Updated August 18, 2020
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.
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)
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:
- As an end result of years of progressive gum disease
- 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.
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.
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.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story!
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