Your dog’s teeth are chipped or broken

A chip or break that exposes the pulp (the sensitive tissue that contains the tooth’s nerves and blood supply) can cause significant discomfort. This requires urgent care—not necessarily an after-hours trip to an emergency veterinary hospital, but it’s not something that can be put off for weeks.

Your dog may show one or more of the following signs of a broken tooth with exposed pulp:

  • Painful response to hot or cold temperatures (including drinking cold water)
  • Avoid chew toys
  • Refusing to eat hard biscuits and other foods
  • Completely refuse food
  • Chew only one side or chew more carefully than usual
  • The dog is drooling abnormally
  • Use your claws to scratch their mouths
  • Will avoid when face is touched

These symptoms warrant a dental checkup because if left untreated, a broken tooth with exposed pulp can become infected and lead to jawbone deterioration. Teeth with exposed nerves are usually treated with extractions or root canal therapy. If the patient is less than 18 months old, intravital endodontic therapy can keep a recently fractured tooth alive.

A chipped tooth but no symptoms

Not all chipped teeth have cracks or exposed pulp. Dogs may chip their teeth while catching a Frisbee, hit something while playing at high speeds, or hit the dashboard while unsafely riding in a car that must stop suddenly. Even if the chip is small and your dog isn’t showing any signs of pain or discomfort, it’s best to make a non-emergency appointment with your veterinarian to review the chip. The splinters may need to be smoothed out to avoid irritating your dog’s lips or tongue – and your veterinarian will have the best chance of giving it a good look to make sure the splinters aren’t causing a cracked tooth.