Give a Dog a Bone?

Give your dog a bone and without question they’ll run off to gnaw and chew for hours. But, next time you see those bones at the grocery or pet store, consider they may end up costing you much more than a few dollars. Dog bones have the potential to seriously damage your dog’s teeth, which can lead to an unexpected veterinary bill. The following video from Veterinary News Network, offers excellent information about the risks of letting a dog chew on bones.

Broken dog tooth - Vet Dentist

A fractured dog tooth is painful & must be treated.

While bones are not the only cause for fractured teeth, board certified veterinary dentists will agree it’s is a common cause for dogs who must be treated for broken teeth. “In most cases, broken teeth are caused by the significant biting force dogs can generate coupled with the items they  chew,” says Dr. Michael Peak, a vet dentist in Florida.

“For dogs, chewing on hard materials commonly causes broken or fractured teeth. The result is often a tooth fracture that extends into the pulp canal within the tooth,” says Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialist Dr. Chris Visser.

Since your dog can’t tell you about their pain, you may not initially realize your dog has a broken tooth – but you can be assured broken teeth are very painful for your pet. Dr. Dale Kressin, a Wisconsin Vet Dentist explains, “The anatomy, physiology and nervous system of our companion animals is incredibly similar to our own.  It is only logical to assume animals experience pain from fractured teeth as we do.”

Signs you may notice are your dog not wanting to eat hard treats or food or not being as playful as usual, however sometimes you may not notice anything at all. Maybe owners report that they didn’t notice any difference in their dog’s behavior until after treatment when they suddenly seem like a whole new dog. Regular pet oral exams and radiographs are vital to diagnose any problems in your pet’s mouth including broken teeth. Dr. Woodward, a veterinary dentist in Colorado says, “Waiting for the pet to show signs of pain, which hardly ever happens, can actually leave the pet in pain for years.

Can my dog’s broken tooth be repaired? Yes, there are options to repair a dog’s broken tooth. One option many pet owners are unaware of is that a Veterinary Dentist can provide endontic or root canal treatment for a dog’s broken tooth instead of extracting the tooth. “Depending on which tooth is extracted, it can be a significant loss for the pet,” says Washington Vet Dentist Dr. Allen Matson, “therefore often a better option is root canal therapy, which saves the dogs tooth.”

So, while it can be tempting to give your dog a bone, you can save your dog and your wallet the pain caused by a broken tooth.

Root Canal vs. Extraction of Dog or Cat Teeth

Broken Dog Tooth Needing Root Canal - Veterinary Dentistry

A broken dog tooth needing endodontic or root canal therapy.

Pet owners are often unaware that in some cases they have the option to choose veterinary endodontic treatment (root canal) as opposed to an extraction of a broken or dead tooth. This may sound strange and not necessary for a pet, but there are some things you might want to consider before opting to have a dog or cat’s tooth extracted without further evaluation from a veterinary dental specialist.

  1. Some teeth are more important including the pre-molars, back molars and canine teeth. Pre-molars and molars are very deeply rooted and extraction is painful as the roots must be extracted from the bone. The canine teeth are also extremely important and extraction of these may compromise the jaw bone or weaken nasal structure.
  2. Teeth are vital in your pet’s ability to chew effectively. When important chewing teeth are extracted the teeth don’t work together for both chewing and cleansing, which significantly increases the chances for future periodontal disease.
  3. Certain upper canine extractions may lead to the lip folding over the gum line, which in turn may be traumatized by the lower teeth hitting the lip while chewing.
  4. Certain teeth may have an abnormal root structure (dilaceration). This makes an extraction very difficult with potential complications from root fracture, inability to remove root tips, bone fracture and excessive bleeding.
  5. Excessive bleeding, root fracture, jaw fracture and lip trapping are all possible complications of extraction, especially for certain deep rooted teeth.
Radiograph x-ray of dog root canal - vet dentistry

Radiograph (X-ray) of endontic files in dogs tooth to prepare for fillings.

What does a root canal on a dog or cat involve? In short, one to two small holes are drilled in the tooth, infected pulp (nerves and vessels within the tooth) is removed, the inside of the tooth is cleaned, and filled with material that won’t support bacterial growth (infection).  The final step is the placement of a filling to prevent bacteria from entering the treated tooth. Following the root canal, a crown may be recommended to strengthen the treated tooth.

Pet root canals are not always recommended and there are certainly cases where an extraction is the optimal treatment for a particular dog’s or cat’s tooth. However, the only way to adequately assess the dead or broken tooth is with dental radiographs (x-rays). This provides a complete picture of both the tooth as well as the root and bone structure. Without an x-ray, a veterinarian would have no idea what lies below the tooth and to proceed with an extraction leaves the door open for numerous complications and costs to the pet owner.

Dr. Tony Woodward, DVM, AVDC discusses root canals in pets.

Expense is always a consideration, however, a root canal may not be much more cost than a surgical extraction of a tooth particularly in the case of larger teeth or those with complicated root structures. In addition, preservation of your pet’s tooth may prevent costs related to future periodontal disease or bone loss. A veterinary dentist will be able to provide you a thorough exam and detailed treatment plan with explanation of costs involved.

Root canal treatments are very successful and many times a far better solution than an extraction, which can be painful to the pet and involve significant bone loss. Board certified veterinary dentists have performed thousands of root canals on dogs, cats and even exotic animals. You can count on knowing that they will provide an accurate assessment and discuss your pet’s individual situation and whether saving the tooth with root canal therapy is an option.

Ask your local board certified veterinary dentist about root canal options for your dog or cat: