Back in early 2015, I had to deal with a fractured dog tooth in my Boxer mix Buzz.
This was a few months before I switched him and his sister Missy from kibble to raw dog food.
Buzz fractured one of his upper molars by chewing on a smoked beef bone. You know, the kind you can buy at your local grocery store.
Had I known what I know NOW (2021), I never would have offered those bones because they’re WAY TOO HARD.
If you don’t take anything else away from this blog post, here’s the most important lesson I learned.
Never feed bones from large hooved ruminants like deer or cows, regardless of whether they’re raw or smoked.
Those bones are much more dense and hard than poultry bones.
It makes sense when you think about it. After all, they have to hold up hundreds of pounds of animals, whereas poultry bones support considerably less animal weight.
Here’s the whole story.
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Smoked Beef Bones As A Doggy Christmas Gift
It all started with a Christmas gift.
When my neighbor asked if the pups could have a smoked beef bone from the local grocery store for Christmas, I enthusiastically agreed because the pups love to chew.
As expected, they both loved their Christmas gifts, and chewed on them for about 30-60 minutes every day.
After that time, I’d take them away.
At that point in time, Missy & Buzz had been chewing on antlers for over 3 years. They started chewing on them as puppies to relieve their toothing pain.
Additionally, I also offered them their chews as a way of preventing boredom. For example, in between walks and when I needed some me-time. However, I will say that I ALWAYS supervised their chew time.
A Broken Dog Tooth: Symptoms
So one week, the pups were busy chewing on their respective beef bones when Buzz stopped chewing all of a sudden. I thought it was a little strange, but figured that he might just want to take a little break and get some water.
He started chewing again after a little while, but not as enthusiastically as before.
I still didn’t think too much of it, but figured that now would actually be a good opportunity to brush his teeth.
As always, I began brushing his teeth on the upper left side of his jaw. However, as soon as I started brushing, he pulled back & yelped.
Now this was a clear indicator that something was just not right. That’s because usually, the pups start drooling in anticipation of the flavored toothpaste whenever I pull out their toothbrush.
I checked Buzz’s mouth, and sure enough!
His upper left molar in the far back of his mouth was fractured. The pulp & the bright red pulp tissue was clearly showing. I later learned that the pulp is the nerve and blood supply of each dog tooth.
Enter The First Aid Companion For Dogs & Cats, by Amy D. Shojai
Since I wasn’t familiar with dog tooth problems, I looked up tooth damage in my go-to pet emergency book. The First Aid Companion For Dogs & Cats, by Amy D. Shojai.
The section about damaged dog teeth mentions that damaged dog teeth can occur in dogs who chew hard bones as well as rocks, wires, etc.
Veterinary Treatment Of Buzz’s Fractured Dog Tooth
After I noticed Buzz’s broken tooth, the next step was to get in touch with our vet and to bring Buzz in for an exam & assessment, that same day.
Our vet Dr. Schaller quickly diagnosed his problem, and scheduled his tooth removal surgery for the next day.
She had sympathy pain for my big boy and said, I quote, “Seeing his exposed nerve makes my teeth hurt”.
We went back home with Tramadol for Buzz’s tooth pain, and returned early next morning for his surgery. Dr. Schaller had to postpone someone else’s spaying surgery that next morning, explaining that Buzz’s tooth extraction had priority.
I was very thankful for that decision. She took a little video of the surgery, so if you’re interested in it, check it out on my YouTube channel K9sOverCoffee. But be aware that you’ll see blood!
One positive side effect of Buzz’s surgery was that his remaining teeth were able to undergo a thorough assessment, as well as a tooth cleaning and nail trim.
I suppose I was also somewhat “lucky” that Buzz’s dental dilemma happened in February. It was National Pet Dental Health Month, after all.
Our veterinary clinic Willowcreek Animal Hospital celebrated this month-long event by offering 20% off all dental treatments.
Fractured Dog Tooth Cost
However, my total vet bill for Buzz’s dental treatment was still $557! My medical dog insurance PetsBest covered $250 after they deducted my annual deductible of $200.
On The Road To Recovery After The Dental Surgery
My big boy was prescribed a soft food diet for 2 weeks after his surgery.
I ended up soaking his kibble in warm water for about 5 minutes, and then mixed in his usual add ons of wet food, pumpkin purée, and a sprinkle of turmeric.
Buzz had a swollen left side of his face for 2 days. Dr. Schaller had predicted this. She explained that she had to remove an otherwise healthy tooth that didn’t come out as easily as a rotten tooth would have.
He still got some Tramadol for the first few days after the surgery for pain relief. He also ended up needing an antibiotic as Dr. Schaller (& Missy!!) noticed an odor coming from his incision.
In order to prevent an infection, he was put on 10 days of Clindamycin. That did the trick.
Safer Chewing Alternatives For Dogs
Chewing is a natural dog behavior, so you should absolutely let your pup chew. It’s not only fun for them, it also prevents boredom, helps keep their teeth clean and exercises their jaws.
The only trick is to offer your dog chews that are softer than dense bones from deer, elk, bison, or cows. Essentially any chews that aren’t overly dense.
Here are my personal favorite chews for dogs:
- Dehydrated bully sticks. Also known as beef pizzles, i.e. penises.
- Dehydrated pig ears.
- Raw meaty bones. For example, duck heads or turkey necks.
How To Cope With A Fractured Dog Tooth: Bottom Line
Always supervise your chewing pup, and immediately check their mouth if you notice odd behavior!
Take your pup in to see his vet if you have the slightest medical concern. Remember that dogs are very good at disguising any pain they may be experiencing.
I took our vet’s advice of withholding all hard chews to heart and tossed them all, including antlers.
Update 2021: Back in early 2015 when Buzz fractured his tooth, he was still on a kibble & wet food diet. Since mid 2015, he has been on a raw diet which includes raw meaty bones.
He does fantastic on it – it’s important to understand the difference between RAW, meaty, non-weight bearing bones, and SMOKED recreational bones.
Have you experienced a fractured or otherwise damaged dog tooth? As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below this blog post!