How can you tell if your pet has toothache? Pete the Vet on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show

To listen to the podcast discussing toothache in pets, click on the play button at the foot of this page

Toothache in pets

Toothache is far more rare in animals than in humans.

Signs of toothache in pets

Pets cannot verbalise their discomfort, so owners need to observe their behaviour carefully. Examples of signs of toothache include:

  • Changed behaviour
  • General dullness
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Initially hungry but refusing to eat
  • Eating cautiously, or using only one side of the mouth

Causes of toothache

The cause of toothache is exposure of the inside of the tooth (the pulp cavity) where there are nerve fibres that are exquisitely sensitive (think about the dentist poking a probe into a cavity in a tooth during an oral examination).

1. Tooth decay

Cats are prone to developing a particular type of dental decay, called Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions (FORL). The cause is unknown, but it is not linked to sugar as in humans. Fillings have been shown to be useless in treating dental decay in cats: the only answer is extraction of affected teeth.,

2. A dental abscess

Cats rarely suffer from dental abscesses. but they are common in dogs, especially in the large back upper molar teeth that are used for crunching hard food: so-called “carnassial teeth.” This causes pain, and also swelling on the cheek which, if left untreated,bursts out through the skin beneath the eye
Treatment is simple: extraction of the affected tooth.

3. A cracked or damaged tooth

This is primarily a dog rather than a cat issue. Dogs are prone to chewing stones to bones and more.
If they chew hard on anything harder than their teeth, a tooth may crack or break. This exposes the pulp cavity and causes toothache, and may lead to dental infection and abscesses. The signs are usually obvious that the dog has a painful mouth, and a vet will confirm the diagnosis with an oral examination. Extraction of the affected tooth is the answer

Questions from listeners about their pets

  • I am having my very small dogs teeth cleaned and some removed I am worried it is dangerous but the teeth are bad is it safe Ann
  • We are hoping to get a puppy for our family this summer, we have two girls aged 9 and 11, what small breed would you recommend that would be child friendly, capable of sleeping outdoors (in a garage) with some indoor time also once trained. Also if we have an outdoor puppy are we better off to get two so that they would have company and if so would two girls be appropriate, or would boy/girl get on better? Any advice much appreciated Many thanks Noreen
  • What is involved in an abscess in a dogs mouth? I took in an emergency rescue Jack Russell and he has a lump in his jaw. At the end of his mouth between jaw and eye. He bites aggressively on the lead when going walking and previous owners used a chain lead. So I think he may have caused damage. His teeth look ok otherwise. He is 7 and will be going to Vet later.
  • My dog is an 11yr old crossbreed, he sleeps up-to 2 nights ago in our utility room, however in the last year he has started pulling out all of the bins(recycling no food)making a shocking mess, we moved the bins at night since, but 2 nights ago he pulled out the shoebox and managed to chew the seal on the washing machine costing almost €100 so obviously not happy. His behaviour has changed in other ways also he can be a bit unpredictable so he is strictly on the leach when out for a walk as he has lunged towards other dogs and once at a man passing the other way in a very aggressive manner. We can’t figure out what is going on but just wondered are we missing something obvious, he has since been dispatched outside to his doghouse not sure what else to do, help please.
  • How will I stop my Labrador from eating turf and is it any harm?
  • Ten years ago i took on two kittens that were abandoned by their feral mother. They are not house cats and are still scared of people except our family of course. We are moving house soon and it is about a kilometre away. Can you give any advice on how we can bring them with us. We love them very much and are afraid we will lose them in their new environment

To watch a video of Pete’s Facebook live session answering more questions from listeners, follow this link.

To find out the answers to these questions, listen to the podcast below.

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Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

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