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Dog Tooth Abscess – 5 Things You Need to Know

A dog tooth abscess happens when bacteria invade the tissue below a broken tooth.

Signs of an impending tooth abscess include swelling around one eye, pawing at the face, rubbing one side of the face onto the floor or over furniture and even favoring one side of the mouth while eating.

Dogs develop tooth abscesses the same way people do, through injury or trauma.

Tooth damage occurs easily on dogs who chew hard bones, antlers, ice cubes, or very hard toys.

Dog tooth abscesses are painful and can lead to serious infection.
dog with a broken tooth

Once the gum tissue below the tooth enamel is exposed, the area is vulnerable to bacterial infection. Infection soon develops in the tooth’s root causing swelling and pain.

This post will help you identify a dog tooth abscess and what to do about it.

Dental work for dogs is fairly expensive.

This post will help guide you through some of the costs and the best way to keep those costs down.

1. How to Identify a Dog Tooth Abscess – Signs & Symptoms

In dogs, the tooth most likely to develop an abscess is the 4th upper premolar.

This tooth has the largest root and is known as the carnassial tooth.

Carnassial teeth are responsible for cutting into food. Unfortunately, when used for cutting into toys or bones they can become damaged.

The following symptoms may become noticeable long before your dog shows any signs of pain.

a. Bad Breath

Dogs are not known for minty-fresh breath. However, if you notice a sudden foul odor coming from your dog’s mouth, it could be the first sign of an infection.

b. Under-Eye “Pimple”

Sometimes a dog tooth abscess looks nothing like you’d think it would. Dog owners often discover a small “pimple” beneath the dog’s eye.

It could be big, small, draining fluid, or doing nothing at all.

Once the veterinarian sees that, he/she will have a look inside your dog’s mouth for signs of a tooth abscess.

This happens because the roots become infected and that pocket travels up under the dog’s eye.

Dog owners can easily mistaken this for an eye infection or irritation.

This is because the tissue around the eye is being affected by the root infection below the surface. The tissue around the eye can become red, inflamed, teary, and may appear sore.

c. Look for Redness & Swelling 

If safe to do so, gently pry your dog’s mouth open and have a look at the gums, particularly in the back. If a dog tooth abscess is forming, you may notice redness and swelling.

If your dog won’t allow you to look inside his/her mouth, you could try to gently rub your fingers up and down the outside jaw line. Be very careful. Dogs in pain could bite.

If your dog feels any sensitivity, he/she will pull or turn their head away.

Left untreated, a tooth root abscess can evolve into a serious infection.

d. Pawing and Dragging the Area

Dog’s with tooth discomfort might paw at the area, drool, or drag his/her face across the floor or over furniture.

2. The Making of a Dog Tooth Abscess

Once a dog has damaged a tooth, the root becomes vulnerable to infection as the gums begin to pull away from the damaged tooth.

With tooth decay, the first process is the development of tartar.

Tartar is a hard mixture of food particles, saliva, and bacteria. Only a professional with the proper tool can remove tartar from a dog’s teeth.

Traumatic injury to the teeth or gums leave the dog vulnerable to tooth root abscess.

Once the gums begin to pull away from the tooth, small air pockets form.

The dog’s white blood cells spring into action and send a swell of white blood cells to the area to “fix” the problem.

Unfortunately, those white blood cells create the formation of pus.

3. Should I Brush my Dog’s Teeth?

Ideally, you should begin brushing your dog’s teeth between the ages of 8 and 12 weeks. Initially, the idea is to simply let your puppy get used to the sensation.

Make sure to only buy dog formulated toothpaste.

This is because human grade toothpaste contains ingredients that are harmful to dogs.

In addition, canine toothpaste has a special formulation designed to adequately brush a dog’s teeth.

When your dog is still a puppy, simply put a dab of dog-formulated toothpaste on the tip of your finger and gently rub the teeth and gums.

4. Quality Dental Products Could Save You Thousands

It’s not too late to start using quality dental products for your dog. Here are a few that I highly recommend for everyday use:

TruClens Dental Wipes

Chew Toy Tooth Cleaner

TropiClean Plaque Prevention

Advanced Plaque & Tartar Safe Water Additive

Dog Dental Care Kit

The Big Winner of Dog Dental Health Care Is…

TropiClean Plaque Prevention

4. How Much Is a Professional Dental Cleaning For Dogs?

The cost of professional dog dental cleaning will vary depending on how bad your dog’s teeth are. 

You can, however, expect to be between $200 and $500, depending on the clinic. 

The cost may be higher if the procedure is performed by a canine dental specialist or not. 

Shop around and make sure to ask what’s included in the price. Some clinics may itemize everything. For that reason, you might only get a partial quote.

As a dog owner, you have a right to shop around for the best prices.

5. Are There Any At-Home Treatments for a Dog Tooth Abscess?

If the dog 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.

REMEMBER: The following suggestions are for use on the outside of the body – not in the dog’s mouth.  Obviously, these will only work if the abscess is visible from the outside (a lump or wound).

Salt Water is Cheap and Effective

Rinse the visible lump with a mixture of salt and water. Use about 1 tablespoon of salt per cup of water.  You could use a syringe to wash the fluid over the area, or gently squeeze a face cloth over the area. Dab the area dry.

Topical Cream for Dog Abscess

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. Neosporin (Trademark) is one example.

Prevent the Dog From Irritating the Abscess

Even if your dog can’t physically lick the tooth abscess, they can still paw at it or drag it across the floor or furniture. 

This is their way of trying to relieve the symptoms. Unfortunately, those behaviors only introduce bacteria into the abscess and compound the pain. 

The tried-and-true way of keeping your dog from irritating that abscess is with an Elizabethan collar. 

 I’ve seen people use a t-shirt (tight fitting) on their dogs after surgery, but this won’t work for an abscess. 

The veterinary clinic may have them to rent or buy.  You can also shop for one online. 

Use a Warm Compress for a Dog Abscess

Use a warm (not hot) face cloth 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.

6. Should my dog have a root canal or a tooth extraction?

If cost is a concern, you’re going to want to go with a tooth extraction. At this point, you’ve already paid for the dental examination, cleaning, x-rays, antibiotics, etc. 

The cost to remove a large molar is about $135.  

A root canal is much more involved and costs a lot more money.  Instead of hundreds of dollars, it could be thousands. 

Dog dental specialists will want to save the dog’s tooth at all costs. Your wallet, however, may have other ideas. 

At the end of the day, it’s important to note that dogs adapt very easily. One missing tooth isn’t going to threaten your dog’s quality of life. 

Getting a root canal solves the problem for now, but there’s nothing to say that another abscess won’t form.

There have been instances of people choosing multiple root canals for their dogs only to end up having the tooth extracted.

7. Is it True That Abscesses Are Extremely Painful?

An abscessed tooth is extremely painful. Complications can affect your dog’s health and well-being. 

Always call a licenced veterinarian and ask the office if you you can administer Aspirin, or some other over-the-counter pain relief for a dog tooth abscess.

Never stop an already prescribed treatment or alter it in any way. 

Numb the Pain of the Affected Tooth

Use a little bit of ice or a topical solution to numb the area. 

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.

Provide Good Quality Soft 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.


At the end of the day, you’re going to have to decide on the best treatment option for your dog. A dog tooth abscess will not get better without treatment.

Abscesses are not like a cut or wound where the body eventually heals itself.  Bacteria cause the site to swell and that’s what we call an abscess. 

At this point, your dog needs antibiotics and either a tooth extraction or a root canal.  

Don’t let the veterinarian or anyone else pressure you into getting the more expensive root canal. 

I want to thank you for taking the time to read my post.

Please feel free to leave comments, or contact me directly at: [email protected]

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