Broken or Fractured Teeth in Dogs and Cats

Broken or fractured teeth are a common finding in the dog and cat. Trauma is the usual cause for fractured teeth. In the dog, fractured teeth commonly occur due to chewing on an inappropriate hard item (common items: hard plastic toys, antlers, hooves, ice, and bones), forceful trauma to the head (car accidents), and fighting with another animal. In cats, fractured teeth are most often seen after trauma from falling from heights or hit-by-car.

It is very common for fractured teeth to go unnoticed by the owner. Despite the pulp (sensory nerve and blood supply) being exposed, the pet rarely shows any sign of pain due to their innate pack instincts for survival. In people, this type of tooth fracture is extremely painful. Many of these fractures are first noted by your veterinarian on routine oral examination, or presented with facial swelling or draining tract because the infection and inflammation has become so severe. Antibiotics will only temporarily help the infection only to return when the medication is stopped. If pulp exposure is noted, the pulp must be removed either by extracting the tooth or having root canal therapy done as soon as possible. A “wait and see” treatment plan is incorrect and inappropriate.

The value of an awake examination of a fractured tooth is limited. A complete oral exam with dental radiographs under anesthesia is essential to determine the best treatment option for the tooth. Because 60% of the tooth is hidden underneath the gum line within the jaw, it is imperative to know if the hidden portion of the tooth is fractured or abnormal, the severity of the infection, and periodontal health to help decide which treatment is best for your pet.


To help prevent tooth fracture, the chewing of safe items should be encouraged and the following items should be avoided:

Natural Bones Nylon Bones Cow Hooves Antlers Ice Cubes Sticks Cages (if your pet chews on them) Rocks Other hard treats or toys

A common “rule of thumb”… If you can’t bend it don’t give it.