Q: My dog chipped a tooth yesterday when he was chewing on a butcher cow leg bone. They are real bones that I get at the grocery store and they are supposed to be safe for pets. He can’t eat them as they are too hard but he likes chewing on them for hours and they told me that they are good for his teeth.
The tooth bled a little and then stopped. He doesn’t seem to be in pain. He is still eating and drinking. Do I need to do anything for him?
A: Many dogs and cats break a tooth at some time in their life and it is painful. They will still eat because they need to eat to survive. If you watch them closely you may be able to tell if they are only chewing on one side of their mouth.
If the tooth was bleeding, it fractured through the pulp cavity or root canal. This means that the tooth’s vital interior is exposed and it may get infected. It should be treated as soon as possible.
A break that goes into the center of the tooth will need either a vital pulpotomy, root canal or extraction. This needs to be done with your pet under anesthesia. X-rays of the tooth will be done to determine the best course of treatment.
Many hard chew toys or bones can cause a dog to break a tooth. I would refrain from giving him any real bones in the future. In addition, refrain from giving him anything that has a hard basis because he may chew too hard and fracture a tooth.
Many hard chew toys like Nylabones, antlers, cow hooves and flying discs have led to fractures in dogs that are very aggressive chewers. Some dogs chew these items responsibly and without any problems.
Dog’s love to chew and there are many options available depending on the dog. Food puzzle toys are my favorite. They are a “work for your food” type of activity and it entertains your dog and helps decrease boredom. There are many different types of puzzles that slow down your dog’s eating and give him a problem to solve. You can start with an easy one and gradually progress to harder puzzles.
Chewing can be encouraged with rubber toys that are made with materials that the dog can’t bite off and ingest. Make sure to get the right size for your dog. Many have a weight range listed on the toy. Kong makes a line of rubber toys that are safe and can be filled with peanut butter or canned dog food. They lick the food and chew on the rubber which stimulates the gums and satisfies their urge to chew.
I suggest that you take your dog to your veterinarian and have him examined to evaluate the tooth. Your veterinarian will be able to guide you in the right direction to fix the tooth.
Dr. Susan M. Baker received her degree at the University of Florida in 1985 and practices veterinary medicine in Palm Beach County, Florida.