Tight lip syndrome is a condition seen in Chinese Shar Pei puppies. The condition affects their lips which push against front lower incisors or sometimes their lips extend so far that they completely cover affected teeth. Research suggests it's the soft tissue that makes up a dog's lower lip that causes the problem and it does so by preventing a puppy’s lower jaw from growing as it should. This in turn results in puppies having undershot jaws although the jury is still out on whether tissue can disrupt bone growth. A puppy born with tight lip syndrome would need to have the problem surgically corrected when they are old enough to undergo the procedure which is usually when they are around three months old.
Tight lip syndrome is a congenital defect and as such Shar-Pei puppies are born with it. If the lower lip covers a puppy's teeth, it can make it hard and painful for them to chew food and the fact that it pushes against teeth, results in a dog having a misaligned mouth. As previously mentioned, the jury is out on whether the defect actually prevents correct bone growth, but it does result in dogs having undershot jaws. The problem also puts a lot of pressure on the jaw bone from every angle and this can lead to a dog's jaw becoming narrower.
Many Shar-Peis born with Tight Lip Syndrome also develop ulcers on their bottom lips due to the fact they constantly bite them when trying to eat and chew their food. These ulcers cause a lot of pain and discomfort and as such the problem needs to be rectified as soon as possible. However, rarely would the condition prevent a dog from eating altogether.
The earlier a dog can be treated and the problem rectified, the better. However, vets like to carry out the surgery when a Shar-Pei puppy is around 3 months old and not before. There are two options available to rectify Tight Lip Syndrome, but both involve surgery. The first option is for a vet to remove a little skin from a dog's chin to correct the problem. The second type of surgery would involve reducing the size of a dog's lip which is a procedure known as cheiloplasty. The surgery involves separating a dog's lower lip from their chin. As the lip heals, it does so in more of a normal position. It's important for the "pocket" that's been created between a dog's lip and their jaw to be kept apart. As such, owners need to run their fingers around the gap which is the only way of making sure it does not close over again, more especially as the hole should heal naturally.
The only way of preventing puppies from being born with this congenital defect, is to ensure that any Shar Pei with the condition is spayed or neutered so they cannot be used for breeding purposes. Any dog that has undergone surgery to resolve Tight Lip Syndrome cannot be show or exhibited, but they make wonderful companions and family pets.