Dog Tooth Infection Signs and Treatments

What are the symptoms of a dog tooth infection and are there any home remedies you can use to treat dog tooth infections or should you see the vet?

A dog smiling with his mouth open.
A dog smiling, showing his teeth and mouth. Photography by Eric Isselee / Shutterstock.

Just like people, dogs get toothaches and tooth infections. One of the most common reasons for a dog tooth infection is a tooth abscess, which is an enclosed pocket of infection. This occurs when bacteria gets into the root of a tooth. Tooth abscesses may happen because of periodontal disease (gum disease) or if your dog breaks a tooth. “If [your dog] breaks the tooth into the pulp, then the tooth dies very quickly,” says John Huff, D.V.M., FAVD, Dipl. AVDC, a board-certified veterinary dentist at VCA Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver, Colorado.

Your dog can break a tooth without you even knowing it. The most common culprit is chewing on objects that are too hard for your particular dog’s teeth, which could be common dog-chew items like tennis balls, deer antlers, pig’s ears and rawhide. Check with your veterinarian  for his recommendation on what chew items are best for your dog’s teeth. Dogs can also break their teeth through mouth trauma — for instance if they run into a door or get hit in the mouth with something.

Signs of a Dog Tooth Infection

What are the signs of a dog tooth infection?
What are the signs of a dog tooth infection? Photography ©alexei_tm | Thinkstock.

Even though a dog tooth infection is extremely painful, dogs are experts at hiding pain. They do this instinctually. A weak animal in the wild is a target for predators, so animals tend to mask any signs of pain, illness or injury. Even though your dog is a beloved pet and has nothing to fear in the safety of his home, these instincts run deep.

Often, a dog tooth infection comes with no signs at all. “Dogs don’t point to their face and say, ‘Hey, my tooth hurts,’” Dr. Huff says. “They still eat, they still drink. The drive to eat far outweighs any pain or infection they’re having. We see a lot of dogs with infected teeth every day that the owners don’t notice really anything.”

Subtle signs of a dog tooth infection include not wanting to eat dry food or hard treats, dropping pieces of food out of the mouth while eating, not chewing on a favorite toy, bad breath, not wanting the face or mouth touched or scratching the face or rubbing it on the floor.

With advanced dog tooth infections, you might see drooling, swelling around the eyes or a draining wound near the eyes. “When it finally does come to clinical signs and now they’re drooling or they stopped eating or there is a swelling of the face, that’s the very end stage of the problem and very late in the process,” Dr. Huff says. This means that your dog is in serious pain.

Are There Any Dog Tooth Infection Home Remedies?

Don’t try to treat a dog tooth infection at home. “All the brushing in the world doesn’t correct the infection,” Dr. Huff explains. Instead, make an appointment with your veterinarian right away.

Once your vet diagnoses your dog with a tooth infection, you generally have two options for treatment. The simplest and most cost-effective way to fix a dog tooth infection is to pull the tooth — also known as extraction. This is done under anesthesia. Your dog will feel much better once the infected tooth is out.

If you want to try to save the tooth, another option is a root canal, but dog root canals must be done by veterinary dentists who have the special skills and equipment required for this procedure. Root canals are more expensive than pulling the tooth, but your dog will get to keep his tooth, and the infection will be gone. If you want to explore that option, ask your regular vet for a referral to a veterinary dentist in your area.

Tell us: Has your dog ever had a tooth infection? What cause it? How did you treat your dog’s tooth infection?

Thumbnail: Photography by Eric Isselee / Shutterstock.

This piece was originally published in 2017. 

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41 thoughts on “Dog Tooth Infection Signs and Treatments”

  1. Stefanie Gutierrez

    I’ve been using sovereign silver bio active silver hydrosol immune support. It’s sold at Clark’s nutrition store.” It’s good for us humans also.”

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  3. My 11 year old portugese water dog/collie mix broke a tooth, got infected extremely painful. Took her to the vet and ultimately they extracted the tooth ($400), she was there 2 hours. After 5 weeks of healing she was doing much better so I attempted to brush her teeth gently with coconut oil and a soft brush, and noticed her very back upper molar has a blood pocket and green areas. I’m royally pissed because this clearly didn’t happen in 5 weeks. The vet had her knocked out and I find it hard to believe during an extraction, her other teeth weren’t examined. Utter malarkey! I am contacting the Ontario College of Veterinarians because this in my opinion is malpractice and a money grab.

    1. Took my dog to the vet had swollen face they told me abcess I left him there overnite they put him on intravenous fluids and antibiotics 1300 when I picked him up the next day he was worse his eye was popping out of his hear they told me he needed surgery to pull the tooth but there dentist was booked up for 2 months no other dentists around now my dog is abscessed again in pain and they want 2500 to pull the tootj

  4. its always pull the teeth antibiotics. thats the answer? natural alternatives. there is always a deeper reason for teeth gum issues. get to that and solve it from there. instead surgery and drugs? pay an arm and a leg to the vets. put toxic drugs in the dogs system. even antibiotics are given out like candy. . we need more natural homeopathic trained vets and holistic practitioners for dogs. heal the dogs body naturally for a change. TRUDOG sray is good. vitamin c for infection. boost the immune system.

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  9. My 4 y/o Old Scotch Collie just broke a molar (I think?) after gnawing on a piece of clothes line rope. He loves chewing clotheslinee but this time I noticed, he only chewed on his Left side. A week ago, his lower molar bled & I asked the Vet to check it out. She didn’t see anything unusal & said: “Just keep an eye”.
    Well, today his tooth split with what my own Dentist explained, is the blood supply & where the nerve root is.
    Now, I’m writng just because he’s been on Cytopoint, Apoquel & lately, Prednisone for extreme ear itching/pain…allergies. He’s been on these since he was a young 1yr old pup.
    I’ll ask the Vet to check the literature, but my suspicion is, the Apoquel or Cytopoint could be a culprit.
    So, Keep A Close Eye On Your Dog’s Teeth, when on these meds

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  23. I rub essential oils like TruDog gel me doggy dental gel on the gums and it keeps the teeth cleaner without brushing. It has peppermint oil, rosemary leaf oil, Thyme oil and neem oil. It smells great and keeps the teeth and gums healthy.
    Now I buy an essential oil blend for my own teeth and gums. No more gingivitus and my gums are now healthy too.

  24. My Beagle had a very BAD jaw bone infection under a back tooth that didn’t show up even when our vet examined her mouth during a routine checkup.

    Her symptoms were VERY bad breath and she went into the closet and hid sometimes. Those symptoms made it clear that she needed help.

    A more thorough mouth exam found the problem. A long series of antibiotics and brushing her teeth 2x/day eventually, like a miracle, cleared the infection. I continued the 2x/day brushings for a year because the jawbone was exposed and I wanted to make sure the infection wouldn’t return. I have since gone to brushing once a day.

    1. Which particular antibiotic? We just went through two weeks of Simplicef for what was believed to be an abscess, but my dog wasn’t showing signs of improvement with an even larger swollen area protruding from her face.
      I found some KEFLEX that was left over from a previous issue and have given her three doses. All of a sudden, her energy level is restored, she’s eating better etc. Here’s the rub, the vet is/was thinking that the swollen area protruding is a cancerous tumor which obviously wouldn’t be effected by antibiotics. I’m at a loss.

      1. My chawawa is very little and has breath that can kill a camel. His breath got worse as time went by. I’m a senior and can’t afford vet.
        Will kefex help and how much do I give him?

      1. Hi I have just come back from my Vets, my 12 yr old also has a heart murmur but is going to be knocked out next week as antibiotics will not cure it in the long term, the infection could go into the jaw and then its a lot harder to treat. I have no option at this point. But I do hope your Yorkie responds well to the treatment.

    2. thanks for giving me some hope my yorkie has a heart murmur so they can not put him out,but is just been put on antibiotics

    3. What did you use to brush her teeth with? This seems to be a reoccurring problem with my 12 yr old Beagle.

      Thank you in advance.

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