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Key takeaways

Stomatitis is a broad definition of inflammation of the gums and mucous membranes of the mouth.

  • Refers to serious cases of gingivitis, periodontitis, pharyngitis, that include widespread irritation and ulceration of the tongue, gums, back of the throat, and palate
  • Typical signs of stomatitis in dogs include red, ulcerated raw tissue inside the mouth, bleeding gums, loss of appetite and weight loss, and excessive drooling
  • The cause of stomatitis is often unknown but some forms appear to have a genetic basis
  • Stomatitis can also be caused by contact with corrosive materials or electric shock
  • Stomatitis may be a secondary condition to other illnesses such as diabetes mellitus
  • Diagnosis includes physical and dental examination, bacterial culture, and biopsy of the lesions
  • Treatment varies widely depending on the underlying cause
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A closer look: Stomatitis in Dogs

Stomatitis is a rare condition in dogs that is often secondary to other underlying conditions which impact the immune system. In these cases, treatment of the primary condition is necessary to ensure symptoms of stomatitis resolve and do not recur.

Some cases have no known cause. Breed predisposition is a reported finding, so routine oral and dental screenings for at-risk breeds help with early identification and treatment.

Any dog having difficulty eating or with obvious sores in the mouth that do not seem to be improving requires non urgent veterinary assessment.

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Risk factors

Stomatitis is uncommon in dogs. Some breeds appear to be more predisposed to it, in particular Greyhounds but also Maltese, Schnauzers, and Labrador Retrievers. Stomatitis is not considered an emergency but can cause significant health issues and discomfort, so prompt medical attention is advised.

In severe cases, symptoms of ulcerative stomatitis can extend to other areas such as the throat and the back of the mouth.

Possible causes

The specific cause of stomatitis cannot be identified in many cases, but there appears to be breed-related prevalence, so a genetic component is suggested.

Disproportionate immune response (either too little or too much response) to mouth bacteria may be a possible cause of stomatitis. It can also be caused by rare and specific inherited immune dysfunctions (e.g. Grey Collie syndrome) or acquired immunosuppressive states, such as what occurs with diabetes mellitus or cancer.

Miscellaneous causes include injuries, often through contact with irritating objects such as caustic materials (like bleach), plants, or chewing on electrical cords.

Main symptoms

The primary symptoms of stomatitis are more severe and pronounced symptoms of other types of oral diseases.

Testing and diagnosis

The diagnostic process to identify stomatitis consists of an oral examination, generally with the patient under anesthesia, as it might cause pain.

Specific tests include:

  • Bacterial culture
  • Biopsy of the lesions
  • Blood tests
  • X-rays of the oral cavity

Steps to Recovery

Treatment depends on the underlying condition. In some cases, medications, such as antibiotics, are prescribed as primary treatment. More often, surgical treatment is necessary and in most cases it involves tooth extraction. Pain medications might be necessary for a period after surgery.

If stomatitis does not improve after surgery, therapy with corticosteroids or cyclosporine might also be an option. Other therapies include CO2 laser ablation, especially if extraction or medical therapy proves difficult. In some cases, experimental stem cell therapy may be attempted, but the efficacy of this is still being assessed.

If an allergic response is suspected to be associated with stomatitis, investigation and treatment of allergies may be recommended.

Dogs that do not need surgery are often put on a dental care plan that involves frequent brushing, topical products, and dental chews.

If the underlying cause is found and treated, recovery is usually successful. Patients that require full tooth extraction need home care and a quiet environment to fully recover. Dietary changes are usually necessary during recovery from tooth extraction as the ability to chew is compromised.


Stomatitis is not contagious. Prevention is difficult, as in many cases the underlying cause is unknown or breed-related. Frequent dental examinations and dental homecare can help prevent the spread of infections in the oral cavity.

Is Stomatitis in Dogs common?

Stomatitis is a rare condition in dogs.

Typical Treatment

  • Treatment of primary contributing conditions
  • Dental surgery (extraction)
  • Antibiotics
  • Painkillers

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