While dogs don't typically experience dental decay and cavities like people do, they are subject to dental problems such as gum disease, broken or fractured teeth and oral disorders that can lead to a host of health problems. Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth with a canine-formulated toothpaste and taking him to a veterinary dentist on a regular basis can help ensure your dog does not develop any infectious dental-related disorders.
A broken or cracked tooth that becomes infected can cause your dog a significant amount of pain. A gum wound has the potential to become abscessed, which can make it hurt when your dog chews, eats or even drinks water. An untreated dental infection can cause gums to soften and recede, often leading to tooth loss. A damaged, infected tooth may even stop your pup from playing or being affectionate with you.
A tooth-related infection can spread to the bone surrounding the tooth, and bacteria at the tooth’s root can enter your dog’s bloodstream. Untreated, the infection can spread and lead to damage of organs including the heart, liver and kidneys. The longer the infection goes unaddressed, the more significant the damage can be.
Many tooth infections, particularly advanced varieties, require surgical intervention. This is often a costly undertaking that requires your dog to be anesthetized for the process. Some pups have a bad reaction to the anesthesia, which may require advanced blood testing to ensure proper dosing.
Ongoing Dental Problems
The aftermath of a dog’s tooth infection can linger and create ongoing problems. Your dog may find it difficult or painful to eat after treatment, particularly if an abscess was lanced and drained or a tooth was removed. An inability to eat or drink normally can deprive your dog of vital nutrients and lead to malnourishment and weight loss. Your dog also may shy away from preventative dental care measures in the future, due to the negative memory of his previous tooth infection and resulting treatments.
Signs of Dental Problems
Getting an infection diagnosed and treated quickly can minimize the damage and trauma your dog suffers. Be watchful for signs of dental infection such as bleeding, swollen or red gums, loose teeth, foul breath or changes in eating habits. Your pup may drool, drop food from his mouth or whine or pull away when you touch his face. Seek prompt medical care if you notice these symptoms.
- PetMD: Pus Cavity Forming Under Tooth in Dogs
- Dog Owner’s Guide: Canine Teeth
- Texas A&M Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences: Pet Dental Health
- NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Dentistry
- Tufts Now: Chew on This
- Veterinary Oral Health Council Acceptance: Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease) is the Most Common Disease Occurring in Pet Dogs and Cats
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.