Lacerations of the lips, gums, and tongue are common. Most occur during fights with other animals. Occasionally a dog accidentally bites her own lip or tongue, usually because of a badly positioned canine tooth. Dogs can cut their tongues picking up and licking sharp objects, such as the top of a food can.
An unusual cause of tongue trauma is freezing to metal in extremely cold weather. When the tongue pulls free, epithelium strips off, leaving a raw, bleeding surface.
Treatment: Control lip bleeding by applying pressure to the cut for 5 to 10 minutes. Grasp the lip between the fingers using a clean gauze dressing or a piece of linen. Bleeding from the tongue is difficult to control with direct pressure. Calm the dog and proceed to the nearest veterinary clinic.
Minor cuts that have stopped bleeding do not need to be sutured. Stitching should be considered when the edges gape open, when the laceration involves the lip border, or when bleeding persists after the pressure dressing is removed. Cuts into the muscle of the tongue will need suturing, as well.
During healing, clean the dog’s mouth twice a day with an antiseptic mouth wash, as described in the treatment of stomatitis. Feed a soft diet for one week.
If the laceration was caused by a poorly positioned tooth, the tooth should be extracted or realigned.