Carnassial tooth abscess can be seen in the upper jaw.

It results in swelling or draining sore below the eye.

The specific thing about this tooth is that it has 3 roots.

Therefore it is much larger than other teeth.

Its main role is chewing hard food.

If there is an abscess, lack of appetite is very common.

Let’s learn more about carnassial tooth abscesses in dogs!

What Is a Carnassial Tooth Abscess in Dogs?

  • Carnassial Teeth in Dogs
  • Identifying an Abscess

Carnassial Teeth in Dogs

Carnassial teeth have an almost ideal function in mammals. [1]

These teeth have many functional advantages for capturing food.  [2]

The Carnassial tooth is the 4th premolar in the upper jaw.

In the lower jaw, it is the first lower molar.

When compared to other teeth, these teeth are much larger.

Carnivores have 2 main feeding types and dental morphologies.

The first group consists of pure meat eaters with large carnassial teeth.

The second group consists of frugivores with broad crushing teeth. [3]

The main function of these teeth is biting tough foods.

With their help, dogs can consume bones and raw meat.

During the carnivore evolution, these teeth had a huge role in wild hunting.

Both upper and lower carnassials relieve the chewing procedure.

Besides this, carnassials have “self-cleaning” functions.

Their close contact removes tartar and plaque buildup.

But regular dental care is still necessary.

Proper instruments and brushing is needed for optimal hygiene.

These teeth are prone to abscesses.

The upper carnassials are hardly reachable.

That is why many pet owners leave them during brushing.

But improper or lack of brushing can lead to abscesses in dogs.

Identifying an Abscess

Symptoms Treatments
Pain or discomfort

-Pain relief medicine





-Drainage of the abscess


Bad breath (Halitosis)

-Regular brushing

-Professional tartar and plaque cleaning


Difficulty eating

-Diet change (from hard to soft food)

-Pain management medicine






Once you notice some of these symptoms, contact your vet.

Some of the most common symptoms of carnassial tooth abscess are:

  • Redness and swelling
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Bad breath (Halitosis)
  • Difficulty eating
  • Pus

Redness is usually visible when bacteria buildup is already present.

Bacteria in the oral cavity can cause plaque and tartar buildup.

As time goes by, swollen and red gums are visible. [4]

This is a common sign of gingivitis.

These signs should be properly addressed.

We advise vet visits and proper diagnosing.

If the issue is not fixed, the periodontal ligament and alveolar bone can be destroyed.

Pain and discomfort can be signs of any periodontal disease.

Even a minor tooth infection can lead to pain.

When dogs are in pain, they refuse to eat.

This can lead to serious weight loss and secondary diseases.

Secondary diseases can be related to heart, liver, kidney, or metabolic disbalances.

Bad breath or halitosis can be physiological or pathological.

Physiological is related to food consumption.

On the other side, pathological can be related to plaque or tartar.

Some bacteria can cause very unpleasant odors in both humans and animals.

The first step to avoid bad breath is regular brushing.

The second step is proper diagnosis and treatment.

Difficulty eating can be a serious consequence of tooth abscess.

Although it doesn’t seem concerning, it is a serious sign.

By default, these dogs have a lack of appetite.

This lack of appetite can cause many secondary issues.

If there is a visible pus, the process has become more serious.

Pus can mean that bacteremia is present or is about to develop.

These symptoms should be properly managed.

Otherwise, more serious consequences could occur.

Causes and Risk Factors

  • Periodontal Disease
  • Diseased Teeth
  • Other Risk Factors

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal diseases represent inflammation and infection of parts of the oral cavity.

They affect gums, tooth roots, alveolar bones, ligaments, and nerves.

The changes are most visible outside of the tooth.

Also, you can notice changes around the tooth.

However, some pathological changes aren’t visible to the human eye.

There is a very close connection between periodontal diseases and abscesses.

Bacteria in the oral cavity can lead to tartar and plaque buildup.

Signs like redness, swelling, and pain are common.

As these diseases progress, pockets in the jaws can be formed.

The pockets are between the gums and teeth.

This is the ideal environment for bacteria multiplication.

If bacteria endotoxins get released in the tooth root, the result is tooth abscess.

Exposed roots are a consequence of periodontal diseases.

They are more prone to tooth decay and cavities.

Exposed roots and damaged gums are the perfect base for tooth abscesses.

Diseased Teeth

Any periodontal disease can lead to tooth root abscess.

If oral diseases are not timely manages, severe consequences are possible.

Infected teeth can be caused by periodontal diseases very often.

Other reasons are pulpitis, tooth decay, or trauma.

Traumas are the perfect entrance for bacteria.

Enamel breakdown is visible in tooth decay.

It is another great entrance for bacteria.

All these changes can lead to tooth root abscesses.

Any abscess requires immediate and efficient treatment.

The good news is that the treatment success rate is higher for carnassial than canine teeth. [5]

The changes between diseased and healthy teeth are easily recognizable.

No prior knowledge is needed.

Other Risk Factors

Usually, canine teeth are more prone to abscesses.

The reason behind this is their size and roots.

Carnassial teeth also have massive roots, but their treatment procedure is more successful.

Another risk factor is upper jaw vulnerability.

Particularly the carnassial teeth are more prone to abscesses.

Also, the upper jaw is more crowded with teeth.

It has a poor blood supply.

This makes it difficult for proper immunological response.

Because the upper jaw is more teeth crowded, better hygiene is needed.

Make sure to perform a detailed brushing.

Diagnosing a Carnassial Tooth Abscess

Carnassial tooth abscess can be diagnosed during your regular vet checkup.

But, many pet owners notice the abscess on their own.

Usually, when they notice, the process has become more severe.

The examination should be performed by a veterinarian or a board-certified vet dentist.

The diagnosis starts with a simple observation of the face and oral cavity.

Then, a detailed observation of the inside wounds is made.

Carnassial tooth abscess is easily recognizable.

It is the largest tooth in the cavity.

If there is a pathological process, many signs can confirm it.

But not always the changes are visible.

Sometimes an X-ray is needed for a detailed diagnosis.

Usually, the abscess is visible on a single root.

Other additional examination includes blood tests.

A blood test can show if there is a severe infection.

Also, transillumination can be used in some cases.

This technique represents a light source that identifies abnormalities or abscesses.

Treatment Options

  • Antibiotics
  • Dental Procedures
  • Root Canal Therapy vs Extraction


Antibiotics help eliminate microbial infections in the oral cavity.

Usually, antibiotics are prescribed when there is a present bacteria.

But very often, they are prescribed as supportive drugs.

This will prevent the infection from spreading. [6]

Other drugs besides antibiotics can include pain relief drugs. [7]

Antibiotics can provide efficient support at the beginning of the process.

Otherwise, antibiotics need to be combined with dental procedures.

Dental Procedures

Dental procedures are necessary even for simple pathological changes.

A professional dental cleaning can save your dog from long-term treatment.

Another procedure is drainage.

Drainage is performed when an abscess is already present.

When a socket is present, the best solution is extraction.

The extraction needs to be carefully done because the carnassial tooth has 3 roots.

If the vet dentist has hopes for the tooth, root canal therapy is a great option.

During this process, the damaged pulp is removed.

Then, the root canal is disinfected and treated for a while.

After the treatment, the root is filled with a biocompatible material.

Root Canal Therapy vs Extraction

Treatment option



Root canal therapy

The tooth structure is preserved

Requires special skills and instruments


Eliminates infection

Expensive and long-term procedure


Saves the tooth and some of its functions

Requires follow-up care


Eliminates infection

Loss of tooth


Immediate relief and abscess drainage

Requires sutures or bone grafts


Simple procedure

Lack of chewing ability

Both procedures can eliminate infections.

But there are some cons related to each option.

Root canal therapy preserves the tooth structures.

But this procedure cannot be performed by anyone.

It requires special skills and equipment. [8]

This procedure can be time-consuming and pricey.

The root canal is very small, and that is why it is time-consuming.

The treatment needs to be carefully done.

It saves the tooth and some of its functions.

But it requires very special follow-up care.

Even if the process is finished, regular vet visits are required.

On the other side, extractions lead to tooth loss.

The good thing is that your dog may feel immediate relief.

It is due to the abscess treatment and drainage.

But, this procedure requires sutures and bone grafts.

So, it should be performed by a professional.

The whole process of extraction is very simple.

Your vet will remove the tooth if the infection is serious.

However, note that a lack of chewing abilities is possible.

Untreated patients can show signs of mild conjunctivitis and ocular discharge. [9]

Around the ossis lacrimal area, swelling can be seen.

Preventing a Carnassial Tooth Abscess

  • Regular Dental Check-ups
  • At-home Dental Care
  • Monitoring for Signs

Regular Dental Check-ups

Routine vet visits can save your pet from many diseases.

Dental check-ups are very simple.

They usually include observation of the oral cavity.

Carnassial tooth abscess usually begins from plaque and tartar.

If plaque and tartar exist, your vet can perform dental cleaning procedures.

At-home Dental Care

At-home dental care should start from a very young age.

This way, your dog will get used to the cleaning procedures.

2-3 times per week is the optimal brushing frequency.

But vets suggest daily brushing if possible. [10]

Remember to use specialized dog toothpaste and brush.

The carnassial teeth should be carefully brushed.

Try to cover every part of the oral cavity.

Detailed brushing is crucial.

After the cleaning process, you can offer a treat to your dog.

Positive reinforcement can save you for the next cleaning.

Brushing at home is very simple.

It can be time-consuming in the beginning, but it is worth it.

Monitoring for Signs

Rubbing the mouth can be a sign of tooth infection or abscess.

Denial of food and water is another red flag.

Constant head movements can be a sign of discomfort or pain.

As soon as you notice some unusual dog behavior, visit your vet.

You can also observe your dog’s mouth.

This way, you can notice if the gums are healthy or diseased.

How Do You Treat a Carnassial Tooth Abscess on a Dog?

You treat a carnassial tooth abscess on a dog with dental procedures.

This includes root canal therapy or extractions.

Sometimes even antibiotics and pain relief drugs are enough.

But, to get the best results, visit your vet.

What Is a Carnassial Tooth Abscess?

A carnassial tooth abscess is a pathological process.

It affects the premolar teeth.

It can be a serious consequence of periodontal diseases or diseased teeth.

This condition should be diagnosed and managed on time.

Also, prevention is one way to stop this process.

That is why at-home dental care is so important.

If you notice some symptoms of a carnassial tooth abscess, contact a professional.