What If My Dog Lost A Tooth While Playing Tug Of War?

Why Dogs Play Tug of War

Dogs are naturally inclined to play tug of war games. It stems from their instinct to use their jaws and compete for resources (https://wildone.com/blogs/content/why-do-dogs-like-tug-of-war). Playing tug allows dogs to act on their instincts in a safe and fun way with their human.

Most dogs get great enjoyment out of playing tug with their owners. It’s a chance to bond, burn energy, and engage their minds and bodies. The game allows them to playfully “compete” in a natural canine way (https://pupford.com/tug-of-war-dogs/). Dogs often playfully growl or shake their head during the game, which are normal play behaviors.

Tug also provides dogs the opportunity to exercise their jaws. It allows them to clamp down and work their jaw muscles. This can satisfy their natural need to use their mouths and interact with objects. Overall, the game provides dogs with mental stimulation and a vigorous workout.

Potential Dental Risks

While playing tug of war is generally safe for most dogs, there are some potential dental risks to be aware of. The main dental injuries that can occur during rough play like tug of war include chipped or broken teeth, damage to the gums, and displaced or lost teeth.

A dog’s teeth can chip or fracture if too much pressure is applied while playing tug of war. Their teeth can also break if the tug toy abruptly jerks out of their mouth. According to the AKC, these injuries are more likely to happen if a dog has pre-existing dental issues or their teeth are already worn down from age or breed-related malocclusion.

Damage to a dog’s gums, such as cuts or scrapes, may occur if rope burns or friction injuries happen during tug play. Their gums can also become irritated or inflamed if their teeth repetitively rub against them in an abnormal way. According to Preventive Vet, inflammation in the gums can become problematic if bacteria enters through those openings.

Finally, some overly enthusiastic tugging could potentially displace or knock out one of a dog’s teeth, especially if they have loose teeth already. According to SoftPaws, this risk of tooth loss is greater for puppies whose teeth are still developing. Displaced or lost teeth can lead to other health issues over time if left untreated.

While the risks may seem concerning, it’s important to remember that dental injuries are relatively uncommon during normal tug play. Being aware of the potential issues allows owners to monitor their dog’s mouth health and adjust playtime activities if needed. Most dogs can enjoy playing tug of war safely if basic precautions are followed.

Signs of Dental Injury

Some common signs that your dog may have suffered a dental injury while playing include:

  • Missing teeth – Your dog may spit out a tooth while playing or you may notice a tooth is suddenly missing upon examination of their mouth.
  • Bleeding gums – Gums that are cut or damaged from a dental injury may bleed.
  • Cuts inside the mouth – Sharp tooth edges or foreign objects could cause lacerations to your dog’s lips, gums, tongue or other oral tissues.
  • Difficulty eating – Your dog may show signs of pain when eating or avoid eating altogether. Cracked or damaged teeth can make it painful to chew.

According to WagWalking, other signs of dental injury include swelling of the lips, tongue or cheeks, a lump on the lips or tongue, foul mouth odor, and obvious visible damage to the teeth or gums. If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms after playing tug of war, it’s important to have them examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

When to See the Vet

It’s important to get prompt veterinary attention if your dog loses or chips a tooth while playing tug of war or from any other injury. According to the Veterinary Emergency Group, you should take your dog to the vet immediately if a tooth is completely knocked out from the root [1]. The sooner the tooth is reimplanted, the better the chances are for success and preventing complications.

You should also make an appointment to see your vet within a few days if your dog chips or fractures a tooth. The Veterinary Centers of America (VCA) Hospitals note that even small chips can expose sensitive dentin and cause pain [2]. Your vet will want to examine and treat chipped teeth to prevent further damage.

It’s also important to visit the vet promptly if you notice signs of oral injury like difficulty eating, excessive drooling, or pawing at the mouth. These behaviors suggest your dog is in pain or discomfort from a dental issue that requires veterinary attention according to WagWalking [3]. Don’t wait to see if symptoms improve on their own.

Treating Knocked Out Teeth

If your dog’s tooth gets completely knocked out while playing tug of war or another activity, try to find the tooth and bring it with you to the vet if possible. According to Paddock Park Veterinary Clinic, “Reimplantation of the tooth may be attempted if the tooth is undamaged and healthy, and there has been minimal trauma to the socket.”

For knocked out teeth, the vet will most likely prescribe a course of antibiotics to prevent infection as well as pain medication to keep your dog comfortable during recovery. Even if the tooth cannot be reimplanted, your vet can smooth the edges of the empty socket and provide medication.

It is important to bring your dog to the vet right away if their tooth gets knocked out while playing. As WagWalking states, “The longer the tooth is out of the socket, the lower the chances for replanting the tooth.” Quick action can increase the chances of saving the tooth.

Treating Chipped Teeth

For chipped teeth that are not too severe, your vet may recommend smoothing any sharp edges to prevent further damage to the gums and tongue (VCA Hospitals, 2022). Applying a dental sealant or bonding agent can also help protect the exposed dentin from temperature sensitivities and bacteria (WellPets, 2022). However, if the pulp is exposed or a large portion of enamel is missing, more invasive treatment may be necessary.

Extraction is an option if the tooth is damaged beyond repair. Though losing a tooth can affect chewing, dogs can adapt well. The alternative is root canal therapy to save the tooth. This endodontic procedure removes infected pulp and seals the tooth. Success rates are over 90% if performed within 2 weeks of injury (VCA Hospitals, 2022). Post-op radiographs are taken to ensure healing, and antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent infection. With proper aftercare, the tooth could potentially last a lifetime.

Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best solution for a chipped tooth based on factors like cost, long-term prognosis, risks of further complications, and your dog’s age and overall health.

Recovering From Dental Injury

After a dental injury like a knocked out or chipped tooth, proper aftercare is crucial for your dog’s recovery. The recovery period will depend on the severity of the injury, but some general guidelines include:

Feeding your dog soft foods that are easy to chew and swallow. Your vet may prescribe a special diet. Avoid anything crunchy or chewy that could further irritate the injured area. Recommended soft foods include canned dog food, cottage cheese, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, or cooked rice [1].

Avoiding toys and hard chews during the recovery period, as your dog’s mouth needs time to heal. Stick to soft, plush toys. Tug of war and other rough play should be halted until your vet gives the go-ahead [2].

Giving any prescribed pain medication as directed by your vet. Your dog may experience discomfort as the mouth heals, so medication can help them remain comfortable.

Follow up with your vet to assess healing and determine when your dog can return to normal eating and playing habits. With proper recovery care, your dog’s injured mouth should heal within a few weeks.

Preventing Dental Injuries

There are several ways to help prevent dental injuries in dogs while playing:

Monitor play sessions between dogs closely, especially if one dog is much larger or more exuberant than the other. Supervise their interactions and stop the play before it gets too rough. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, examine your dog’s treats and chew toys and eliminate any items that could damage teeth, such as bones, antlers, cow hooves, nylon chews, and pizzle sticks.

Avoid games of tug-of-war, which put a lot of pressure on a dog’s teeth and jaws. The American Kennel Club recommends not playing this game at all, as it can encourage aggressive behavior in some dogs. If you do play tug-of-war, use rope toys instead of sticks to reduce the chances of dental trauma.

Get your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned and examined on a regular basis. Your veterinarian can detect and treat any underlying dental issues before they escalate into fractures or other damage. According to Animal Medical Care and Surgical Center, a complete oral hygiene program can help prevent irreversible tooth damage.

When to Resume Normal Play

After a tooth extraction or dental injury, it’s important not to resume normal play activities too soon. According to the Animal Hospital of Mebane, after the initial two weeks have passed, you can resume your dog’s normal dental routine, but only with approval from your veterinarian.

The mouth needs time to heal properly after any dental procedure. The American Kennel Club recommends waiting at least two weeks before resuming any vigorous play or activities that could potentially re-injure the area that was operated on [1]. Gentle play may be permitted after several days, but your vet will provide specific guidelines on when your dog can fully return to normal play and activity levels based on their recovery process.

It’s also important that your dog is eating normally again before resuming vigorous play or tug-of-war games. The chewing motion during eating helps stabilize teeth after an extraction. Wait until your dog has regained their normal appetite and is able to chew kibble or other hard food comfortably. This is a sign the mouth has healed adequately for rougher play.

While waiting for approval to resume normal play, engage your dog in gentle activities like short walks on a leash. This will help avoid boredom while their mouth continues to recover. Once your veterinarian confirms it is safe, you can gradually reintroduce interactive playtime with approved toys. However, continue monitoring your dog closely and stop play if you notice any signs of pain or discomfort around the mouth area.

Providing Proper Toys

When choosing toys for playing tug of war with your dog, it’s important to select ones made from soft, gentle materials to protect their teeth. Hard plastic or wooden toys can potentially damage teeth and gums.

Look for tug toys made of soft rubber or cloth materials. Rubber has some give to it so there’s less pressure placed on teeth if the toy is yanked or pulled. Cloth toys like rope are also a good choice as they are soft and gentle on teeth.

Avoid any toys made from harder plastics or wood. Hard materials don’t have any give and can put extra strain on teeth and gums.

Inspect toys regularly and replace any that are damaged or worn. Fraying rope fibers or cracked rubber can create sharp edges that may hurt your dog’s mouth.

Replace toys frequently, as over time even soft toys can get compacted and lose their give. Rotating toys helps keep play exciting while minimizing damage to teeth.

With the proper soft, gentle tug toys you can enjoy a healthy game of tug of war without compromising your dog’s dental health. Check toys often and replace any that show wear and tear.

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