Oral Injuries in Dogs

Written By Darlene Stott
Published: 05/06/2017Updated: 06/25/2021
Veterinary reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS
Oral Injuries in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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; which will often involve sedation.

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.

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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
  • Excessive drooling

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 for 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.

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.

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.

In all of the above scenarios, pain relief will also be required to ensure your dog is comfortable.

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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.

Oral Injuries Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals


Norweigan Elkhound



One Year


0 found this helpful


0 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
My dog who is only 1 year old has a bite on his nose and on his upper lip area by our other dog. I made an appointment for him to be seen for a regular check up in July 17th. I’m not sure what I should do and the vets are not open for an available slot to see him sooner, what should I do? My dog also has these rash/scabs like on his chest, he keeps itching and licking it mostly at night, I’m not sure what also seems to have caused it. Please let me know if that’s something I need to do sooner or it can wait until the vet see him in 2 weeks.

July 7, 2021

Answered by Dr. Sara O. DVM

0 Recommendations

Hello, you can apply Neosporin to this area to help. I would keep the appointment for the 17th to have your dog's skin examine for an infection.

July 7, 2021

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Nine Weeks


5 found this helpful


5 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
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

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

5 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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