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Untreated Malocclusions Create Painful Damage for 9 Year Old Bassett Hound

Dopey, a 9 year old male Bassett Hound had undergone regular dental cleanings but his owner was told there were not any significant concerns, despite the fact that he had a class II (Overshot) bite.  One of his veterinarians early in his life noted the malocclusions and lesions on the palate but said it “probably wouldn’t cause any future issues”.  After a cleaning and assessment at the start of last month, it was suggested he might have an oral nasal fistula and he was referred to Veterinary Dental Specialties and Oral Surgery.

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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.

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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” »

Fractured Jaw in French Bulldog Puppy

This is Isabelle, a three-month-old French Bulldog puppy who suffered a broken jaw after being bit by a housemate. She was in significant oral pain and had moderate bleeding upon presentation.  She was referred to Veterinary Dental Specialties and Oral Surgery.  She was diagnosed the fracture and  scheduled for immediate surgery.

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Fractured Jaw Repair in Small Dog

This is Sugar who suffered a broken jaw due to advanced periodontal disease. She had been seen at her family vet after being involved in a dog fight.  He had sedated Sugar to fully evaluate the fracture and had extracted the very loose molar in the area. Once he realized the jaw was fractured, he referred her to Veterinary Dental Specialties and Oral Surgery for care.

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Ask the Vet Dentist: What Things are Bad for My Dog to Chew On?

All of us who are doting pet parents love to buy new chew toys or treats for our dogs. We wander up and down the aisle of our favorite pet store or browse online for fun new toys we know will get tails wagging. But are there dangers lurking in among all of those items aimed at offering hours of chewing entertainment for our dogs. Continue reading “Ask the Vet Dentist: What Things are Bad for My Dog to Chew On?” »

External dental photograph showing the small entrance wound (white arrow).

Treatment for Rowdy After Accidental Gunshot Wound to the Jaw

Rowdy is a 2 year old boxer who enjoys life roaming on a few acres outside town. One night, he sustained an accidental close range gunshot wound to the jaw; the shell entered through the cheek of the lower left jaw, passed through the mandible and along the tongue and exited the mouth and lodged under the skin of the right front shoulder. Continue reading “Treatment for Rowdy After Accidental Gunshot Wound to the Jaw” »

Upper Jaw Fracture Repair for Puppy

Cute little Layla was attached by another dog which broke out part of her upper jaw.  Initially, her owners thought things looked ok from the outside, but upon evaluation by Dr. Niemiec, it turned out the damage was fairly extensive. Layla had severely fractured her jaw, leaving damage to her puppy teeth as well as her un-erupted adult teeth. Continue reading “Upper Jaw Fracture Repair for Puppy” »

Puppy’s Impacted Molar

Pearl, an eight month old Westie came for a visit when her owners noticed she had missing teeth. Upon evaluation and thorough veterinary dental x-rays, Pearl was diagnosed with hypodontia, (persistent primary teeth) and impacted right mandibular molar.

The condition required complete extraction the impacted molar and third molar above.

Extraction of the impacted tooth was elected to prevent any possible future complication such as dentigerous cyst formation. Dentigerous cysts can be extremely destructive to the bone and adjacent teeth, and may even result in jaw fracture.

The third molar required extraction in order to access and extract the impacted second molar. Left in place, an impacted tooth may also result in damage (eg resorption) to adjacent teeth. In this case, the impacted tooth was thought to put the first molar at increased risk of disease, pain, or infection.