How to Tell if Your Dog Has Toothache (+ How to Help Tooth Pain)?

how to know if your dog has toothache

Just like humans, dogs can also get toothache. This can stem from poor dental hygiene, rotten teeth, a broken tooth, and similar ailments to what we get. But obviously dogs can never tell us how they are feeling, so just how easy is it tell if your dog has toothache?

This guide will explain how you can tell if your dog has tooth pain, what you can give your dog, and when to call a vet. Let’s start with a simple explanation though:

How to tell if your dog has toothache? The best way that you can tell if your dog has toothache is by looking for signs of slow eating, bad breath, swelling of the face, and bleeding gums. There’s more to it than that though, explained lower down the page.

And now for a lot more detail on what you need to look out for with canine tooth pain, and what you can give your dog.

How do you know if your dog has toothache?

Did you know that it is very difficult to tell if your dog has a toothache? I would have thought that there were obvious signs, such as the dog flat out refusing to eat. However, dogs actually tend to maintain their regular routines, even if there are in pain.

I would never want my dog to remain in pain simply because I didn’t recognize the signs! So, I decided to do a little research so I would be aware of what to look for in the event of a toothache.

The way that you can tell if your dog has toothache is by looking for signs of slow eating, bad breath, swelling of the face, and bleeding gums.

1. Your dog is eating slower is not at all

The first thing to look for would be an indication that your dog is eating slower than they normally would. Many dogs will gulp their food down as quickly as possible, so this will be a big change compared to their normal behavior.

You might also see that the dog is dropping food back into the bowl once in a while, or only using one side of their mouth to chew.

Your dog may also be preferring their wet food as opposed to dry, or even have a reluctance to eat at all.

how to tell if your dog has toothache
If you are not able to tell if your dog has toothache, please ask a vet (Image licensed from

2. Your dog’s breath is worse than normal

Another you can learn to know when your dog has toothache is if you notice their breath has gotten worse recently. This is also known as halitosis and can be caused by a buildup of food particles in a dog’s mouth.

These remnants will attract bacteria and turn into plaque.

A worse condition known as periodontal disease can eventually set in, which will cause the gums to separate from the teeth. This is very painful for a dog to go through, and you should consult your vet for advice as soon as you notice the first signs.

3. Your dog has a swollen face

Swelling of the face is a telltale symptom of toothache in a dog. If one of their teeth is infected, it will spread to the face. Gently open your dog’s mouth and examine the area for inflammation, indicating an infected tooth.

When a dog has an infection in their upper jaw area, you should be particularly quick about taking them to the vet. This is because an infection in that spot could easily travel up to the nasal passages, potentially causing an upper respiratory disease.

4. Your dog has bleeding gums

Bleeding gums is a little easier to spot as a symptom, but it does not always occur for every toothache. Similar to halitosis, bleeding gums typically starts when food particles are caught and remain in the dog’s mouth. Your dog might also start grinding his teeth.

The buildup on the teeth will eventually lead to gingivitis or periodontitis, another dental condition. Periodontitis will eventually start to cause teeth to loosen and fall out.

Do rotten teeth hurt dogs?

On average, 80% of all dogs have dental problems at any one time. Rotten teeth hurt dogs because it makes them uncomfortable while eating. Rotten teeth can also lead to worse conditions such as kidney, liver, and heart disease.

The bacteria that gather in your dog’s mouth has free rein to travel to other organs in the body by using the bloodstream. These bacteria will attack the otherwise healthy organs, while could potentially be fatal.

Often, pet owners will not notice that their dog is in pain for some time because their routines have not varied greatly.

However, once the dog is treated at the vet, the difference in how they act can be amazing.

Once the pet is back home and healthy again, owners can easily distinguish between the way that they were acting before and after.

How to prevent toothache in dogs

The best way to keep your dog’s mouth healthy is by maintaining an established cleaning routine. A dog’s teeth should be brushed by its owner twice per day, once in the morning and once at night. At the bare minimum, they should get three brushings per week to reduce plaque buildup and remove bacteria.

If possible, start these brushings as soon as you get the dog, so they get used to it. Do not use human toothpaste on dogs, as this can be toxic to them.

There are specific toothpaste brands for dogs that should be used instead. There are also specific brush types that work well for dogs. I’ve shown some on Amazon below which come highly recommended.

Another thing that you can try is providing your dog with dental chew toys. These are sure to be a hit with your dog, and they work to keep plaque to a minimum. Certain types of toys are designed to scrape away the plaque on a dog’s teeth.

A dog should spend about 30 minutes per day with one of these toys to gain the maximum benefit. Your vet should be able to recommend some good quality chew toys if you are not sure which to pick – these dental chew toys on Amazon are excellent though.

Dog owners should be checking their dog’s mouths for signs of inflammation and infection regularly.

Make sure you pick a moment when your dog is relaxed, and then gently open their mouth to take a look. You will be checking for lumps, plaque, broken or loose teeth, or excessive redness in a particular area.

What can I give a dog for toothache?

If, after all, your precautions, your dog still winds up with a toothache, do not feel discouraged. It can be difficult to spot at first, and it will be easier for you to notice signs of toothache after the first one. If you are waiting to get an appointment at the vet, there are a few things you can give a dog for tooth pain relief at home.

Give your dog wet food for a temporary period. They will have an easier time eating it because they do not need to crunch down. If you only have dry food, try wetting it with water before feeding it to the dog.

Cold water or ice cubes may bring a sense of relief to your dog. This could take the form of an ice pack, or even something homemade such as a bag of frozen veggies. Gently apply the object to your dog’s face in the area of infection.

The cold will numb the area, putting a temporary stop to the pain. In addition to this, leave ice cubes in your dog’s water bowl so it remains cold for longer.

Do not, under any circumstances, give the dog any human pain killers. These can react negatively with a dog’s system and potentially even be fatal. Also, never try applying a heat pack to a dog’s face when they have an infected tooth. This could result in more swelling and will not help the pain.

How to care for a dog after tooth extraction

Sometimes, the best plan of action is for the vet to treat a dog with toothache is to remove an infected or broken tooth.

Your dog will need a lot of rest in a calm and quiet space. Give the dog the medicine that the vet has prescribed, and make sure to abide by the detailed schedule for when to apply it.

You will likely be feeding your dog small meals every few hours, avoid hard kibble. Encourage the dog to drink lots of water as they heal.

Keep a close eye on your dog for the next few days or weeks, and make sure that the healing seems to be going according to schedule. If you notice anything concerning, consult with your vet.


Dogs get toothache just like we do, and it can be very painful for them. Given their inability to communicate pain to us, we need to be very mindful of what could be causing them discomfort.

Try to catch their tooth pain early enough, and if in doubt, call the vet.

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Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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