Dr. Visser’s Pet Dental Cases

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.

Tooth Resorption in an Adult Dog

Ruby, an 8 year old German Shepherd, presented to Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists for her annual professional dental assessment and cleaning. Full mouth intraoral radiographs were obtained under general anesthesia and a thorough examination was performed to evaluate all of Ruby’s teeth and gingiva. Significant tooth resorption affecting the crown of the left maxillary fourth premolar tooth (208) was found. Calculus accumulation prevented this lesion from being visible while Ruby was awake, but  significant damage to this tooth was present. Continue reading “Tooth Resorption in an Adult Dog” »

Oral Surgery Saves Dotti the Great Dane’s Life!

Dotti is a two-year-old, female spayed, Great Dane (figure 1) that was referred to Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists for treatment of a previously diagnosed oral squamous cell carcinoma.  The dog had a large, fast growing, mass on the rostral mandible that appeared about a month prior to presentation that was biopsied by the referring veterinarian.  The owners reported she seemed to be uncomfortable when eating. Continue reading “Oral Surgery Saves Dotti the Great Dane’s Life!” »

Surgical Treatment of a Compound Odontoma in Chow Puppy

A 10 month old Chow Mix presented to Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists for evaluation and treatment of an oral mass affecting the right maxilla in the region of the canine tooth. The canine tooth was not present on visual examination, however, numerous small tooth-like structures were observed protruding through the gingiva in this region. The owner reported an accident involving part of a couch landing on his head when he was a young puppy, but that this accident did not appear to result in any significant injury. Continue reading “Surgical Treatment of a Compound Odontoma in Chow Puppy” »

Tiger's fractured tooth before root canal treatment.

Tiger Tooth in the Zoo Pool, Means a Call to the Vet Dentist

Tiger at Phoenix Zoo

Orion is a Bengal Tiger who had a broken tooth needing veterinary dental treatment.

Recently veterinary dentists from Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists were called on by a zoo in Phoenix to examine a four year old male Bengal Tiger.  Zoo keepers were worried when they found a tooth floating in the swimming pool inside his enclosure. A missing tooth, may not seem like a big problem for a big cat, but zoo keepers know the importance of oral health for all animals, and left untreated, a missing or broken tooth could result in more complex oral health issues for the tiger later.

Closer examination by the zoo veterinarian confirmed the tiger had broken the crown of his upper canine tooth off near the gumline. Doctors and staff from Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists were called in to perform a root canal on the remaining tooth to relieve his pain and prevent infection in the tooth and root.

Under general anesthesia, root canal treatment was performed. The length of the remaining tooth and root was nearly three inches long. Performing the root canal treatment allowed the tiger’s remaining tooth structure to be preserved instead of having a major surgical extraction.

By the next day he was back to himself playing in his pool. The doctors advised him to be more careful jumping in an out of his pool from now on. You can see more great zoo dentistry cases from Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists here.



Unusual Dental Condition in a Savannah Kitten

Dr. Visser with Prince Romeo

Dr. Visser with Prince Romeo

“Prince Romeo” is a one year old, 21 pound, Savannah kitty. He came to Dr. Visser at Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists for a professional veterinary teeth cleaning and full mouth dental x-rays, under general anesthesia. Any pet dental cleaning should always be done under anesthesia, which allows for comprehensive exam, cleaning and radiographs (x-rays) to give a complete picture of what’s going on beneath the pet’s gumline.

Upon physical examination it was determined that Prince Romeo had Stage II periodontal disease.  Unfortunately the two upper molars had advanced periodontal disease and required extraction. It is fortunate we identified the periodontal disease early enough to treat and take steps to prevent future progression of the disease.

In addition, we identified a more unusual condition. Two of Prince Romeo’s maxillary upper fourth premolar teeth had three “denticles” (additional cusp tips) on the buccal aspect of the crowns.

Denticles on upper left premolar

Denticles on upper left premolar.

The surface area of the denticles on the left premolar tooth reduced and then a bondant was attached to protect the surface. The right premolar tooth required no treatment. Denticles  are not a normal finding and they are contributing to periodontal disease in this young cat. Both teeth will be monitored in six and in twelve months to determine if there is further treatment necessary.

Surface area reduced and bondant attached to protect the surface.

Surface area reduced and bondant attached to protect the surface.

K9 Officer Back in Action After Jaw Fracture

K9 Officer NikoNiko is a three-year-old Belgian Malinois canine police officer for the city of Mesa, Arizona. He incurred a jaw fracture during a bite training exercise and was brought to Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists for evaluation and treatment.

Niko’s injury was fracture of his bottom left jaw and because of the angle and location of the break, a titanium plate and a wire were required to stabilize the difficult fracture. You can view images of the stabilization process below.



Radiograph at post-op appointment. Fracture has completely healed.

Radiograph at post-op appointment. Fracture has completely healed.

Niko returned for a check up and for evaluation of how his jaw was healing. The fracture had completely healed and the wire that was used to stabilize the break was able to be removed. In Niko’s case the plate will remain in place.

Working police dogs must be in top condition to perform their duties. Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists is proud to care for many of these dogs and keep them in top shape for their jobs. Because of specialty veterinary dentistry treatment, the brave K9 Officer Niko will be out protecting the citizens of Mesa again!

Ryder Australian Shepherd

Cow-Kick to the Face Results in Severely Fractured Jaw

Ryder Australian Shepherd


Ryder, a seven year old Australian Shepherd, had the unfortunate accident of being kicked in the face by a cow.

Upon evaluation at Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists, it was determined that he had extensive trauma to his upper jaw, palate and teeth. Injuries included a maxillary fracture of the palatal bone (roof of mouth), soft tissue lacerations and several complicated crown fractures on his teeth.

The severity of these injuries could have permanently debilitated or even ended Ryder’s life. But, under the care of the Board Certified Veterinary Dental Specialists at Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists, Ryder’s complex injuries were treatable.

The first, and most vital part, of Ryder’s evaluation was to have a full set of digital veterinary dental radiographs, which enable the veterinary dentist to have a complete picture of the extent of injury to Ryder’s mouth and jaw. After radiographs, the appropriate treatment plan can be implemented. The soft tissue injuries were debrided and his nasal passage washed so it was free of debris and infection. After suturing of the soft tissue, the maxilla (upper jaw) was stabilized with an interdental composite and wire splint. Ryder’s splint will be left on for approximately two months at which point he’ll return to Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists for radiographs to confirm appropriate healing of the maxillary fracture.

Racee - Dog with Periodontal Disease & Root Canal

Acting Like a Puppy Again After Extractions & Root Canal

Racee - Dog with Periodontal Disease & Root Canal

Racee, Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists Patient.

Racee is 8 1/2 years old, but according to her owners has always been as energetic as a puppy. Recently, Racee’s owners noticed she wasn’t acting her usual playful self. Then they noticed a broken tooth in her mouth and decided to take her for an evaluation at Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists. Upon examination under veterinary anesthesia, it was discovered that in addition to the broken tooth, about a third of Racee’s mouth was infected with periodontal disease.

The veterinary dental treatment plan consisted of tooth extraction, root tip extraction and a root canal.

Seven of Racee’s teeth needed to be extracted because they had advanced periodontal disease. Periodontal disease in a pet’s mouth means that there is infection around the tooth that has caused bone loss, in this case leaving Racee’s teeth loose and unable to remain in her mouth.

In addition, a root tip was extracted due to surrounding infection. An infected root tip will cause pain to a pet, which we always keep a top concern in veterinary dentistry.

Root canal therapy was done on Racee’s lower canine because the tooth had an exposed pulp, which will lead to death of a pet’s tooth and cause an abscess. A dog’s lower canine has a very large root and gives the lower jaw a lot of strength, if the tooth is extracted the jaw can be weakened and possibly fracture. Saving the tooth with root canal therapy allowed us to keep Racee’s tooth in the mouth. Although the tooth is dead, the root canal allows it to remain functional, just as in human root canals.

After treatment, Racee’s family reported her being back to her playful self, acting like a puppy once again. Watch a video testimonial from Racee’s mom below.