An embarrassed dog covering his face.
An embarrassed dog covering his face. Photography ©Ksenia Raykova/Thinkstock.

Let’s Talk About Dog Lipstick — a.k.a. the Dog Penis

Let's be clear. Dog lipstick is a euphemism for dog penis, and most people don't like seeing it. But is a dog lipstick sighting ever something to bring to your vet's attention?
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Dog lipstick has a singular, and slightly ironic, ability to spoil the mood. Imagine meeting a happy-go-lucky, tail-wagging dog who rolls over onto his back for a belly rub from his new best friend (that’s you). When this particular dog exposes his abdomen, however, you get an eyeful, and it’s not just his belly that you see. Also on view is a moist, pink, fleshy, and — if you’re share the opinion of most people — disgusting protuberance, a.k.a. his dog penis. Again, if you’re like most people, you will lose the desire to give that dog a belly rub.

Dog Lipstick, Dog Red Rocket and Dog Penis — Are They All the Same Thing?

Black dog with lipstick and eyes covered up.
Is that dog lipstick something to worry about? Photo illustration by Madeleine Weiss. Stafford Terrier image. Photography by Ksenia Raykova / Shutterstock.

That protuberance “in the area of the penis” goes by a number of names. “Dog lipstick” and “red rocket” are two common colloquialisms. But the actual, appropriate name for the protuberance is: dog penis.

To understand dog lipstick you must first know a bit about doggie anatomy. That benign, lightly hair-coated appendage on your dog’s underside that you may have thought was his dog penis is not, in fact, his penis. It’s his prepuce. The prepuce is a sheath that protects the dog penis from trauma on a day-to-day basis (it also protects our eyes from the sight of the penis).

The dog penis itself — or what some people call the dog lipstick — is pink, moist and fleshy. Most people don’t like the sight of it. To add insult to injury, a small amount of nasty yellow fluid called smegma (the name of the fluid basically amounts to onomatopoeia) usually coats the penis itself.

Why, Then, Do Some Dogs But Not Others Frequently Show Off Their “Lipstick?”

A number of things can cause that dog lipstick to emerge from the prepuce. The first is arousal, and not just that type of arousal. In medicine, arousal refers to any form of excitement whatsoever, such as might occur when a dog meets a new person. Dogs experiencing general arousal may, in turn, develop just a little bit of the other type of arousal. In other words, excited dogs sometimes develop slight erections. Erections cause this dog lipstick to emerge. The dog lipstick phenomenon is more common in but is by no means limited to un-neutered dogs.

Other dog lipstick sightings occur due to harmless (to the dog) anatomical anomalies. A size mismatch between penis and prepuce, or a dog penis that is prone to “sagging” out of the prepuce may lead to frequent dog lipstick sightings. I have known a few dogs whose penises never fully fit into their prepuces and were therefore perpetually on view. These dogs experienced chronically dry penises but came to no significant harm.

What Should You Do About a Dog Lipstick That’s Been Out for an Extended Amount of Time?

Beige puppy with lipstick and eyes covered up.
And what if you’re seeing your dog’s lipstick for an extended amount of time? Photo illustration by Madeleine Weiss. Puppy portrait. Photography by otsphoto / Shutterstock.

Although most people don’t like dog lipstick sightings, most instances in which the dog penis is briefly visible are not harmful to the dog involved. There is, however, an exception. The exception is a condition called paraphimosis.

Paraphimosis is a pathological extrusion of the dog penis from the prepuce. If the penis becomes entrapped outside of the prepuce it may swell. Pain and tissue damage — potentially severe tissue damage — can result. Paraphimosis is a veterinary emergency.

Paraphimosis generally has an appearance that is more dramatic than mere dog lipstick. A large portion of the dog penis generally will be visible. It will likely appear visibly swollen, and may be purple rather than pink (these are signs of inadequate blood flow). The affected dog may appear uncomfortable and may attempt to groom himself “down there” excessively.

Paraphimosis most frequently occurs as a result of sexual activity. Misdirected sexual activity, such as a dog humping a leg or an inanimate object, causes paraphimosis more commonly than true sexual activity. Because un-neutered dogs are more likely to engage in this behavior, they are more likely to suffer from paraphimosis. However, the syndrome is by no means limited to them.

Here is the scenario by which paraphimosis most frequently occurs. A dog engages in misdirected sexual activity, causing the penis to emerge from the prepuce. The prepuce generally has a thin coat of hair. The hair at the tip of the prepuce can clog the opening of the prepuce, preventing the penis from properly retracting after the activity is over. Swelling, pain and other symptoms then commence.

How to Treat Paraphimosis

Strong-stomached owners can attempt to treat paraphimosis at home. A water-based personal lubricant such as K-Y Jelly is applied to the penis, the hair at the tip of the prepuce is gently extracted from the opening, and the penis is re-inserted into the prepuce. Avoid using exotic personal lubricants that cause warm or tingling sensations.

Some dogs with paraphimosis will be in too much pain to tolerate home treatment. Others will suffer from paraphimosis that is too severe to be addressed at home. These dogs, or dogs owned by more squeamish people, should receive veterinary attention as soon as possible (although it is still a good idea to apply lubricant to the penis to prevent it from drying out). They generally require sedation or even general anesthesia for the penis to be replaced. After I treat paraphimosis I usually trim the hair from the tip of the prepuce to reduce the risk of recurrence; given the sensitive nature of the site, this is a task that only an experienced professional should attempt.

The bottom line on dog lipstick

Dog lipstick is unsightly but usually harmless. Be aware, however, that in some instances dog lipstick sightings may be a sign of a serious problem.

Thumbnail: Photography ©Ksenia Raykova/Thinkstock.

This post was originally published in 2013. 

Read more about the dog lipstick, dog red rocket or dog penis on Dogster.com:

14 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Dog Lipstick — a.k.a. the Dog Penis”

  1. One time my tiny chihuahua got stuck ‘out for ages after trying to humo his same age much 4 times bigger brother lmao he ran into the corner with his head hung in shame for ages til it went back in lmao

  2. I just brought home my latest rescue. He is a year and half and he is fixed, a wonderful sweet pup. But he is always hanging out. Maybe because he is so excited to have a new home. What to do?

  3. My dog never puts his away. He doesn’t seem to be in discomfort. But it literally is always out and I’ve removed any hair that had gotten caught and have always been checking. I worry about it. Because obviously it’s not good. I just don’t know what I can do.

  4. My neighbors dog his stuff when it comes out! Looks like it’s bleeding! It’s beet red! Eeew, not pink, like it use to be! It’s deep red. Is there something wrong with him. She neglects him a lot.

    1. Hi Mary,
      We suggest voicing your concerns to your neighbor re: her dog’s lipstick. If you truly believe she is neglecting her dog, you may want to contact a local humane organization or rescue for advice. Thank you for caring!

  5. I looked this is up because I honestly wondered why it all happens. I fully understand now and I laughed all the way through it. Hey lady who thought it was childish…get a grip, have a laugh!!!! Why did you look it up anyway? Not combing my dachshund’s under belly anymore…LOL Next we will look up dog balls!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Strange way to put a naturally thing. Thoug I lately realized from watching my dog through the window, that he several times was humping my pillows in Tue sofa, aaaarrrrhhhh. He sure was excited because he flashed his lipstick. And now i need wash the pillows. Just i wonder how long time that was going in?

  7. God forbid dogs do or have anything on their bodies that reminds people they are indeed animals, not living stuffed dolls.

    1. Quite agree. I thought the tone of this article was childishly prudish and squeamish. Not very mature at all. I doubt the author would use the same tone about a child. Anyone suffering from that type of attitude could do with getting real.

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