Humans go to the dentist every six months for a dental cleaning. However, we brush and floss every day and can still get cavities and gum disease. Your pet does not have the luxury of being able to brush and floss their teeth daily and often have gum disease very early on in their lives. Gum disease can cause bone loss, abscesses, tooth decay, and tooth loss. We suggest that once your pet turns one that you bring them in for regular dental checks. During the dental check, your pet’s gums and teeth will be evaluated and a plan of action will be given. We do dental x-rays, sedated cleanings, extractions, and much more.

Today, we want to talk about another important reason to maintain your pet’s oral care. Have you ever heard of an oronasal fistula? It’s important to be aware of it!

#1: An oronasal fistula is a hole connecting the mouth and nose.

When a pet develops an oronasal fistula, food, water, and saliva can travel from the mouth to the nose, which can irritate the respiratory tract and cause the pet pain and discomfort. Chronic infection can occur, and the pet may avoid eating and drinking because of the associated pain. Pets with oronasal fistulas may exhibit:

  • Excessive sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Sneezing out food
  • Inflammation and chronic infections of the respiratory tract


#2: Dental disease is the most common cause of oronasal fistulas in pets.

Most pets develop some degree of periodontal disease by the age of 3. The most common cause of oronasal fistulas, severe dental disease, causes the bone surrounding a pet’s teeth to become weak, and gaps can form between the mouth and the respiratory tract. These gaps are prime areas for bacteria to accumulate and infection to occur, and extraction of the affected tooth or teeth is usually required. After extraction, if so much bone has been lost that the channel between the mouth and the nasal passages is exposed, an oronasal fistula can result.


Oronasal fistulas can also be caused by trauma, cancer, or cleft palate.


#3: Surgery is required to repair an oronasal fistula.

The sooner an oronasal fistula is treated, the better the prognosis, because chronic fistulas are difficult to repair and often never fully heal on their own. To repair an oronasal fistula, surgery under general anesthesia is required. After evaluating the fistula’s depth and cleaning out any debris or bacteria, we search for healthy gum tissue to suture over the fistula to close it, which can be challenging if the pet’s mouth is severely diseased.


For two to three weeks following the surgery, the pet should be prevented from chewing on anything hard, including dry food.


#4: Good oral hygiene is the best way to prevent oronasal fistulas in pets.

To prevent bone loss and infection that can weaken periodontal support structures and lead to oronasal fistulas, good oral hygiene is necessary. Brush your pet’s teeth regularly, provide dental chews, and schedule routine dental exams and professional cleanings to keep your pet’s oral health in tip-top shape.

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