Dog and Cat Root Canals

Are Root Canals in Dogs and Cats Better Than Extraction?


by Lorie Huston, DVM on October 7, 2013

What would you do if your pet had a bad tooth and the veterinarian gave you two options: save the tooth by doing a root canal or sacrifice the tooth and extract it? Would you choose the root canal? Or would you just have the tooth pulled?


Let’s start by explaining exactly what a root canal involves. Root canals are performed when the inside of the tooth, known as the pulp, becomes infected. This infection, if left untreated, can spread beyond the infected tooth, causing an abscess. Both the infected tooth and the abscess will be painful for your pet. In a root canal, the infected pulp is removed, the inside of the infected tooth (the pulp cavity) is cleaned, and the cavity is filled with a synthetic material which is resistant to bacterial growth and thus unlikely to become reinfected. A filling is then placed in the tooth to close any open areas which were created to access the pulp. A crown may also be recommended to add strength to your pet’s tooth.

Many pet owners scoff at the thought of doing expensive dental work on their dog or cat, so the thought of doing a root canal may seem odd or even excessive to some of you. For others, the potential to save the tooth may be more attractive and, for you, the root canal may be the preferable option.

Veterinary dental specialist Dr. Tony Woodward urges you to at least consider root canal therapy. You’ll see Dr. Woodward explaining his reasoning in the video below. Please take a few moments to watch.


This post on the Vet Dentists website reiterates much of the same information about root canals in dogs and cats. Here are some of the reasons you may want to consider a root canal for your four-legged friend instead of just having the tooth extracted, according to the Vet Dentist post:

  1. Some teeth are more important including the pre-molars, back molars and canine teeth. Pre-molars and molars are very deeply rooted and extraction is painful as the roots must be extracted from the bone. The canine teeth are also extremely important and extraction of these may compromise the jaw bone or weaken nasal structure.
  2. Teeth are vital in your pet’s ability to chew effectively. When important chewing teeth are extracted the teeth don’t work together for both chewing and cleansing, which significantly increases the chances for future periodontal disease.
  3. Certain upper canine extractions may lead to the lip folding over the gum line, which in turn may be traumatized by the lower teeth hitting the lip while chewing.
  4. Certain teeth may have an abnormal root structure (dilaceration). This makes an extraction very difficult with potential complications from root fracture, inability to remove root tips, bone fracture and excessive bleeding.
  5. Excessive bleeding, root fracture, jaw fracture and lip trapping are all possible complications of extraction, especially for certain deep rooted teeth.

Granted, there are times when a root canal will not possible and extraction may be the only option available. But, in many cases, a root canal may be a viable alternative. Discuss the options with your veterinarian. If your veterinarian is not comfortable performing the root canal herself, referral to a veterinary dentist who can perform the procedure may be an alternative.

Cost is often a factor in these decisions as well. However, the cost of a root canal may not be significantly different than the cost of extraction, particularly in those teeth that are deep-seated and not easily removed, and especially when you consider the cost of treating complications resulting from the loss of a tooth as well.

Whether you choose root canal or extraction, the one choice you should not make is ignoring your pet’s bad tooth. If left untreated, these teeth will be a source of pain for your pet and can lead to even more serious health issues.

What do you think? Would you consider a root canal for your dog or cat? Or would you choose extraction instead? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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About Lorie Huston, DVM Lorie Huston is an accomplished veterinarian, an award winning blogger, a talented author and a certified veterinary journalist. She is available for writing assignments, blogging and social media consultation, and SEO strategy.

This article is posted and shared through the courtesy of the Pet Health Care Gazette