanent, and others are short-term. Some causes are harmless, like discoloration. Others, though, can have serious underlying health issues that require veterinary attention.
Skin Pigmentation Disorders
It could be that your dog has a skin pigmentation disorder, such as impetigo, lentigo, or vitiligo.
Humans can get these disorders, too.
Impetigo is a skin infection that causes small pustules to appear. The pustules have a red border and can break to expel a yellowish substance.
Impetigo tends to affect areas of the body with little or no hair and can cover large portions of your dog’s skin.
There are three known causes of impetigo:
- Distemper disease
- Internal or external parasites
- A dirty environment or another form of poor hygiene
Impetigo is not contagious, but it does cause your dog discomfort and requires veterinary treatment, especially as it can lead to skin necrosis (dead tissue) if not treated soon enough.
Lentigo causes small black spots all over your dog’s body, including his mouth, leaving patches of pink behind.
Like vitiligo (see below), lentigo is not painful. No treatment is necessary.
The causes of lentigo are genetic, with Dachshunds being more prone than other breeds to developing this disorder.
Vitiligo causes certain parts of your dog’s skin – including the lips – to lose pigmentation.
You may see patches of depigmentation all over your dog’s body, leaving behind spots of color.
Dogs with vitiligo have localized sections of skin where the melanocytes (the cells that give color to your dog’s fur, eyes, and skin) stop working properly.
The size of the depigmented patches and the rate at which the color fades varies greatly and cannot be predicted.
Out of all skin diseases in dogs, vitiligo counts for approximately 0.7%. The cause isn’t fully known, but experts suspect a genetic component.
Although there is no treatment for vitiligo, the good news is that it does not cause any discomfort to your dog.
Dog breeds more susceptible to vitiligo include:
- German Shepherds
- Old English Sheepdogs
- Siberian Huskies
- Golden Retrievers
Sometimes injuries to your dog’s mouth can cause pink spots to appear.
If you suspect your dog has got pink spots from eating something he shouldn’t or from a mouth injury, treat it immediately.
You don’t want to leave wounds untreated, as they can become infected.
If your dog is producing excess saliva, his lower lips can become discolored.
Common medical problems that can cause excess salivation (and pink spots or other changes in the color of your dog’s mouth) include:
- Motion sickness
- Dental problems
- Irritated digestive tract, including the mouth but also the stomach and intestines (this could even be a blockage)
- Eating something toxic
- Certain medications
- Allergic reactions
Get your dog to the vet urgently if you notice excess saliva and you suspect any of the above causes.
As your dog ages, he may develop skin depigmentation – not from a disease, but from the aging process.
He may either get black spots on his skin (hyperpigmentation) or pink spots as some areas lose pigmentation.
Dogs with dark skin tend to have more visible pink spots from depigmentation.
There is no cause for concern if your dog develops spots from depigmentation as a result of growing older.
A Change In Seasons
As the seasons change, your dog’s skin can change, too.
Some of us tend to have darker skin in sunny weather and lighter skin in colder weather, and the same is true for dogs.
If your dog’s lips turn pink or develop pink spots in summer, it may be the weather is to blame.
Dogs with light-colored noses are more prone to developing pink spots in summer.
As with aging, you don’t need to worry if your dog’s lips get pink spots due to changes in the weather.
Canine Papilloma Virus
Canine papilloma virus (papillomatosis) is a contagious disease that shows up as tumors (warts or papillomas) that are often on your dog’s gums, lips, and mouth.
In the early stages of this virus, your dog’s lips can look as if they’ve got pink spots.
As the tumors or warts grow, they are rather unsightly (resembling cauliflower).
The warts are usually benign. COPV is contagious and is often caught by:
- Direct contact with an infected dog.
- Contact with an infected object (a bowl, toy, or another object).
For the virus to be transmitted, it requires a break in the skin (through a bite, scratch, or nip).
It can also be transmitted through contact with a mucous membrane (in a dog’s anus, mouth, eyes, or nose).
Dogs who contract COPV often have immature immune systems, for example:
- Older dogs
- Dogs on immunosuppressive medications
Other Bacterial or Fungal Infections
Most dogs are naturally curious and will investigate random objects, try chewing on rocks, etc., sometimes picking up a fungal or bacterial infection in the process.
Some of these can turn your dog’s lips pink.
If your dog has pink spots on his lips and you notice any lesions or swelling, visit your vet.
Sometimes Pyoderma can be the problem: this is a skin condition that can result from an infection and mostly affects the areas around your dog’s lips.
Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE)
DLE is an autoimmune disease that leads to your dog’s immune system attacking his body, leading to scabbing and crusting of the skin as well as loss of pigmentation.
Dogs who are in sunny climates are more prone to developing DLE, as exposure to UV rays can make trigger inflammation and make the condition worse.
Allergies can turn your dog’s lips (and other parts of his skin) pink.
If you see swelling, rashes, or redness in addition to the pink spots, your dog could be suffering from an allergy.
Common allergens for dogs are:
- Dairy products
- Wheat gluten
- Dust mites
- Flea saliva
If your dog’s reaction is quite sudden, ask yourself if you’ve introduced a new food, detergent, or blanket.
Is It Normal For Dogs To Have Pink Spots On Their Lips?
Pink spots can be normal for dogs to have on their lips, depending on the cause.
If your dog’s lips have pink spots but their mouth seems normal otherwise, there is most likely nothing to worry about. It could be a normal byproduct of the weather or aging.
However, get your dog to the vet if you spot any of the following symptoms in addition to pink spots on your dog’s lips:
- Skin lesions
- Bad breath
- Lack of appetite or refusal to eat
- Behavioral changes
Make a note of other changes you see to provide your vet with as much information as possible.
Will The Pink Spots Go On My Dog’s Lips On Their Own?
In some cases, the pink spots on your dog’s lips will go on their own, but other times they will remain.
The pink spots on your dog’s lips may go away on their own if:
- It’s a seasonal change. Once the weather changes, your dog’s lips may regain their usual color.
- It’s an infection. When your dog has gotten treatment for the infection, his lips will most likely go back to normal. This includes if your dog has warts from a COPV infection, which is rarely serious. Warts usually resolve themselves within 2 or 3 months, although if they go on for longer than that, your vet will want to take a look.
- Your dog has an allergy. If you are able to avoid the allergen or access effective medication for your dog, the spots will probably disappear on their own over time.
- Your dog has a wound. Once the wound or wounds have been treated, your dog’s lips can go back to normal.
The pink spots on your dog’s lips will probably not go away if:
- Your dog has pink spots because of aging. The older your dog gets, the more spots he may acquire, and they won’t go away.
- Your dog has lentigo. Lentigo is not likely to disappear on its own.
- Your dog has vitiligo. Vitiligo is likely to produce more depigmentation over time, not less.
What To Do About the Pink Spots On Your Dog’s Lips
What to do about the pink spots on your dog’s lips depends on the cause, which you might not be able to determine yourself. If you think the pink spots are caused by weather changes or old age, there’s nothing you need to do.
For Excess Salivation
If your dog is salivating more than usual, this could be a sign of an emergency. Get your dog to the vet, particularly if you notice your dog:
- Is struggling to breathe
- Is more lethargic than usual
- Can’t eat much
- Is drinking suddenly more than usual
- Vomits or dry retches
- Is pawing at his face, pacing, or showing other signs of distress
- Has a swollen abdomen
If you suspect your dog’s mouth is wounded, clean the area as best you can.
If the wounds in your dog’s mouth or on his lips are deep, he will probably need stitches. Call your vet to arrange for a visit as soon as possible.
For Canine Papilloma Virus
If you see warts on your dog that look like they could be COPV, bring your dog to the vet for a checkup.
If the warts show signs of infection, your vet will prescribe antibiotics.
If the warts persist longer than a few months, your vet may want to do a biopsy to make sure the warts haven’t become malignant.
Warts that are in painful areas can be surgically removed or frozen and then cut off.
For Bacterial or Fungal Infections
For any type of infection, you will need to get your dog to the vet for treatment.
Suppose your vet suspects a fungal or bacterial infection (like Pyoderma).
In that case, they’ll run culture tests to find what type of bacteria is causing the problem and will give your dog antibiotics.
These can be topical or oral, depending on the case.
Your vet will also ask you to keep the area around your dog’s mouth clean.
If you suspect your dog is allergic to something in his food or environment, you’ll need to bring your dog to the vet for testing.
Your vet may recommend medication or simply avoiding the allergen, if possible (some allergens are easier to avoid than others).
For Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE)
If DLE is at fault, you will most likely spot light discoloration along with lesions, ulcers, and erosions.
Take your dog to the vet for a skin biopsy to confirm the presence of DLE.
Treatment for DLE varies from systemic to topical medications.
By this point, you may feel relatively content that your dog’s pink lips do not indicate a problem.
Alternatively, you may now be a little concerned.
Either way, it’s probably a good idea to get your dog checked over by a vet.
Rule anything out.
For peace of mind.
And to ensure your dog is treated or kept an eye on, should they need it.
I’m not saying that all is bad here but trust me when I say it’s always worth investigating.
And your vet is the one with the knowledge and experience, after all.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.