Dogs + Dental & Oral Health

  • Gingivitis refers to inflammation of the gums. Stomatitis may involve the gums, tongue, inner surfaces of the lips, and/or the floor and roof of the mouth. Gingivitis may be caused by a bacterial infection from plaque on the teeth and is usually associated with poor oral hygiene. It can lead to more severe periodontal disease and tooth loss. Diagnosis and treatment are discussed. The prognosis for stomatitis varies depending on the pet, and tooth extractions may be required. A consistent homecare program and regular evaluation by your veterinarian will improve your dog's prognosis.

  • Bad breath (halitosis) is caused by bacteria, plaque, and tartar. Once halitosis occurs, professional veterinary oral prevention, assessment, and treatment is needed. Teeth affected by advanced periodontal disease need to be extracted. Reducing the accumulation of plaque, tartar, and resulting halitosis can be achieved by using VOHC-accepted products.

  • Dogs have four types of teeth: incisors, canines, premolars and molars. There are two types of malocclusion: skeletal and dental. Skeletal malocclusion results when an abnormal jaw length creates a malalignment of the teeth. A dental malocclusion occurs when the upper and lower jaw lengths are considered normal but there may be one or more teeth that are out of normal alignment. Skeletal malocclusions include mandibular distoclusion (Class 2 malocclusion), mandibular mesioclusion (Class 3 malocclusion) and maxillomandibular asymmetry. Dental malocclusions include rostral crossbite, caudal crossbite, linguoverted mandibular canines, and mesioverted maxillary canines.

  • There are many reasons why your dog might need oral surgery. Oral tumors or repair of jaw fractures are two conditions that may require surgery. Your veterinarian may refer your dog to a board-certified dentist, surgeon, or oncologist. Prior to your dog’s surgery, blood tests will be performed in order to prepare an anesthetic protocol suitable for you dog. Post-surgery, anti-inflammatory medications may be administered, as well as narcotic medications. Most dogs recover with minimal discomfort and will need to eat soft food until healing is complete.

  • There are many causes of oral swellings, including local trauma, infection, fluid accumulation and tumors. If you find an oral swelling in your dog’s mouth, book an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Some oral swellings can be painful to touch, so to protect yourself from being bitten, do not touch the swelling. Your veterinarian will perform diagnostic tests such as intraoral radiographs, blood tests, and tissue sampling. Treatment and prognosis will depend on the cause.

  • Fibrosarcomas are the third most common oral tumor in dogs and arise from the fibrous and connective tissues of the oral cavity. These tumors are very invasive locally and are often difficult to manage, Diagnosis is based on biopsy. Treatment involving surgery and radiation provide the longest survival times.

  • Oral melanomas are the most common malignant oral tumor in dogs. Melanomas usually present as a mass in the mouth and may be melanotic (pigmented) or amelanotic (non-pigmented). These tumors are both locally invasive and have a high tendency to metastasize to other organs. Full staging including CT scanning is recommended to determine the extent of the disease.

  • Like humans, benign and malignant tumors occur in dogs’ mouths. Peripheral odontogenic fibromas (POF) are the most common benign tumors while oral melanomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and fibrosarcomas are the most prevalent malignant tumors in dogs. Diagnosis may be performed via fine needle aspiration or biopsy. Spread to mandibular lymph nodes does occur. Fine needle aspiration of the lymph nodes is recommended when malignant tumors are suspected. Tumor staging including laboratory testing as well as CT imaging helps to plan therapy.

  • Occasionally, teeth in dogs do not erupt in the right location resulting in pain and poor function. The options include orthodontic appliances to move the teeth, extraction, or crown amputation with restoration. Many veterinarians are comfortable delivering orthodontic care for dogs. Your veterinarian may seek the advice of a board-certified veterinary dental specialist ( for advice or referral.

  • As in humans, dogs have two sets of teeth. Puppies have 28 deciduous teeth and adult dogs have 42 permanent teeth. By the time a puppy reaches 6 to 7 months of age, he will have all of his adult teeth. Ideally, the baby tooth associated with that permanent tooth falls out. Sometimes, the permanent tooth erupts alongside the baby tooth, known as a persistent tooth. A persistent tooth occurs when the tooth root of a deciduous tooth is either incompletely resorbed or it did not resorb at all, and as a result does not fall out. This causes the permanent tooth to erupt at an abnormal angle or in an abnormal position. The end result is often crowding or malposition of the tooth (or teeth), causing a malocclusion. Early extraction in these cases will usually allow the adult teeth to move into their proper positions and prevent further malocclusion problems. If you notice any persistent teeth, take your dog to your family veterinarian as soon as possible for an oral examination.