Symptoms of Tooth Infections in Dogs

We know that as a pet owner, you are very attentive to your animal’s needs—but many pet parents are unable to tell when their pets may be experiencing medical issues because animals are very adept at hiding pain. Tooth infections are one of the most common health issues seen in pets, but it can be hard for owners to identify early, as there are rarely any symptoms until the disease or infection is advanced. Make sure you know the symptoms of tooth infections in your dog so that the problem may be solved sooner.

How do I know if my dog has a tooth infection? 

Because dental disease in dogs can be silent, with no common outward signs or symptoms until it is more severe, a pet can suffer from chronic pain, eroded gums, and even tooth loss without an owner even being aware there was ever a problem.. 

How can you tell if your dog has a tooth infection? Knowing the biggest signs and symptoms can help you to know when it’s time to take your dog to a veterinary dentist, and save your pet from unnecessary pain and suffering. 

Similar to human dental issues, your dog’s tooth infection will likely cause him to be in a lot of pain. However, he can’t communicate his discomfort as humans can, and many dogs won’t outwardly show signs of pain

The reason pets tend to avoid outwardly showing discomfort is because they instinctively think that to show pain is to show weakness. Even though they are likely not prey to any predators in your domestic home environment, this instinct remains strong. 

Occasionally owners do notice some changes that might signal the presence of dental disease. Here are 3 possible signs you can see with tooth infections in dogs:

1. Lack of Appetite

Some dogs tend to have a decreased appetite or prefer only soft food when dealing with painful dental issues, because it may be painful for them to eat. In addition to a decrease in appetite, dogs may also eat their food more slowly to avoid pain or discomfort with chewing. Some dogs, though, will eat through the pain, due to their strong survival instincts. 

Another sign to look out for is your dog only eating on one side of their mouth or only using one side of their mouth to play with toys. This can help you to identify where the problem area may be. If they are chewing more on one side of their mouth, there will be more calculus (tartar) on the side of the mouth they are not using.  It is easy to pull the lips back to compare the amounts of calculus on the larger back teeth on each side. If there is more calculus on one side, there is probably a painful problem on that side.

2. Jaw Swelling

While the vast majority of abscessed teeth never show any sign of swelling in that area, facial swelling is occasionally seen in infections of the teeth in upper jaws. If you notice upper jaw swelling in your dog, you should make an appointment to be seen by a veterinary dentist as soon as possible. If left untreated, infections of the upper jaw may spread into the nasal passages. 

3. Bad Breath 

This is the most common sign of dental disease noted by many pet owners who have dogs with dental disease. Dental infections can cause halitosis, or bad breath because the types of bacteria change as dental infection progresses. The bacteria involved in more severe dental disease are much more destructive and smell a lot worse!

Regular Dental Cleanings are Key to Avoid Tooth Infections in Dogs

Catching infections early and bringing your pet in for treatment is the best way to keep your dog from experiencing any unnecessary pain. You should regularly check your dog’s mouth for any signs of infection, and schedule regular appointments to have their teeth cleaned at Montana Pet Dentistry and Oral Surgery every 12 months. Smaller dogs tend to need dental attention more often than larger dogs and might even benefit from cleanings every 6 months. This can vary tremendously from individual to individual and we can help guide you in the cleaning interval appropriate for your pet. Regular dental cleanings are the most effective way to prevent tooth infections from occurring in the first place. 

Veterinary Dentist in Montana

Dr. Tony Woodward is the only board-certified veterinary dentist in all of Montana and is highly experienced in treating dental disease—and the good news is that you don’t need a referral to have your pet seen by Dr. Woodward. If you suspect that your dog has a dental infection, all you need to do is call our Bozeman office and schedule an appointment. Dr. Woodward is on-site here in Bozeman full-time to handle all of your dog’s dental needs.


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