Dog’s Tooth Abscess – FAQ’s

The minute my dog is sick or in pain, my carefully planned budget goes out the window.  We both know veterinarian bills are expensive, and if you’re reading this right now you’re probably hoping for advice on treating your dog’s tooth abscess at home.

Unfortunately, this is one you may need to dig out your wallet for.  The risk of leaving a bacterial infection unchecked can enable the bacteria to spread through the bloodstream to vital organs like the lungs, heart, kidney and joints.

A dog tooth abscess takes time to develop, and by the time you notice the problem, it’s already become a serious infection. By now, the gums are inflamed and extremely sore. You’ve probably a few of the clinical signs noted below.

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  • favoring the tooth by chewing on the other side of his mouth
  • scratching at the area
  • swelling around the eyes
  • wincing or whining when eating


Are there any home treatments I can try for my dog’s tooth abscess?

If the abscess is small, and your dog is still eating and drinking, there are a few home treatments you can try. That said, these treatments should really only be used as a temporary measure until you’re able to get your dog into the veterinarian clinic.

Depending on your geographic location, you might be lucky enough to have access to an emergency clinic. Not everyone has that luxury. I live in a small town with a veterinarian hospital that doesn’t open on weekends or holidays.

If this is your situation, you could try he following things to ease some of the dog’s pain and distress.

  •   Salt Water is Cheap and Effective

Rinse the wound gently with a mixture of salt and water (about 1 tablespoon of salt per cup of water). Gently tap the abscess dry.

  •  Topical Anti-Bacterial Cream

Follow  up with a topical anti-bacterial cream. There are different over-the-counter options available that would be the same types you would use for a cut or abrasion.

  •  Prevent the Dog From Licking the Site

Buy or borrow an Elizabethan collar (they look like lamp shades) to prevent him from licking or chewing the area. That will give the wound some time to heal. If, however, the dog manages to lick some of the salve do not worry.

  • Use a Warm Compress

Use a warm (not hot) facecloth or towel several times a day for five to ten minutes (or as long as the dog will tolerate it) at a time.  This will help to bring blood flow to the area which will aid in healing.

The following video is courtesy of YouTube and illustrates one way to provide natural oral care.


How Did My Dog Get An Abscessed Tooth?

The reality is that a large number of dogs over the age of 4 years old are diagnosed with periodontal disease each year in the United States.  When I was a kid, my parents didn’t brush the dog’s teeth. Of course, that was a really long time ago!  Today, we know better. We’re smart and we’re better informed.

There’s a whole chain of events that lead to an abscessed tooth, most of which you wouldn’t normally notice. It’s only when you see the swelling and witness the dog’s pain that you realize there’s a problem.

You’ve probably seen a number of television ads warning us about tartar buildup, plaque, and tooth decay.  Well, it’s no different for our dogs.  Food particles, saliva, and bacteria mix together and form a sticky substances known as plaque.

If the plaque isn’t effectively cleaned off the tooth, it hardens into tartar. That hard mess invites more bacteria to join the party and before you know it, the gums have come loose from the tooth.

Once the gums start to pull away from the tooth, small air pockets form. The dog’s immune defense; namely, white blood cells, spring into action and send a swell of white blood cells to the area. Unfortunately, it’s those white blood cells that create pus. The pus fills the air pockets and causes swelling. That’s when we generally notice that the tooth has become abscessed.


Should I Bring My Dog to The Veterinarian?

My advice?  Yes. The only thing that’s absolutely going to prevent that bacteria from swimming through the dog’s bloodstream are antibiotics. There’s just no getting around it.  Even in the best case scenario where the bacteria doesn’t travel, your dog is still going to be in a lot of pain and that pain is going to impact his/her ability to eat a healthy diet and will lessen the dog’s quality of life.

THE GOOD NEWS is that you can start to make changes the minute your dog’s abscess is healed. It’s not too late to begin a regular dental routine that’s both inexpensive and EASY.

IMPORTANT: Only start this routine after all signs of the dog’s tooth abscess is gone

  • Get a toothbrush.

You can use a soft baby toothbrush or a small child’s toothbrush on a small dog.  My dogs are quite large and I use regular adult (soft bristled) tooth brushes that seem to work just fine.  There are, of course, specially designed dog toothbrushes available at the local pet store.

The other option is a device that you use over your finger to clean your dog’s teeth.

Experiment with what works best and stick with that.

  • Get Dog Formulated Toothpaste

Never use regular toothpaste on your dog. It irritates the dog’s gums and tummy and could make your dog sick.  Instead, purchase a toothpaste specially formulated for dogs.

My two dogs (a pit-mix and a golden lab) LOVE the taste of pet-store toothpaste. They slurp it off the toothbrush before I can get it into their mouths. It’s actually quite entertaining.

This is How I Brush My Dogs’ Teeth

Since both dogs are in the 70 pound range, I sit down on the floor with them. The lab prefers to lay on her side, and the pit bull mix likes to sit up tall.   For the sitting dog, I wrap one arm around his back for support and use the other hand to guide the toothbrush.

Your dog won’t keep his mouth open so you’re going to have to fish around in his mouth.  Go easy and try not to jab the cheek or gums.

When my dog opens and closes his mouth, I take quick looks inside to make sure I’m hitting all the right spots.  It does get easier the more familiar you become with the process.


Is a tooth extraction a good option?

There was a time when the only treatment option was extraction in which the tooth and the root were completely removed. If your dog’s abscess is severe, the veterinarian may still suggest it as an option.


Is there anything I can do to ease my dog’s pain?

The easy answer is yes, you can administer Aspirin at 10 mg per pound of the dog’s body weight. HOWEVER, it’s important that you don’t give Aspirin if your dog is currently taking any other medication; specifically Prednisone or any other anti-inflammatory.  This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter purchases, or holistic interventions.

My opinion is that it’s better to be safe than sorry. If your dog is on other medication, please continue that course of treatment.  Never stop an already prescribed treatment or alter it in any way.


If Aspirin isn’t an option, you can use a little bit of ice to numb the area, or a topical solution to numb the area.  NOTE:  If the abscess is really bad, the dog isn’t likely going to let you stick your finger anywhere near the gum line.  You could try putting a little bit of the gel directly on the wound/abscess, but again – be gentle and be careful. This may or may not work.

You or I might mix a solution of salt, water, and baking soda to gargle and spit out. Of course, the dog’s not going to do that. The best you can do is treat the external abscess with some of the suggestions mentioned above.

  • FOOD

Another temporary option might be to supply a good quality soft food to the dog. This will eliminate having to bite down on the area and might relieve some of the pain.  At the very least, your dog should be able to get some nutrients until you’re able to get professional help.


I’m afraid there’s just no way around the expense, but – theoretically – if you can prevent major dental disease from happening in the first place, you’re going to save yourself a big chunk of change in the future.


How does the veterinarian clean a dog’s teeth?

Having your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned involves anesthesia. This protects the medical staff from bites and ensures your dog gets the best possible polish and cleaning.


Isn’t this going to be expensive?

Unfortunately, the initial treatment and professional cleaning might cause a dent to the wallet. However, regular at home cleaning combined with dental treats will go a long way in preventing oral disease in your dog. The most effective and cost-saving method is to adopt a regular routine of oral health care.I want to thank you for taking the time to read my post. Please feel free to leave comments, or contact me directly at: