Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

Fractured Teeth in Pets

Pet parent holding dog's mouth and examining teeth.

Broken tooth? Ouch! Unfortunately, broken – or fractured – teeth in dogs and cats are common. But pets can’t tell us when a tooth is fractured, which is why it’s important for you to select safe chew toys and know when to consult with your family vet!

Dog chewing on a nylabone

Common Causes 

The most common causes of fractured teeth in pets are from a trauma/accident or from chewing on hard objects such as: 

  • Antlers 
  • Real bones 
  • Hooves 
  • Nylon-type toys/bones 
  • Rocks 
  • Ice 

A rule of thumb is: if you wouldn’t hit yourself in the kneecap with it, don’t give it to your dog to chew!  

Gray striped cat with yellow eyes sitting next to a food dish.


Many times, pet parents are unaware that a pet’s tooth is broken until a veterinarian notices it or until it becomes so uncomfortable, the pet can no longer tolerate the pain. 

Common signs of a painful broken tooth include: 

  • Drooling 
  • Reluctance to eat or play with toys 
  • Pawing at the face 
  • Facial swelling 

Know that sometimes, with very stoic pets, there may be few or very subtle signs of pain. 

Dental x-ray displayed on computer monitor in front of a pet on an exam table with x-ray machine.


Your family veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary dentist should evaluate any broken teeth. After an awake oral exam, your pet is anesthetized so a veterinarian can perform a more in-depth oral exam, take dental x-rays, and make recommendations for treatment. 

A note on anesthesia: 

Of course, it would be great if we could take dental x-rays while a pet is awake – but even the bestbehaved dog or cat will not sit still with an x-ray sensor inside their mouth and that tube to the side of their head! Therefore, anesthesia is necessary to safely and accurately perform x-rays. At Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, our Anesthesia team consists of a board-certified veterinary anesthetist and veterinary technician specialists in anesthesia and analgesia. This team determines if your pet is a good candidate for anesthesia and then tailors an anesthesia plan for your pet. 

Two visual aids of a complicated crown fracture and an uncomplicated crown fracture. Images from AVDC.

Images from https://avdc.org/.

Uncomplicated vs. Complicated Fracture 

Your pet’s treatment plan will depend on the type of fracture in your pet’s tooth. A fracture is classified as either “uncomplicated” or “complicated.” 

  • Uncomplicated 
    • Uncomplicated fractures extend through the hard enamel surface, but don’t extend into the sensitive inside tissue of the tooth called the pulp. 
    • Note that the porous layer under the surface (called the dentin) can still allow bacteria into the inside of the tooth and lead to a painful tooth root infection. 
    • It’s important to have a dental x-ray taken at least once a year to determine if the inside of the tooth and area around the root show signs of infection. 
  • Complicated 
    • Complicated fractures extend into the sensitive tissue on the inside of the tooth (the “pulp.”) Food, saliva, and bacteria can easily enter these fractured teeth. Infection inside the tooth travels through the small blood vessels at the tip of the root below the gum line and leads to a painful tooth root infection (known as an abscess.)
    • The two treatment options for a complicated fracture: 
      • Save the tooth with root canal therapy 
        • A board-certified veterinary dentist will clean out the inside of your pet’s tooth, sterilize it, fill it, and seal the opening to prevent bacteria from getting inside the tooth. 
        • With root canal therapy, your pet gets to keep their tooth and can return to normal activities the next day. 
        • Keep in mind, not all fractured teeth are good candidates for root canal treatment. If the fracture extends under the gums, it is less likely to be a good candidate. 
      • Extract the tooth  
        • To extract a tooth, the veterinarian or board-certified veterinary dentist will make an incision into the gum tissue, remove bone from around the tooth root, and remove the tooth. Your pet goes home with a row of stitches that will dissolve.  
        • For 2 weeks post-extraction, chew toys are not permitted, and you’ll feed your pet a soft diet while the surgery site heals.  

Two photos side by side. The first photo is a dog's mouth with a fractured canine tooth. The second photo is a dog's tooth with a fractured upper fourth premolar that extends below the gum line.


You can prevent some tooth fractures by limiting your pet’s access to hard toys and providing safe chewing options. The Veterinary Oral Health Council provides a seal of acceptance for many dental treats, diets, and toys that are safest for chewing as well as help to prevent plaque and calculus build-up on your pet’s teeth.  

A board-certified veterinary dentist sitting in front of an anesthetized pet while performing dental work.

If you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s oral health, talk to your family veterinarian. We recommend that your pet have an oral exam, dental cleaning, and full mouth dental x-rays at least once a year with your family veterinarian. In some cases, your family veterinarian may choose to refer your pet to our Dentistry & Oral Surgery Service to see a board-certified veterinary dentist. 

Learn more about our Dentistry & Oral Surgery Service here 

More Reading:

Written by Erin Vicari, VMD, DAVDC and Laurel Bird, CVT, VTS (Dentistry).

 Dr. Vicari, VMD, DAVDC, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

LAUREL BIRD, CVT, VTS (DENTISTRY), Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, Fast Track Triage, color-coded triage system, pet emergency, Twin Cities emergency vet, Minnesota emergency vet, Saint Paul emergency vet, Oakdale emergency vet


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