Help! My Dog Has A Lump On The Face

Updated February 19, 2021

Dogs can get all kinds of lumps and bumps, some serious, some not. That’s why I’ve previously written a guide to dog skin lumps with pictures. Just click on the picture to visit.

lumps on dogs
A gallery of dog lumps

However, there’s one very particular swelling that I haven’t talked about even though it’s important, common and easy to recognise.

It’s the tooth root abscess.

An abscess is a pocket of infection that forms a hot, firm swelling anywhere in the body. They’re well-known, for example, as lumps under the skin of cats after fighting. A tooth root abscess in dogs, however, usually has very specific signs:

  • A soft swelling below the eye that comes up quickly
  • Tenderness, pain and lethargy
  • An infected wound below the eye (pictured below)
dog tooth infection

Click here for other causes of lumps and sores on the face.

Tooth root infections can occur with any teeth, but a lump or abscess seldom forms elsewhere. For example, the picture shows an infected root we found last week during a routine scale and polish. Infection, but no lump.

There’s no reason they can’t also occur in cats, but for unknown reasons, we rarely see them.

Causes Of A Dental Abscess

Tooth root abscesses mostly occur in one of two ways:

  1. As an end result of years of progressive gum disease
  2. When a tooth is fractured and the pulp cavity is exposed

The video shows what a tooth fracture looks like. It also shows how the abscess isn’t always easy to find. These teeth should either have root canal surgery or be removed, as this one was.

dog face sore
burst tooth root abscess

The dog in the pictures both at the start and here are good examples of an abscess caused by gum problems, or periodontal disease to call it by its correct name.

The first is an ex-breeding dog, and clearly never had a moment’s effort put into his oral hygiene. He’s been rescued now and will have dentistry just as soon as the infection is under control.

The second is a very old dog whose teeth just deteriorated with age. I told both owners that dentistry will not only cure their abscesses, but also make them feel the best they’ve been for a long time.

Preventing Tooth Loss

Teeth that get this bad can usually only be removed but it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you start a young dog with the effective ways to clean teeth, your old dog can still have a full healthy mouth. For example, the picture is from my 14-year-old and shows what a lifetime of raw bone feeding can look like.

bone tooth wear
Black gums are normal in dogs, by the way

But before doing any of these methods, consult your vet. Once teeth start going bad, most preventative options won’t work without dentistry first. Even worse, they’ll hurt.

Related: Causes Of Lumps In The Mouth | Reasons Why Dogs Teeth Need Removal

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.

10 Replies to “Help! My Dog Has A Lump On The Face”

  1. My 16 week old pup has a small moveable lump in either cheek. They have only appeared over the last few days, since she has started losing her baby teeth. Are these part of her teething? Her face is slightly swollen.

    1. Hi Lindsey. There’s nothing like that associated with teething so get your vet to take a look. However, anything symmetrical is rarely very sinister except possibly enlarged lymph nodes.

  2. Our German Shepherd had an eye bump that we thought was a tick. It’s been there for about a year. Now it’s growing rapidly to look like an elongated skin tag. If it keeps growing it will hinder his sight and off to the vet he goes. He’s currently on steroids and thyroid meds for separate medical reasons. Could those have contributed to the growth of this bump?

  3. My dog was diagnosed with an abscesses tooth after a bubble under her eye ruptured. We have her on antibiotics until her surgery but my quest is regarding the facial skin ruptured…her hair seems to be hardened in what I believe is a scab? I just don’t know how to help the wound breath or instructions to a groomer regarding this area on her face.

    1. Hi Karen. Most of these wounds heal with a small scar but I have seen a few that remain quite prominent. There’s not much you can do except local bathing plus antibiotics and treatment of the underlying tooth.

  4. My 11 year old had to have a major tooth extraction. – I knew when I saw the lump Everything went great & she’s perfect but the lump never went away. I thought maybe scar tissue. Now I’ve squeezed a bit, it doesn’t hurt her and there’s watery blood. Still a bit of lump there because she was getting annoyed. Think it’s a problem?

    1. Hi Elle. The main question is whether there could be another tooth contributing to the abscess or even root fragments remaining from the original tooth (both are very unlikely). However it is also very unusual for an abscess to remain once the tooth has been removed completely so it’s hard to say what might be happening.

  5. The pictures of bumps by the eye and puss coming out from the face under the eye is caused by an abscess in the tooth/root/gums?

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