Your dog's dental health is as important as the health of any other part of your pet's body. If you ignore your dog's dental health, a dental problem can turn into something serious, painful and even life-threatening in rare cases. Dogs can suffer from the same dental problems as humans, and they need to have their teeth cleaned and repaired in much the same way.
One serious dental problem dogs can develop, if you are not diligent about their dental care, is a dental abscess. This painful condition can even affect other parts of your dog's body, but abscesses are completely preventable.
Formation of Dental Abscesses
Abscesses form when bacteria manages to get into the root of the tooth. Common ways this can happen is if your dog broke or chipped his or her tooth. Bacteria can also get in through a cavity that was not treated promptly.
Gum disease and immune system disorders can also contribute to the problem when an infection or decay begins on the gum line. The most affected teeth tend to be the front canines, which can easily be broken off, partially shaved or chipped when the dog bites down on something hard.
Symptoms of Dental Abscesses
The first thing you will notice is that your dog doesn't seem to want to chew on the affected side of the mouth or plays less with favorite chew toys. Dogs with a tooth abscess may not want you touching their heads and will quickly jerk away when you try to touch the sore side.
A dog in pain from this condition may make it difficult for you to check his or her mouth and gums, which is usually not a problem for healthy dogs. Many dogs have a noticeable swelling that is most commonly seen on the cheek, and their breath may smell different from or worse than usual.
Dangers of Dental Abscesses
Dental abscesses are infections that, if left untreated, can become septic and spread to other parts of the body. When this happens, this condition can become life-threatening. Your dog could develop a high fever, muscle problems or difficulty with the heart.
Even if the abscess doesn't cause extreme health conditions, tooth abscesses can directly and painfully affect your dog's sinuses and block the eyes. An abscess can also wear away at the jawbone.
Treatment of Dental Abscesses
When you take your dog in for treatment, the vet will give them antibiotics and pain killers for relief and reduce the infection, then drain the abscess. However, these are only temporary treatments. The infected tooth or teeth will need to be treated to solve the problem.
Sometimes, a root canal can solve the problem in certain teeth. However, some of your dog's teeth contain multiple roots that make root canals more difficult. If the surrounding bone has been affected or a large portion of the tooth is broken, your veterinarian may opt to remove the tooth rather than save it.
Prevention of Dental Abscesses
Just like humans, you can often prevent your dog from getting to the point where he has an abscess with simple dental checkups and cleaning. Your veterinarian will check the overall condition of your dog's teeth during a routine exam.
Your dog should have a thorough dental exam with cleaning and x-rays every year. Be sure to brush your dog's teeth with special dog toothpaste. You can also reduce teeth and gum problems with dental treats and toys. If your dog is older, or at extreme risk for breaking teeth, try softer treats.
Dental abscesses pose a serious threat to your dog, but these problems can be easily prevented with proper dental hygiene and regular checkups. Dr. Butchko is committed to preventing problems before they become big enough to cause a serious health threat. We can give you tips on how to care for your dog's teeth and on how to avoid problems.