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What is Embedded Objects in the Oral Cavity?

Puppies and dogs tend to explore their world with their mouths, and they are naturally drawn to chewing on objects. This leaves them susceptible to getting objects such as splinters of bone or wood, sharp awns from grasses, and even hair, embedded in the soft tissues of the mouth such as the gums, tongue, and cheeks.

These objects should be removed from the mouth as soon as possible as they can lead to dangerous infections. 

Puppies and dogs are susceptible to getting sharp and stiff objects embedded in their oral cavity due to their habit of exploring the world with their mouths.

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Symptoms of Embedded Objects in the Oral Cavity in Dogs

Other than the obvious symptom of a foreign object being visible in the oral cavity, there are several other clues that there may be something embedded in the oral cavity. These can include:

  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Coughing
  • Crying
  • Excessive drooling
  • Foul breath
  • Gagging sounds
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Repeated swallowing
  • Rubbing face 

Types

As dogs will put anything in their mouths, just about anything sharp or stiff can become embedded in their oral cavity. Certain items are more commonly found embedded in the mouth of dogs.

  • Hair - Dogs with coarse hair, particularly short hairs, such as found on Labradors, Beagles, and Bulldogs, may get them embedded in gums near the teeth or in the tongue; this occurs most often with dogs who have skin conditions that cause them to lick or chew their skin constantly
  • Porcupine Quills - If your canine decides to chase a porcupine, the quills that it defends itself with may get embedded in the dog’s mouth 
  • Sticks - Dogs that chew sticks can get small bits and splinters lodged in their gums, cheeks, and under their tongues 
  • Bones - Although bones have been used to entertain dogs for as long as we’ve shared our lives with dogs, they come with their own risks; shards of bone can break off and get embedded in the oral cavity or throat, and can sometimes cause gastrointestinal blockages

Causes of Embedded Objects in the Oral Cavity in Dogs

Dogs explore everything with their mouths, and they have a natural desire to chew things like sticks and bones. Bits of bones and sticks can break off and become embedded, and small items like the barbed seed heads from foxtails can also find their way into a dog’s mouth. This can allow items like this to become embedded in the soft tissues of the gums, cheeks, and upper palate of the animal.

Diagnosis of Embedded Objects in the Oral Cavity in Dogs

When you bring your pet into the veterinarian or veterinary dentist with signs of mouth pain, the examining doctor will start by evaluating the oral area, usually while the animal is anesthetized for both the patient’s comfort and the safety of the examiner. In many cases, the object will be visible upon thorough examination of the oral cavity or abscesses and inflammation may be seen if the skin has grown over the embedded object.  

X-rays of the teeth and underlying structures will typically be used to assess the health of both the bones and teeth, in many cases, this will help the veterinarian to visualize exactly where the object is, although it may not reveal soft items such as foxtails or hair. Standard diagnostic tests, including a biochemical profile, complete blood test, and urinalysis, will also generally be utilized to determine if there are any systemic infections that may have been introduced by the foreign object.

Treatment of Embedded Objects in the Oral Cavity in Dogs

Once the object has been located, it will need to be removed from the mouth. This is an essential step even with small items such as fur or foxtails as embedded objects often lead to infections and can sometimes work its way deeper into the skin and then travel to other parts of the body. The complexity of this procedure will depend on what the object is and where in the mouth it has been stuck.

In many cases, this may be as simple as removing the object with tweezers, but in situations where the skin has grown over the object, the skin may need to be detached before the object can be removed. If any abscesses have developed in the oral cavity due to the object, they will also need to be drained. Infections due to embedded objects are not uncommon, so antibiotics are often prescribed to either prevent or clear these infections.

Recovery of Embedded Objects in the Oral Cavity in Dogs

If your pet requires anesthesia, ensuring that they have a calm and quiet location to return to will help speed your pet’s recovery. Patients that are still recovering from the anesthesia required to examine and treat the mouth area may have coordination difficulties when they first get home and may initially be confused and disoriented.

Dogs require surgery in their mouths may temporarily experience pain when attempting to chew their food, and a diet of dry food moistened with broth, commercial wet dog food, or unseasoned human grade food such as boiled chicken and rice may be recommended to make eating more comfortable for your canine companion. Any antibiotics should continue to be administered until the full amount recommended by your veterinarian has been utilized in order to prevent further infections.