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What are Oral Injuries?

There may be times when a piece of twig or a rock can become lodged across the roof of your dog’s mouth, called the hard palate. This type of situation will cause distress to your dog and they may become panicked, clawing at their mouth or coughing. Your primary veterinarian will most likely be able to remove the stick or rock without having to perform surgery or refer you to a specialist.

Veterinary dentistry is becoming an important part of a dog’s routine care. You should maintain a regular schedule of dental cleanings and examinations so your dog can be quickly treated for any oral injuries that are preventing them from being comfortable. Some veterinarians are equipped to handle specialty cases involving oral injuries, but in many cases, your veterinarian may need to refer you to a dental specialist.

Just like humans, oral hygiene and care is very important to dogs. Oral injuries can occur to the soft tissues of the tongue, cheeks, lips or tonsils from foreign objects that dogs like to find and chew. Lacerations are the biggest problem in a dog’s mouth since the soft tissue is sensitive and susceptible to cuts, abrasions and infections. Tumors of the soft tissue of the mouth along with other oral injuries can cause your dog to have difficulty eating.

Symptoms of Oral Injuries in Dogs

When your dog is suffering from an oral injury, sometimes you do not realize they are in pain until you begin to notice weight loss or a refusal to eat or drink. In some instances, the pain is so severe that you have an emergency situation; you will need to seek veterinary attention immediately. Symptoms of oral injuries to watch for include:

  • Swelling of the lips, tongue or cheeks
  • Lump on the lips, tongue or cheek
  • Open laceration in the mouth
  • Foul smell in the mouth
  • Pus or blood in the mouth
  • Refusal to eat or drink
  • Weight loss
  • Clawing at the mouth
  • Crying when chewing
  • Sensitive to a physical examination of the mouth
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Causes of Oral Injuries in Dogs

Oral injuries in dogs can occur from a number of different sources. Dogs are forever finding foreign objects to chew on and sometimes those objects cause lacerations, punctures or even abscesses in your dog’s mouth. Oral tumors are also a concern when any type of mass is found your dog’s mouth. Sticks can become lodged in the roof of your dog’s mouth, causing irritation and panic in your dog. Lacerations can occur from bones, wood or rocks that your dog finds, lacerations can easily become infected if not treated quickly. Puncture wounds in your dog’s mouth from foreign objects can cause abscesses and infections that can become life-threatening. 

Oral care for your dog is essential to maintaining a healthy, long life. It is essential that you schedule regular dental examinations and cleanings for your dog. By having regular examinations, any oral injuries can hopefully be found and resolved before they become serious and potentially life-threatening.

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Diagnosis of Oral Injuries in Dogs

Your veterinarian will begin by taking your dog’s full medical history and a list of the symptoms that you have observed. A physical examination of your dog’s neck, head and mouth will be done by your veterinarian. In order to perform a thorough examination, your veterinarian may need to sedate your dog or use general anesthesia. The oral cavity will be checked for any signs of injury such as bruising, lacerations, remnants of splinters or abscess.  

X-rays and ultrasounds may be ordered to look for any signs that a foreign object has caused your dog distress in their mouth. Endoscopy can also be used to determine if a foreign object has been pushed down into the esophagus. 

Your veterinarian may opt to refer you to a veterinarian who has specialized in canine dentistry if the oral injury is too severe for general veterinary medicine to deal with. Severe lacerations, tumors or abscesses may require a specialist to properly treat.

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Treatment of Oral Injuries in Dogs

Oral surgeries in dogs are on the rise as more and more veterinarians are specializing in canine dentistry. If your dog is suffering from a laceration in their mouth, they will need to be put under general anesthesia. While they are under general anesthesia, the laceration will be fully assessed, cleaned and sutured. A course of antibiotics will be prescribed to prevent infection.

Abscesses found in the mouth will also need to be initially treated under general anesthesia. Your veterinarian will fully assess the abscess and will most likely need to lance it so the infection can drain. A drain tube may need to be inserted to ensure that the abscess does not close prematurely. Antibiotics will be prescribed to remove the infection and prevent further complications.

Oral tumors will require a biopsy to determine if the growth is cancerous or benign. The biopsy will be done under local sedation or general anesthetic. A portion of the tumor is removed and sent to a lab for biopsy. Depending on the results of the biopsy, the tumor will need to be surgically removed and then the area will need to be monitored. Antibiotics will be prescribed following surgery. If your dog is diagnosed with cancer, then your veterinarian will discuss treatment options and prognosis at that time.

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Recovery of Oral Injuries in Dogs

Most dogs will have a good prognosis following being diagnosed with oral injuries. Your veterinarian will be able to give you an accurate recovery timeline for your dog’s oral injuries. Be sure to give all medications as directed and follow all post-surgical instructions provided by your veterinarian. 

Dogs that have been diagnosed with cancer may have a more guarded prognosis depending on the type of cancer and to what stage it has progressed.

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Oral Injuries Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Newfoundland

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Nine Weeks

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Laceration

Noticed my puppy had a cut on her upper lip, doesn’t seem to be bothering her but it looks like it small complete split of her lip. Not bleeding much, she has a vet appointment Saturday for shots and check up is this something that can wait till then or what should I do?

Oct. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. From your description, that does sound like something that can wait until Saturday. I would just keep a close eye on it, and if it looks like it's getting infected, is bleeding, or she doesn't want to eat or is pawing at it, then she may need to be seen sooner.

Oct. 28, 2020

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Labrador Retriever

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One Year

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Pink Bumps On Upper Lip

I have a 1 year old lab hound mix. Over the last few weeks she has developed these small pink bumps on her upper lip. It started as one and has progressed to more. They haven't grown in size or seem to bother her, but they are there. Do you have any idea what they could be?

Oct. 5, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. There are a couple of possibilities for what you're describing, one might be papillomavirus, which is a contagious benign disease of young dogs, or she may have a deep infection of the hair follicles around her lip, in which case she would need antibiotics. It would probably be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, so that they can examine her and see what's going on. I hope that all goes well for her.

Oct. 6, 2020

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American Pit Bull Terrier

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Two Years

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Panting

We gv him a huge bone and he seemed to love it. Then after we put the remainder of it up to let bim rest we heard him panting loudly. Panting could be a sign of pain, so we investigated his mouth and it looked a bit red on his lower 'lips'. Then we investigated the bone we'd put away and noticed a tinge of blood in certain areas of it. Needless to say, we immediately threw it away. Will our baby boy (our pup) be ok?? He has drank some water. Pic was taken as he lay down😪

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. It is not uncommon for dogs to chew really enthusiastically on something that they really like or that is new to them. They don't always know when to stop. Trauma to the mouth heals very quickly, as a rule, and I suspect in a day or two things will be back to normal. It would be best to keep an eye on him, and make sure he is eating okay, doesn't seem sore, and that that area doesn't look like it's getting infected or red. If any of those things happen, then he may need to see a veterinarian, but normally, taking away the source of the problem should help resolve things. I hope it all goes well for him.

Oct. 1, 2020

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Blue Heeler

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Three Months

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Mouth Lump

My dog got a chew toy wrap around his mouth. By the time we got it removed, the sides of his mouth were swollen. They are knotted feeling especially on his left side. There are no open cuts or sores just knots. He is still eating, playing and chewing regularly. This happened yesterday 9/28

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question, I'm sorry that happened. Something like that should resolve once you have removed the problem, and I would keep a close eye on him to make sure that the swelling is coming down. If things have not resolved in six to eight hours, then I would probably take him in to see a veterinarian. I do think that he will be okay and that the swelling will resolve. I hope that all goes well for him.

Oct. 3, 2020

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Sheapered huskey

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Two Years

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Cut On Tongue

Dog has a large cut on her tongue. Does she need stitches?

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Pets in the tongue tend to heal quite quickly, and don't often need sutures. If the wound is not bleeding, it may heal on its own, and what you can do is Monitor it for any signs of infection or ongoing bleeding. She may need to be fed soft food for a couple of weeks while it heals, but these wounds are often fine. If it does start to show signs of infection or she does not want to eat, then having her seen by a veterinarian would be best. I hope that all goes well for her.

Oct. 3, 2020

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Hedwig/ Wiggy

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Shih Tzu

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10 Months

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Fair severity

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Bleeding In The Mouth
More Tired Than Normal

Today, my shih tzu puppy, Hedwig (Wiggy) started bleeding in her mouth. I don't know how it happened, I just found her like that. I tried to stop the bleeding by wiping away the blood, and shes been like this for a few hours. I'm not positive, but it seems like a puncture or something in her mouth. She is acting pretty tired right now, and I was wondering if this should be a major concern? Also, how can I stop the bleeding?

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Seamus

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German Shepherd

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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Bleeding

I was playing fetch with a stick with my dog, Seamus, and when I threw the stick, he obviously chased it. The stick rebounded as he bit into it and shot up hard into his mouth. As soon as it hit him, he ran off and laid down, putting his face into his paws. We came inside, and he refused to take a drink, eat, let us touch anywhere near his mouth, or open his mouth. I took him into my room and cuddled with him, and he seems like he was chewing on something, when I went to go see, he got up and left. I looked back at where he was laying down, and saw a bloody drool mark on the floor. I’m very concerned, as he also is not his happy, excited, crazy self he normally is. He is quiet, cuddly, calm, and is laying down, away from any human in the house, which is very very different from his regular behavior. My grandfather, the real owner of my dog, is putting off going to the vet, and I’m wondering if I should convince him to?

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Boss

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Border Collie

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7 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Difficulty Eating

Dog walker let my dog retrieve a stick, after advising against it. Stick went through soft palate. About 2 inches of soft palate were left hanging and a gaping hole was left under that. Had to see a specialist, have a cat scan and endoscope and be debrided and sutured up with dissolvable sutures. 2 weeks antibiotics and pain meds. He is still having a hard time eating. My question is how long will it take for the sutures to dissolve, its been 16 days? This is why dogs should not play with sticks!!

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Marzipan

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Pit bull

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7 Months

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

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Bleeding

Hello, my puppy Marzipan was playing around while I was filling up a kiddy pool. I was using a pressure washer attachment so it could reach the spot the kiddy pool was in. It doesn't actually come out that pressurized. More of a mist than anything. Well, she suddenly took a hold of the end of the attachment and it seemed like some of it went into her mouth, but I pulled it out immediately. She yelped, and it looked like she was bleeding in her mouth and she was slightly coughing. Not heavily but enough for me to hear it and be concerned. However, when I checked her mouth as much as she would let me, (she hates anyone being in her mouth at any time, she pulls away) I couldn't see anything and she went back to playing as normal and I didn't see anything else. Do you think she will be okay? Or should I take her to the vet?

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Dos

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Labrador Retriever

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7 Months

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Fair severity

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Lip Discoloration

I have a 7mo old Lab/Shepard mix with pure black coat. Obviously he’s a very consistent and vigorous chewer so he has plenty of dog bones and chew toys. His favorite are Rib bones however i’ve Noticed a light pinkish patch on the left side of his upper lip. Doesn’t seem to be a medical issue but I’m curious to know if it has to do with chewing regularly on that side of his mouth. It’s his preferred side to chew and his bone will usually rub against that area. Should I be concerned about it or do anything for it?

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