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What is Cheiloplasty?

Cheiloplasty is a surgical procedure used to treat a type of skin fold dermatitis called lip fold intertrigo. This congenital disorder causes dogs to drool excessively and may predispose them to bacterial and other types of infections. It may also affect the dog’s ability to eat properly. Lip fold intertrigo is most commonly diagnosed in spaniels, Basset hounds, and Saint Bernards, and other breeds that have noticeable skin folds. This lip reduction surgery creates a pathway to keep saliva in the mouth, which corrects excess drooling. Cheiloplasty is generally the treatment of choice for dogs that do not respond to other types of conservative treatment.

Cheiloplasty Procedure in Dogs

  1. Bacterial or fungal infection should be treated prior to surgery.
  2. The dog will first be anesthetized with a general anesthetic.
  3. The surgeon will flush the mouth using a saline or betadine solution before preparing the surgery site.
  4. The surgeon will first make an incision using a scalpel to cut away the excess lip fold tissue.
  5. Once the excess skin has been removed, the surgeon will suture through two layers of the skin to close the surgical site, typically using absorbable sutures.
  6. Before the dog is released back into the owner’s care, the surgeon will open and close the mouth to ensure normal range of motion.
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Efficacy of Cheiloplasty in Dogs

Cheiloplasty is a relatively non-invasive cosmetic surgery that completely cures lip fold intertrigo. Healing and recovery are relatively straightforward, usually presenting no complications. The main complication associated with cheiloplasty is infection of the surgery site. This can be managed with an antibiotic regimen. A rare postoperative complication is wound rupture.

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Cheiloplasty Recovery in Dogs

Dogs that have undergone cheiloplasty will usually be allowed to go home the same day. Dogs will be placed on a soft food diet for three days or as instructed by the vet. Antibiotics are usually prescribed postoperatively. Dogs that have undergone other procedures in addition to cheiloplasty may be given analgesics to manage pain. If the sutures are not absorbable, a follow-up appointment will be required to remove them. Follow-up appointments for cheiloplasty are usually scheduled approximately two weeks following surgery to monitor healing and ensure bacterial infection has not recurred.

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Cost of Cheiloplasty in Dogs

The cost of cheiloplasty will vary depending on any additional costs incurred, including medications and postoperative care. The cost of cheiloplasty surgery ranges from $500 to $1,000.

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Dog Cheiloplasty Considerations

It is important to note that, while it can be necessary for some dogs with lip defects and conditions which cause chronic drooling, cheiloplasty is largely a cosmetic surgery. This procedure should not be performed on dogs for purely cosmetic reasons, and should only be used to correct a congenital defect or skin condition. Cheiloplasty is usually recommended for dogs whose lip fold intertrigo is idiopathic, or has no other underlying cause. Additional treatments may be required for dogs whose lip fold intertrigo is attributed to another underlying cause, although this is rare.

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Cheiloplasty Prevention in Dogs

It is difficult to prevent lip fold intertrigo as it is usually a congenital condition. Weight management may play a part in preventing lip fold intertrigo in dogs that are not born with the defect. Owners should ensure they keep their dog’s face and lips clean when possible to reduce the likelihood of bacterial infection, only using products that are safe for the dog’s face.

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Cheiloplasty Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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St Bernard

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3 1/2

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Excessive Drooling

We’re wondering about having our St Bernard undergo a cheiloplasty. We’ve had many Saints and this one is by far the worst drooler! Our intention was to have her in the house, but the drooling is far too excessive to do that. Can you recommend a vet near Willmar, Minnesota that does this procedure and the cost?

July 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I don't have access to that sort of database, and I don't personally know any veterinarians in Willmar, unfortunately. If you call your regular veterinarian, they should be able to direct you to someone who is qualified to perform that procedure, as they know the veterinarians in the area. I hope that all goes well for her!

July 27, 2020

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Ted

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Cocker Spaniel

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10

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lip Fold Dermatitis

Do you have any material on cheiloplasty for veterinarians? My name is Mel, I'm a vet nurse and the vet at my clinic is looking into cheiloplasty for one of our patients, however she hasn't done one before. We'd like as much information as possible before deciding if it is something that we'd be happy to do at our clinic or whether we should refer the dog elsewhere. Thankyou very much.

Sept. 21, 2017

Ted's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

We do not have any specific information for Veterinarians, we have condition guides and treatment guides which we have published on our site to give the general public a better idea of some conditions and treatments but we do not have anything specific for Veterinarians. There is limited publicly available resources for this surgery which do not provide sufficient amount of information and a quick flick through Slatter doesn’t come up with anything useful either. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Sept. 22, 2017

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Honey

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Cocker Spaniel

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Not Eating
Not Drinking

Honey had lip fold surgery yesterday she doesn't want to eat or drink so how can I give medicine? She is still drowsy from the anaesthetic. She's miserable, desperate to scratch her ears but can't because of the cone!

July 26, 2017

Honey's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

It can always be tricky to get a dog to eat and drink after surgery to and round the mouth; feeding may be achieved by mixing some wet food with water and syringing it into the mouth to ensure adequate nutrition and hydration; as for the tablets, it may be a case of trying to place the tablets to the back of the throat and encouraging to swallow by holding the head up and rubbing the neck. If you have difficulties or are scared you may hurt her it would be best to return to your Veterinarian to assess the possible methods of administration. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 26, 2017

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