Yesterday I saw the worst mouth in a dog that I have ever seen. I have truly seen some rotten teeth in my practice. I won’t describe how nasty some dog and cat mouths can get and I will attempt to provide an adequate description here without completely grossing you out… This dog had it all – loose teeth, recessed gums, inflamed gums, tartar galore, halitosis to beat the band, obvious abscessed tooth roots, food stuck in places it shouldn’t be due to pocket formation in the gums, and caked on plaque. When I looked at the upper canine tooth (the fang) – I knew I had seen it all. There was a HOLE in the dog’s gum. This hole was above the gum line and exposed the side of the tooth root (if it hadn’t been packed full of food, pus, hair, and whatever else you can imagine). You see, this dog had an untreated tooth root abscess that had progressed so far that the only outlet for the abscess was through the side of the gum. Painful does not describe it. My heart went out to this dog.
Why am I telling you this? Sometimes we all need to be reminded of consequences. More than anything, I wish this dog had never had to experience the pain and discomfort that I know must have been excruciating. Dogs do not complain about daily pain. They live very much in the moment. They do not think to themselves… “hmmm… I never used to hurt this bad, I think I’ll cry about it…” We do not know what our dogs and cats experience in the realm of pain, but we do know that they exhibit the same behaviors as we would if we were trying to hide our pain from others. I realize we often don’t watch our dogs so closely when they eat that we know when they stop chewing on one side of the mouth, but please keep this in mind the next time your dog opts not to chew that bone, hesitates to climb the stairs, shakes his head a lot, or is slow to get up. There could be pain and we need to be paying attention.