Why is My Dog’s Cheek Swollen?

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Question: What is This Lump/Swelling on My Dog’s Cheek?

Hi, …. Our 8 year old German Shepherd has a bump on the right side of her face. It is hard, round and smaller than a penny. It is under the surface of her skin. It is more towards the nose than the cheek bone. I tried to press it down but it didn’t go away. I thought it was just an infection. It is getting larger. She acts fine and eats normally. What could it be? … ….

My dog is a six year old mixed breed dog. About 3 months ago, I noticed that he had a black mole on his lip that started to bleed. It is right under the corner of his mouth. He has now had three surgeries to remove it and we are in the process of the fourth. It keeps growing back and each time they cut it, it gets bigger. The first time they cut him, they removed a piece of it about the size of match but it has since doubled in size. They have cut him twice since it has doubled in size. Yesterday, it stopped bleeding for a while after he had his lunch and I thought maybe that it was dying. But before bed, it started bleeding again. It’s bleeding now just a little bit when I touch it. What is it? Can you help me? ….


Other than losing a pound or two, there’s not much to make a fat cat thin. So it’s mind-boggling to think that a dog could lose a pound or more just by having fluid removed from a single cheek. But as miraculous as it may seem, that’s exactly what happens during a procedure dogs commonly undergo called a "fat extraction."

This is essentially the same procedure as a lipoma (fat) removal, but the fat is located in the cheek rather than under the skin. Dogs can either have infrequent bouts of fat collection, or have more chronic issues that occur in their cheeks or along the body. Dogs who have chronic issues with fat in the cheeks typically have fat collections in various parts of their bodies, but the issue in the cheek area is more noticeable, and like a potbelly in humans, needs to be addressed.

Vets may call this a "fat pad," because the layer of fat sits between the cheek and the underlying anatomy. When the fat can no longer be contained, it can break through the skin and push against the eyes, or extrude out from the body. Untreated, fat pads can continue to grow, or may be impacted and lead to illness, eye problems, and even nerve damage if left in the cheek.

Tooth Root Abscess

Many minor to moderate problems of the canine tooth root can cause a swollen cheek, from mouth injuries to tooth abscesses. If there is fluid accumulation, it will be darker in color and clear fluid is usually produced a week or less before they are ready to come out.

When tooth root abscess occurs, the dog will usually experience a brownish discoloration of the gum tissue. The tongue can become coated with a yellowish or brownish-red discoloration. Some dogs will not present with any discoloration of the gums, and instead they will have a swelling of the cheek. Abscesses usually have a bad smell that can indicate a serious problem, in which case you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

There are many causes of tooth root abscess in dogs, and it’s important that you try to determine the cause and take your dog to the vet as soon as possible to attempt treatment and prevent the infection from spreading. This will help you save your dog’s tooth root. Some of the possible causes include:

An Injury

Cheek swelling can come on quickly from an injury to the face or jaw. If your dog was chewing on a toy or playing roughly, he may have accidentally injured his face or jaw. The injury could be an outward sign of an inner infection.

Swelling that is Constant

Other Causes of Lumps Near the Cheek

Even though your dog might be suffering from a ruptured masseteric cyst, there are other causes for lumps near his cheek that need to be checked so you can treat your pet more effectively.

Here are some things you should look into before you can treat your dog effectively:

  • A masseteric cyst is a bump that is underneath the cheek skin that contains a build up of toxins. A cyst usually gets bigger with time and eventually bursts with the buildup of toxins until it becomes a wound.
  • Swollen cheek could also be a sign of an infection, oral cancer, or even an abscessed tooth.
  • It could also be a result of trauma caused by chewing on an object, fighting with another dog or even a human, or accidentally getting hit with a toy.
  • Swelling on the cheek can also result from your dog suffering from a dental or digestive problem.

Chewing problems can result from an oral disorder or an allergy. Orthopedic problems with the teeth can cause inflammation in the mouth, which leads to swelling. It could also be a sign of kidney or liver problems.