Jasper is an energetic and playful Labrador who loves to chew bones. He came in to see Dr Simon when his owners noticed that although he was eating fine he appeared to not be chewing as enthusiastically as he usually does. They also noted that a swelling was appearing below his right eye.
When Dr Simon assessed Jasper he paid special attention to his mouth and teeth and could see that he had fractured the right upper fourth premolar. This is unfortunately not unusual when dogs chew large marrow bones. Jasper was admitted into hospital in order for us to anaesthetise him to thoroughly examine his mouth and get some radiographs to clarify what was going on.
Once anaesthetised and radiographed it was apparent that the affected tooth was very dead. If a tooth is fractured and its pulp (root) canal is exposed to the outside world then bacteria get into the tooth, cause an infection, kill the tooth and then start to leach out from the bottom of the root and infect the surrounding bone. In this case the bacteria were eating away at the bone (darker area around back root of affected tooth on radiograph) just under the eye and this had eventually led to an abscess in this area – hence the swelling under the eye.
There were only two options for the treatment of this tooth, either extraction or a root canal procedure. Both of these options will remove the infection that is occurring and hence resolve any pain and the swelling under the eye. In this particular case the owners decided to extract this tooth.
Unfortunately this is not an uncommon presentation for dogs that chew on very hard objects such as marrow bones. The most effective and safe way of keeping a dog’s teeth clean is brushing them daily. Safer chewing choices than marrow bones would include Dentastixs, Greenies, OraVet chews, ‘Kong’ toys, chicken necks and possibly brisket (rib) bones(as these are a softer bone). We recommend when using any of these options it is done so under supervision.