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What's That Bump on the Roof of My Dog's Mouth?


Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

What to Do About the Bump on the Roof of Your Dog's Mouth!

What to do when your dog has a bump on the roof of its mouth? Did you happen to notice a bump on the roof of your dog's mouth? If so, you may already be in panic mode, wondering if it's cancer or some other terrible malady.

You likely have never noticed this bump before, until your dog was lying with his head on your lap, belly-up and did a big, wide-open yawn.

Therefore, you may rush to your vet, wondering what it is and feel nervous about it perhaps because you've heard how lumps and bumps in a dog's mouth can turn out to have a bad prognosis in some cases.

What Happens at the Vet's Office?

So finally, you're at your vet's office with your heart pounding as your vet examines your dog's mouth. Your dog may not be too collaborative in having the roof of his mouth checked, but your vet manages to take a quick peek up there.

You wait in anticipation, dreading a worrisome answer suggesting it's nothing good or that more testing may be required to determine exactly what you're dealing with.

Instead, your vet tells you that there's no need to do any testing. Alarmed, you think of the worst case scenario: "What do you mean there's no need to do anything? Is it that bad already? How did it get out of handy so quickly if I just noticed it today? Please tell me I won't lose my baby to some terrible cancer that will make him suffer so much!"

Instead, your vet smiles and tells you that the bump is perfectly normal, that's why there's no need to do anything. At this point, you can completely trust your vet and go on living your life as if nothing ever happened, or if you are a suspicious fellow, you may be wondering if you may perhaps need a second opinion just to make sure.

Or, you may opt for the third option, which is to simply ask your vet more questions to find out how it can be possible that the growth is perfectly normal and doesn't warrant any testing or monitoring, but hopefully your vet beat you to this and gave you a clearer explanation.

Introducing the Incisive Papilla

When Is a Bump on the Roof of a Dog's Mouth Normal?

If the bump is on the roof of your dog's mouth, right in the middle and just behind the top two middle teeth and is sort of diamond-shaped, you are truly likely dealing with something perfectly normal.

Introducing the Incisive Papilla

"That bump is called the incisive papilla, and it's one of the top reasons why pet owners make a panic vet appointment dreading the worse, explains veterinarian Dr. Truli on his website VirtuaVet. The incisive papilla derives from the term "incisive" referring to the incisor teeth and "papilla" meaning bump.

This bump, as many other body parts, has a precise function. In the middle of it, there's a hole that leads to a duct that communicates with the dog's Jacobson organ (also known as vomeronasal organ).

The Jacobson organ connects to the dog's amygdala, an important part of the brain that plays a big role in emotional reactions. So when you put all these puzzle pieces together you can get a clear picture of how the incisive papilla allows dogs to emotionally respond to molecules such as pheromones which travel up the incisive duct.

Interestingly, when dogs smell something that intrigues them and such dogs chatter their teeth, they are basically sending large scent molecules towards their incisive papilla (with some help from the tongue).

Then, once those scent molecules reach your dog's brain area responsible for interpreting smells, your dog may be making some decision making based on his findings. Perhaps he'll just urine mark on top of the sniffed area or leave.

Signs of Trouble

Normally, a dog's incisive papilla doesn't give any problems. However, according to the Animal Dentistry and Oral Surgery Specialists LLC in some cases, it may swell as in the case of a malocclusion where the lower teeth puncture the roof of the mouth.

If your dog's incisive papilla appears large, see your vet, consider your dog's breed though; according to veterinarian Dr. Marie, for some reason, the incisive papilla appears to be larger in golden retrievers.

Did you know? Humans also have an incisive papilla, but in humans it has a different function. According to Joel S. Teig, it's purpose is to provide internal padding so to protect the nerve exiting the palatal bone which is found right behind the two upper front teeth.

The Bottom Line

As seen, the incisive papilla is normal and a part of your dog's anatomy. It plays an important role in your dog's ability to assess molecules and react accordingly. If the area appears swollen though, you notice an abnormality or the bump on the roof of your dog's bump appears to be in a different location of where the incisive papilla is supposed to be, consult with your vet.

For Further Reading

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Questions & Answers

Question: Is it a sign of a big problem that our vet has found a pinhole opening from the hard palate, near the bump that you are talking about?

Answer: I wonder whether your vet has found the beginning of what's called an oronasal fistula. An oronasal fistula is an opening that creates a passage from the mouth and the respiratory tract.

It can present in the area you describe as a result of a malocculsion (incorrect bite) causing a canine tooth to puncture the roof of the mouth.

These can be problematic because food and fluids may leak into the dog's respiratory causing inflammation or infections.

Question: Is the top palate in a dog's mouth supposed to be hard or soft?

Answer: A dog's upper palate is supposed to be made of ridges and they should feel hard. For a good reason, it is known as "hard palate." However, the back portion of the palate is relatively soft, hence why it's known as "soft palate."

© 2015 Adrienne Farricelli

Zeena valenzuela on June 07, 2019:

My dog has a pea size bump on the outside of his mouth. Firm and doesnt seem onfected

Tina on January 13, 2019:

Thank you! I did panic. Decided to give it a week as our Bloodhound incessantly chews on various sized rocks from our yard. Checked today and the bump was still there. I am at ease now reading your article. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Although I will keep an eye on it for changes I feel a whole lot better.


What Is That?! - Incisive Papilla

One of the most important topics studied in vet school is anatomy - as veterinarians, we need to know what is normal and what isn’t.

Most pet owners, on the other hand, haven’t spent countless nights studying every organ, vessel, and protuberance found on a dog’s body. So it’s understandable that when an owner notices a less obvious anatomic structure for the first time, they may become alarmed and rush their beloved pet to the vet, fearing the worst.

These situations have inspired a new series for our column called, “What is that?!”

Maybe you’ve experienced this scenario before -- your happy, fun-loving pet is playing and when she rolls on her back, you suddenly notice a firm, diamond-shaped lump on the roof of her mouth, just behind her front teeth. Panic bells start ringing.

But not so fast! This is actually a completely normal structure. It’s called the incisive papilla and every dog has one, though some may be more prominent than others. The incisive papilla contributes to the dog’s intricate and exceptional sense of smell.

A human’s primary sense is vision - we understand our environment best through visual pictures. Dogs, on the other hand, rely most heavily on their sense of smell. To put into perspective just how sensitive a dog’s sense of smell is, dogs have more than 200 million olfactory receptors. Humans only have about 5 million!

And it gets even more interesting. Dogs don’t just smell with their nose. They also have a vomeronasal organ, which helps detect chemical cues called pheromones. Pheromones are important for communication and passing social messages between dogs. The incisive papilla helps collect these cues and is connected to the vomeronasal organ.

So if you’ve ever lost sleep after noticing this bump on the roof of your dog’s mouth, don’t worry - you’re not the first and you won’t be the last! The incisive papilla is one of the most common normal anatomic structures that cause owners to scratch their heads and wonder, “what is that?!”


Oral Papilloma Virus in Dogs

Your parents probably warned you that kissing a stranger was like kissing everyone that person kissed. Well, they were right and the same advice applies to your dog.

What is papilloma virus?
Canine oral papillomas, also known as oral warts, are small, benign tumors of the mouth caused by the papilloma virus. They are found on the lips, gums, mouth, and rarely can also be located on other mucous membranes.

Causes of papilloma virus in dogs
Canine oral papillomas usually affect young dogs, under the age of 2. Young dogs are more susceptible to the papilloma virus because their immune system is not fully developed. As their immune system matures, they produce antibodies against the virus and the warts can eventually disappear. Affected dogs can transmit the virus to other dogs through direct contact. This usually occurs when they greet each other, share toys, or eat/drink out of the same food or water bowl. Canine papilloma virus is species-specific and therefore cannot be transmitted from dogs to humans or cats.

Symptoms of papilloma virus in dogs:
Papillomas typically develop on the lips, tongue, throat or gums. They are round and have an irregular surface, reminiscent of a cauliflower or sea anemone, and usually grow in clusters. Most dogs are asymptomatic unless the papillomas become infected. Infected oral papillomas can cause pain, swelling and bad breath.

Diagnosis of papilloma virus in dogs:
It is always a good idea to bring your dog to the veterinarian if you ever notice any lump or bump. Your veterinarian can usually diagnose canine oral papilloma by their characteristic appearance. Since oral papillomas can occasionally become malignant (cancerous) and other cancers can grow in the mouth, your veterinarian may obtain a biopsy of the lesion to establish the diagnosis, depending on your pet’s age. Likewise, your veterinarian will examine your dog’s mouth to determine if the papillomas are infected and antibiotics are needed.

Treatment of papilloma virus in dogs:
Since canine oral papillomas are usually asymptomatic, treatment is often not indicated unless they become infected or become symptomatic. Infected papillomas can be painful and require a course of antibiotics. Occasionally, a dog will have so many growths that eating becomes problematic. When this occurs, the papillomas can be surgically excised or treated with cryotherapy (freezing). Another treatment involves crushing the lesions to stimulate the host immune system to attack them. In humans, interferon has been used in severe cases but this treatment is costly and has provided mixed results with dogs. Most cases of canine oral papillomas go away on their own within 1-5 months as the affected dog’s immune system matures and mounts a response to the virus.

So while it’s true that kissing can spread cooties, at least in the case of oral papillomas they typically resolve on their own. If you notice any strange looking growths in your dog’s mouth or lips, take your dog to your veterinarian to ensure they are canine oral papillomas and not something more serious.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


What Causes Dog Mouth Blisters?

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There are a wide variety of potential causes for dog mouth blisters, including kidney disease, cancer, infection, and dental problems. All of these issues should be treated by a licensed veterinarian. Occasionally a dog may get mouth blisters from chewing on hard objects which may splinter and become lodged in the mouth or cut the dog's lip or gums. If this occurs, an infection may take root in the abrasion.

A dog with mouth blisters should be treated by a veterinarian.

As part of a normal physical exam, dogs' mouths should be checked since oral health can be a good indicator of overall health. Although in many cases the causes of mouth blisters in dogs are benign and fully treatable, sometimes they are cause for concern. Oral cancer and kidney disease can both lead to mouth blisters. In many cases these will be the only noticeable physical symptom that owners detect.

Many times, dog mouth blisters will be caused by underlying dental problems. Gum disease and mouth infections may occur together since bacteria can enter infected gums. Dogs also sometimes chew on things they shouldn't. Pieces of bone, sticks, or other hard items can sometimes lodge in the gums or cheek and bacteria may enter the wound, causing an infection. If a bacterial infection is to blame for the mouth blisters, the area will likely also be inflamed and red.

More serious conditions may also lead to dog mouth blisters. The most serious of these is oral cancer, which often leads to blisters in the back of the mouth close to the throat. Kidney disease may also cause sores or ulcers to appear in the mouth once the condition becomes severe enough.

Owners who notice blisters in their dogs mouths should first try to alleviate any pain. This can be done through oral numbing medications or other painkillers that have been approved by a veterinarian. Dogs should be examined by a vet as soon as possible after the discovery of a mouth ulcer to ensure that it is not serious. Minor infections and sores will typically be treated with medication, while more serious conditions may require ongoing treatment.

Pet owners should not give their dogs any medication without first speaking to a vet. Dog mouth blisters that are accompanied by bleeding, oozing, or severe pain may require immediate medical attention at an emergency vet hospital. This also goes for dogs that have severe fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite. These could be signs of a serious infection or condition.

Numbing cream can be used to temporarily soothe mouth blisters.


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