Antibiotics for Oral Abscesses in Dogs

Updated April 17, 2017

Dental health is just as important for dogs as it is for their owners. Neglecting dental care can result in an oral abscess, which can be very painful for the dog. Although they look quite alarming, oral abscesses are treated with a simple procedure at the veterinary hospital, which is followed by a week or two of oral antibiotics.

Oral Abscess

Lack of dental care can cause plaque build-up on the teeth. As the plaque deposits grow, they impinge upon the gum line, and spread underneath the edge of the tissue. Because plaque is full of bacteria, the opening in the gingival tissue is an invitation for infection. The gums will appear inflamed, and may be painful to the touch. As the infection spreads, the multiplying bacteria create a pocket filled with pus, which is known as an abscess. The veterinarian will drain the pus in a surgical setting, and will prescribe a round of antibiotics to fight the lingering infection.

Prophylactic Antibiotics

Treatment of an oral abscess includes removing all plaque and tartar from the mouth. If the dental disease has progressed to the point where an abscess is present, it means that the amount of bacteria in the mouth has grown to unhealthy levels, and the unhealthy gums will bleed easily. Bleeding gums can allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream, causing sometimes irreversible, often fatal kidney and liver damage. Many vets will prescribe a few days of prophylactic antibiotics prior to the procedure to get bacteria levels under control and to prevent damage from occurring.

Injectable Antibiotic

After the procedure, the vet will give the dog a dose of injectable antibiotic, usually Penicillin, to "kick-start" the immune system, and kill any bacteria that may have been stirred up by the manipulation of the gingival tissue. Often, a severely infected mouth will bleed and act like an open wound. The mouth being a warm, moist place makes it the perfect environment for bacteria to grow, and an injection of strong antibiotic helps to discourage it. Injectable antibiotics are often stronger than what is prescribed for continuing treatment because the dog will remain in the hospital under observation for a few hours after the procedure. There, a vet can deal with any possible side effects.

Broad Spectrum Antibiotic

Most vets will prescribe a general broad-spectrum antibiotic for seven to 14 days following the procedure. Drugs like Clavamox (clavulanic acid/amoxicillin) and Baytril (enrofloxacin) are popular because they are effective against a wide range of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, and are usually very well-tolerated by dogs of all ages.

Narrow Spectrum Antibiotics

If the infection persists or gets worse despite antibiotic treatment, the offending bacteria may be resistant to the medication. The vet will culture a sample of the pus to determine if it is sensitive to a particular drug. Narrow-spectrum antibiotics are "specialised," meaning they only kill certain types of bacteria, but do it effectively. Antirobe (clindamycin) and Bactrim (trimethoprim/sulfadiazine) are two popular "specialised" drugs that are used to treat oral abscesses.

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