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Structure and Function of the Tongue, Teeth and Mouth in Dogs

By: Dr.Bari Spielman

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What Types of Diagnostic Tests Are Used to Evaluate the Tongue, Teeth, and Mouth?

Veterinarians use a number of different tests to evaluate the tongue, teeth and mouth. A thorough oral examination using an external light source is the single most important test in evaluating structures in the oral cavity. Many times tranquilization or even anesthesia is necessary for a thorough evaluation of all of the oral structures. Oral examination is followed by a thorough physical examination in order to detect other signs of illness or organ involvement.

Depending upon the clinical signs, the age and overall health of the dog, and the findings on oral and physical examination, other specific tests may be recommended by your veterinarian. Tests designed to evaluate disorders of the tongue, teeth and mouth include the following:

  • Swabs of the mouth may be taken for cytology (microscopic examination) and bacterial staining and culture. Tests may also be performed to detect certain viruses and fungal agents.

  • Blood samples may be submitted for a complete blood count to search for signs of infection, for a biochemistry profile to look for evidence of other organ diseases, and for certain infectious diseases such as feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus.

  • X-rays of the skull, jaw, and teeth may be helpful. Such X-rays require that the animal be placed under general anesthesia.

  • Biopsies of abnormal tissue, masses may be required to reach a definitive diagnosis.

  • Some lesions are only diagnosed with surgical removal and exploration of the abnormal area in the mouth.

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