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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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Bernedoodle

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6 months

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1 found helpful

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Doing Ok Now

our dog got a small less than 1inch treble hook caught under her tongue this evening. I'm an ER physician and was able to remove the hooks as I clipped the (barb)tips off. This was quite traumatic for her as we held her down and I put a bit block in her mouth. While the bottom of the tongue had 3 pinpoint perforations there was no laceration. Curious if any antibiotics are needed? Also curious if should use meds like meloxicam and/or tramadol Currently she's been wagging tail and drinking water. Really appreciate your help

Sept. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Kate D. MA VetMB MRCVS

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Hello, Thanks for contacting us about your dog. Sounds like she was lucky to have you in an emergency! Well done for getting the hooks out -- were you able to fully remove all the tips? Has the bleeding from the site stopped now? If no to either of those, a trip to the vet is in order to make sure everything is ok. Regarding antibiotics, there's a few considerations that I would take into account with a case like this: firstly, how clean the hooks were and where the hook came from, secondly how long they had been in the tongue, and thirdly how big the wound is and how deep the hooks had latched. Bearing in mind the bacterial load of the mouth, if I wasn't sure on any of these points I'd usually give a short course of antibiotics to cover. Regarding pain relief medication, in a clinic I would normally give a shot of anti-inflammatories for a case like this -- as much to reduce swelling as to relieve the pain. Obviously I am unable to give you advice on medications or doses for your dog as I don't have access to her records. I'd recommend giving your veterinary clinic a call when they're open to let them know what happened and ask if they would prescribe some antibiotic and anti-inflammatory for her. Alternatively (or if they are not willing to prescribe medications for her at this point), you could monitor for a few days, checking on the wound twice daily and see how it progresses. Hopefully she's not too traumatized and will still let you near her mouth! It should heal pretty quickly, so if you have any concerns that it's not moving in the right direction, better to get meds on board. I hope that helps; please let me know if there is more I can help with.

Sept. 2, 2020

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Husky Sheppard

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Two Years

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Tongue Bleeding

My dog chewed a bone yesterday and then became very lethargic. Does not want to be around people right now. He is still eating and drinking at the momemt, although drinking seems a little painful. He is constantly licking his fur, drooling(sometimes a little foamy), and some blood that stops very quickly. I cannot see anything in his mouth. I am wondering if I should take him to the vet during this pandemic or try and treat him at home

July 27, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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Hello- Thank you for reaching out. I do think it would be a good idea to take him to the veterinarian. There could be a piece of bone lodged in his mouth or a laceration that’s difficult to see and your vet will be able to examine him, give him some sedation medication and then do a thorough oral exam. Many vets are doing curbside service during the pandemic so if you’d prefer to drop off versus being in the hospital most clinics are offering that as an option. I hope he feels better soon.

July 27, 2020

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Jack Russell Terrier

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Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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Coughing

He ate a little piece of a chip and starting coughing then threw it up but started eating a lot of grass and now keeps licking his lips

July 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, So sorry that your dog is having issues. The chip could have injured his throat. It would be best to feed him soft foods for a day or two to allow it to heal. If he continues to vomit, it would be best to see your vet.

July 26, 2020

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German Sheprador

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Five Years

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Has Symptoms

Bleeding

My dog got into the trash and found a tuna can while I was away. After looking for a cut I found that she has lacerated her tongue, but the bleeding had stopped. Should I rush her to the vet or is this something that will heal itself?

July 17, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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Hello- Thank you for your question! I do think it would be a good idea to take her to the veterinarian immediately so they can assess how deep the laceration is. Some wounds are able to heal without suturing but others do need sutures to close up the wound so that the tongue will heal appropriately. They will likely put your pup on an antibiotic and a pain medication as well. I hope she heals quickly.

July 17, 2020

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Labrador Retriever

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Three Years

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Bleeding

Dog bit my dog’s tongue and a bit of the tip is missing. Bleeding has stopped and she drank fine. Just want to be sure to take all proper precautions.

July 15, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Injuries to the tongue tend to heal fairly quickly, and they don't usually need suturing or antibiotics. It would be best to keep an eye on your dog for the next few days to make sure that they are eating okay, that there is no further bleeding, and that everything looks fine. It might help to feed softened food for a few days, as it will probably be tender. I hope that all goes well with your dog.

July 15, 2020

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Hedwig/ Wiggy

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Shih Tzu

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10 Months

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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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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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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

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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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

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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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

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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