When a dog has mouth or tooth pain, it can be a little more difficult to diagnose or even tell that they are in pain. There may be some obvious signs like reluctance to eat and blood on chew toys, but some are not so obvious. You also usually aren’t checking your dog’s mouth for receding gum lines. It’s imperative to be familiar with signs of mouth pain, as certain mouth disorders can lead to even more serious conditions as things like plaque enter the bloodstream. Mouth pain in dogs should never be taken likely and should be addressed right away with your veterinarian.
1. Be Familiar With Your Dog's Mouth
Any being that has teeth is susceptible to having broken or fractured teeth, and it’s also possible to have gum disease, as well. Dogs are actually five times more likely to develop gum disease than humans for a variety of reasons. The first being that dogs’ mouths happen to be more alkaline, therefore it encourages plaque to develop. Plus, most dogs don’t brush their teeth on a regular, daily basis like humans do.
Plaque is developed from things like food waste, saliva, cells from the mouth lining, oral bacteria, and their by-products. When this plaque builds up, the bacteria continue to multiply. At the point that bacteria starts to multiply, a dog’s mouth will mobilize cells to help fight the invasion, to which those cells and bacteria will continue to cause both inflammation and destruction. As this happens, bone is destroyed, which then leads to tooth loss…and pain.
2. Know That Dogs Don’t Always Show Mouth Pain
Dogs have a habit of not telling us when their mouth hurts. Even on top of having a condition like a cracked tooth or periodontal disease, dogs may still continue eating like normal and being their happy, go-lucky selves. Overall, they might seem like the same dog you always know and love.
Dogs have evolved over time to hide chronic pain, as their natural animal instinct is to not show signs of weakness, which includes being in pain. More often than not, the #1 sign of periodontal disease in dogs is no sign at all.
3. Be Aware of The Signs of Advanced Dental Problems
Once a mouth disorder has progressed, the signs will usually start to become more noticeable as there’s no way to hide them. These signs include:
- Red or bleeding gums
- Teeth that are discolored, broken, loose or rotten
- Blood on a chew toy
- Bad breath
- Lumps in the mouth
- Vocalizing when they yawn or eat
- Chewing on one side of their mouth
- Loose teeth
- Either Ropey or bloody saliva
- Head shyness
- Trouble picking up food
- Nasal discharge and sneezing (this is due to bone loss between the nasal and oral cavity from advanced gum disease)
4. Keep Up With Oral Health
Maintaining your dog’s oral health is the #1 way to make sure they don’t develop periodontal disease or another oral-related condition. Here’s how to do that:
- Regular Teeth Brushing: One of the best ways to ensure the prevention of gum or periodontal disease is by regularly brushing your dog’s teeth. Some dogs may be predisposed, so this can at least slow the progression. It may take some patience and practice, but you can learn more about how to brush your dog’s teeth in our blog or check out this helpful video. You can use dog toothpaste that usually has flavors like peanut butter or chicken!
- Oral Examinations: A vet is really the only one who can determine if your dog is having mouth problems. By having an annual oral examination, they can take oral x-rays, examine the gum line, their teeth, and even do a full cleaning under anesthesia. When it comes to these professional cleanings, they should only be done by a vet under anesthesia so they can do things like removing callus and tarter around the gum line, take out dead tissue, remove rotting teeth (if needed) and check for any pockets around their teeth.
- High-Quality Dog Food: Your dog may benefit from a “dental diet” which is usually a diet consisting of additives to help plaque from hardening or even dried foods to help scrub their teeth when they chew. Consult your vet if they think this is right for your pup.
- Dedicated Chew Time: Not all dog toys are safe just because they are sold in stores. Toys that are actually beneficial to your dog and won’t break their teeth include hard, rubber toys, or even thinner treats that bend.
5. Examine Your Dog’s Teeth On a Regular Basis
Just like with any other part of your dog, it’s important to keep an eye out for any changes in their mouth. While some things can really only be seen by a vet, there are certain parts you can easily identify.
- Check for unusually bad breath
- Look for teeth that may be loose, broken or discolored
- Watch for changes in eating habits
- Check their water bowl and chew toys or blood
- If they usually get their teeth brushed, be alert if they start to resist
- Check for lumps around or in their mouth or swelling
If you suspect that your dog is suffering from a dental condition or disease, please consult your veterinarian or find a dental specialist in our specialist directory.