Shaping the future of animal health
Dentistry & Oral health

Initial examination

Extra-Oral examination

Once the history has been recorded, the animal is examined in a quiet environment.

Examination of the facial structures may reveal one or more of the following signs:

  •  nasal discharge and / or crusting,
  •  swelling,
  •  fistulous tract,
  •  skin infection,
  •  facial asymmetry,
  •  exophthalmia,
  •  muscle atrophy,
  •  protrusion of one or several teeth.

Palpation is performed following examination of the facial structures, and may reveal:

  •  specific pain location,
  •  non visible but palpable swelling,
  •  abnormal movement of jaw bones,
  •  enlarged lymph nodes,
  •  enlarged salivary glands.


Intra-Oral examination

Opening the mouth of dogs and cats :

The animal sits or lays down on the examination table.The owner stands on the side of the animal restricting its motion. The animal is petted and the head is gently approached by the hands of the veterinarian. One hand is placed on the top of the head and the other one under the mandible on the throat. Gently, the hand on top of the head (the left for a right-handed person) is moved forward on top of the muzzle. The other hand is kept under the throat. The upper lip is gently elevated with the thumb of the upper hand to assess the oral mucosa for the presence of ulcerative areas that would make intraoral examination painful for the animal and could lead to aggressive reactions.

To open the mouth, the upper hand which holds the muzzle in large dogs, or the head in small dogs and cats, is rotated backwards to place the nose of the animal vertically. While maintaining the head in this position, the lower jaw is depressed ventrally with either the forefinger placed between the lower canines in cats and small dogs or the thumb and the middle finger placed on both sides of the mandible at the level of the small premolar teeth in larger dogs.

Photo 2

Photo 3 - Opening of the mouth


Examination of the oral structures:

Soft tissue and teeth lesions include:

  •  missing teeth,
  •  misplaced teeth,
  •  abnormal occlusion,
  •  abnormal tooth structure, tooth colour or tooth shape,
  •  retained deciduous teeth,
  •  fractured teeth,
  •  dental resorptive lesions, caries,
  •  fistulous tract,
  •  gingival or mucosal inflammation, ulcerative lesions, 
  •  exposed tooth root.

Special care must be paid to the periodontal tissue. In many cases, this initial exam will enable the practitioner to make a tentative diagnosis that will be confirmed by subsequent exams under anesthesia.