Pet Dental Health


What is a Canine Malocclusion?

Malocclusions (bite alignment problems) are quite common in veterinary patients. They can be purely cosmetic, or can cause issues. Bubbas is a young dog who was referred to Veterinary Dental Specialties & Oral Surgery by a family veterinarian who identified a a significant issue with his lower left canine. The canine had erupted into the middle of his mouth, because of the incorrect eruption path, it was infraerupted and the deciduous (puppy) canine was retained. Continue reading “What is a Canine Malocclusion?” »

Palatal Ulceration

Meet Finn, a 7 year old Rat Terrier. He presented to our hospital for evaluation of an oral malignant tumor, suspected to be a carcinoma. The swelling had been present for 3-4 weeks, developed relatively quickly, was ulcerated across the palate, and had not responded much to two different types of antibiotics. Finn had a great deal of pain around his mouth and was not eating well. His family veterinarian had biopsied several areas within the lesion which were read as chronic inflammation with suggestions of a malignancy, possible carcinoma. He also had swelling adjacent to the right mandibular 1st molar tooth. Continue reading “Palatal Ulceration” »

Importance of Treating Fractured Feline Teeth

Fractured teeth are typically a dog issue, but cats do break teeth as well.  In general, the canines are the most common tooth that is broken in cats. One major difference for cats is that their root canal extends very close to the tip of the tooth.  This means that almost any fracture will cause direct root canal (nerve) exposure. Continue reading “Importance of Treating Fractured Feline Teeth” »

Senior Dog Undergoes Successful Oral Surgery & is Now Pain Free

Allie is an 18 year old Labrador Cross from Las Vegas pictured here with Dr. Niemiec’s Danish Resident Camilla.  She had two major surgeries on her right mandible (lower jaw) for a malignant cancer several years ago.  These were successful in curing the cancer; however the treatment changed the way her jaw functioned on that side leading to an increase in periodontal disease.  Continue reading “Senior Dog Undergoes Successful Oral Surgery & is Now Pain Free” »

Annual Veterinary Pet Dental Care

What to do about dog bad breath

To effectively get rid of or reduce dog bad breath be sure your dog had regular veterinary dental care.

Dogs with bad breath can keep you from being close to the dogs you love. Halitosis, or bad breath, is an unpleasant odor coming from your dog’s mouth. But bad dog breath can also be a symptom of a more serious problem.  It is estimated that 80 percent of dogs the age of three suffer from periodontal disease — a serious deterioration of the gums  and supporting bones of the teeth.

Left unchecked, the resulting bacteria can enter the dog’s  bloodstream, causing infection or damage to vital organs such as  the kidneys, lungs, heart or liver. That’s why dog bad breath has been the called the “Silent Killer of Pets.”  Proper pet oral health and veterinary dental care from your veterinarian or a vet dentist a may extend the life of your dog by two to five years.

Usually Bad Breath or Halitosis in dogs as well as cats has oral causes, although sometimes it can be caused by other disease processes. These include:

  • Periodontitis (inflammation of the tissue that surrounds the tooth)
  • Periodontal or gum disease caused by the buildup of plaque and tartar
  • Abscessed tooth or teeth
  • Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)
  • Bone, skin or hair stuck in mouth
  • Oral ulceration
  • Foreign items in the mouth (such as plant material or grass awns)
  • Oral neoplasia (tumors of the mouth)
  • Lung diseases,i.e. lung cancer
  • Severe kidney or liver disease

Sophie, like a kitten again!

After being seen for advanced periodontal (gum) disease and tooth resorption at Veterinary Dental Specialties and Dental Surgery,  Sophie returned for her 2-week recheck.  As is very common for us to hear, her owner reported that she was acting like a kitten again. She is an older (approximately 15 years) cat and has some minor health issues.  Because of her age and these concerns, the clients were not recommended to pursue dental care.  Thus, Sophie had developed significant dental disease prior to presentation.  Continue reading “Sophie, like a kitten again!” »

Dog Tooth Broken by Antler

Are Antlers Safe Dog Chew Toys?

Lab Breaks Tooth Chewing Antler

Bennie had a fractured tooth due to chewing antlers & nylon chews.

Reindeer antlers have become a cheap and popular chew item for sale at many pet stores. Dog owners, intrigued by this “natural” item, are purchasing them thinking they will probably be equally intriguing, healthy and entertaining for their dogs. However, what people don’t realize when purchasing, is they may also be setting their dog up for a trip to the vet dentist, as happened to Bennie.

Pet Tooth Fracture Case Due to Antler Chew

Bennie, a 2 year old Labrador Retriever, came to Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists when the owner noticed he seemed to be uncomfortable and in pain. When asking about Bennie’s chew toys and habits, the owners told us they typically offer antlers or nylon chew toys to Bennie. Upon oral examination, a complicated crown fracture of the upper fourth premolar was noted.

Dog Tooth Broken by Antler

Painful fracture of Bennie’s tooth.

A complicated crown fracture is defined as a fracture that exposes the center or pulp of the tooth. Once the pulp is exposed, the tooth is painful as the nerves are exposed. Eventually the tooth becomes infected and dies. After the tooth dies, it loses its sensitivity, but the infection will eventually spread to the root tip and this infection will cause chronic pain and can spread to the surrounding tissues. Often times these infections sadly go unrecognized until a large swelling develops under the eye.

Fortunately in this case, Bennie’s family recognized the problem early and promptly scheduled an appointment with us. Because of early diagnosis, the tooth was saved with root canal therapy and a crown was placed to preserve the function and strength of the tooth. Bennie’s long-term prognosis for keeping this important tooth is excellent, and another fracture is less likely now that his owners realize the impact of the antlers and nylon bones.

Pet Tooth Fractures and Infection

Many pet owners choose natural treats and toys for our pets such as antlers, chew hooves and hard-pressed rawhide – all with the best of intentions for their pet. However, from an oral health standpoint, pet owners must be careful not to introduce a chew toy that may cause tooth fractures resulting in dental pain and infection.

The tooth is a living structure with the pulp tissue inside. The pulp contains the nerves and vessels that extend through the dentin layer of the tooth. If the enamel and dentin is fractured off the tooth, the inside of the tooth can be exposed. The result is pain and infection in the tooth. If the pulp inside of the tooth is exposed, not only will pain result, but the tooth will require treatment. The only two treatment options are surgical extraction or root canal therapy.

Many chew toys that are intended for pets also have the potential for dental and gastrointestinal problems. Every dog use these chew toys differently and what can fracture a tooth in one dog, may not in the next. Some pets may chew appropriately; while others may break a chew toy quickly swallow it, resulting in a potential GI obstruction or chew too hard and fractured a tooth.    Watch your pet play or chew a new treat or toy. If your pet chews the toy very quickly and tries to swallow it before chewing completely, take the chew away and don’t offer it again. If the pet chews too aggressively and the tooth fractures, exposing the pulp, the tooth will require extraction (loss of function) or root canal therapy (additional expense). Ask yourself if these potential outcomes are worth the risk.

Pet Chew Toy Guidelines

The simplest guideline to follow is to consider whether you would hesitate chewing on the treat or toy yourself. If the answer is yes, it is likely to cause dental injury to your pet. The toy or treat should be soft enough to bend or have some “give” to it.

The list of excessively hard toys and chews includes:

  • antlers
  • bones
  • hard-pressed rawhides
  • hard nylon style bones
  • bully sticks.

What is an appropriate chew toy?

For dogs, pliable dental chews, and other toys with resilience will be less likely to fracture teeth. Some products are manufactured to reduce plaque and calculus and are safe for your pet. A comprehensive list of approved dental products can be found on the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s website.

How do I notice my pet has oral pain?

After a pet fractures a tooth, they do not stop eating and often will continue to play and do not appear painful. Some pets will stop playing with certain hard toys or may start chewing on the other side of the mouth. In the majority of cases, the injury will go unnoticed by the owner. This is why it’s important to inspect your pet’s mouth on a regular basis. Brushing your pet’s teeth daily will allow you to inspect your pet’s teeth at the same time. Remember, avoiding giving your pet hard treats and toys does not avoid tooth fractures completely, as many pets will pick up rocks, bite chain link fences or break teeth when colliding with another pet while playing.

Some teeth are hard to inspect, such as those in the lower jaw, far in the back of the mouth. Often times, these damaged teeth are only noted when the pet has professional dental cleaning including intra-oral dental x-rays under general anesthesia. Annual professional dental cleanings are recommended for most pets and will give an opportunity to inspect the entire mouth both above and below the gumline.

If you notice a fractured tooth, you should schedule an appointment with a veterinary dental specialist for an oral examination and treatment.

Cats Have Teeth Too!

Today we present two cases of cats, Lexi and Fellix, who were treated for broken canines at Veterinary Dental Specialties and Oral Surgery. Fractured teeth are typically a dog issue, but cats do break teeth as well.  In general, the canines are the most common tooth that is broken in cats.  One major difference for cats is that their root canal extends very close to the tip of the tooth.  This means that almost any fracture will cause direct root canal (nerve) exposure.

Continue reading “Cats Have Teeth Too!” »

Minnie the Cat

Treating Previously Unsuccessful Cat Jaw Fracture Repair

Minnie came to us after having had surgical care for injuries she previously sustained in a coyote attack.  She was originally treated at an outside surgical practice where the mandible (lower jaw) was fixed with a bone plate. Unfortunately, the occlusion (alignment) was off and which was causing pain and she would not eat. Another practitioner then extracted most of her teeth to alleviate the trauma and hopefully result in cessation of the clinical signs.  Sadly, both of these significantly invasive surgeries did not resolve the issue and she was still not eating. Continue reading “Treating Previously Unsuccessful Cat Jaw Fracture Repair” »

Treating Advanced Periodontal Disease in Dog with Heart Conditions & High Anesthesia Risk

Lucy, a sweet older dog, has had advanced periodontal disease for a long time.  The clients were well aware of the severity and how it was negatively affecting her health.  However, she also has a pretty significant heart problem.  This was so severe that her family vet was not willing to take a chance on putting her under anesthesia to take care of her teeth.  Sadly, the infection progressed to the point where her pet parent could tell she wasn’t feeling well. Continue reading “Treating Advanced Periodontal Disease in Dog with Heart Conditions & High Anesthesia Risk” »