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Help! My dog has hairy teeth!

Closeup of a professional vet examining teeth of a dog

One of the bizarre things that you might see if you take a peek in your dog’s mouth is hair apparently growing out from under the gum tissue surrounding the teeth. Hairy teeth are actually a sign of skin problems in dogs.

Here’s how it works: When dogs are itchy, they chew on their skin. The hair shed by this chewing can easily become stuck under the gums, primarily around the incisor and canine teeth at the front of the mouth.

Even though this hair comes from the dog’s own body, the immune system sees it as potentially dangerous foreign material and attacks. The result is inflammation. Also, hair around the teeth traps food and bacteria under a dog’s gums causing infection and periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease is inflammation and destruction of the tissues surrounding the teeth. If untreated, it will lead to tooth loss, infections elsewhere in the body, like heart valves, lungs, live and kidneys.

Periodontal disease can be treated by your veterinarian. He or she will anesthetize your dog, thoroughly examine and clean all of your dog’s teeth (including removing the hair), and possibly take dental x-rays to look at deeper structures. Severely damaged teeth will need to be removed.

Preventing the return of periodontal disease caused by hair requires a two-step approach:

  • Deal with the problem that is making the dog itch. A veterinary physical exam can identify some causes of itchy skin, but diagnostic tests such as skin scrapings for mange mites, cytology to rule out infections, a fungal culture for ringworm, or allergy testing may also be required.
  • Remove any hair that becomes lodged around the teeth before it does too much damage. Tooth brushing on a daily basis will also help prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar that is another leading cause of periodontal disease.
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