Did you know that 67% of all adult dogs have some form of periodontal disease? It is a proven fact that dogs who do not receive early dental care as pups will more than likely have some form of dental disease as an adult. Regular oral care for dogs is just as important as it is for humans. It is true that dogs (and humans alike) existed for years without the luxury of toothbrushes and dentists, however that still doesn’t mean that we are better off without it.
The Importance of Doggy Dental Care
We are all familiar with how painful a toothache can be, but have you considered the pain that your canine may be experiencing? Just as good dental care is integral to our overall health, the same is true for our canine companions. Unfortunately, dogs do not have the thumbs required to simply pick up the toothbrush and take care of their oral hygiene every morning.
When dental hygiene is neglected, bacteria and food particles collect along the gum lines. Over time, these particles turn into soft deposits commonly known as plaque. Eventually this plaque becomes tartar, which inflames the gums.
Inflamed gums will eventually begin to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets where even more bacteria can grow. This leads to periodontal disease and, left untreated, allows it to grow worse.
This buildup of plaque and the subsequent periodontal disease leads to canine toothaches, the loss of teeth, abscesses and bacterial infections. These bacterial infections can also spread through the bloodstream to infect the kidneys, liver, heart and brain. This is why dental hygiene for canines is integral to maintaining a happy and healthy dog.
Spotting Canine Dental Problems
You may be wondering, “How can I tell if my dog needs a higher standard of dental care?” After all, your furry companion cannot exactly tell you if they are having dental discomfort or a toothache, right?
Don’t worry, there are several signs which can alert you to a problem with your pup’s oral and dental health.
• One of the most common symptoms is the loss of appetite that comes from dealing with painful toothaches and mouth abscesses. However, it can also be a symptom of a much more serious issue.
• It is considered typical for dogs to have bad breath, however, this is actually a common sign of tooth decay and/or infection. If brushing your dog’s teeth or providing a dental chew toy doesn’t remedy the situation, then it is best to have it checked by a vet.
• We all know that dogs are rather salivary creatures, however, excessive drooling can also be an indicator of tooth pain or a mouth injury. If a canine’s mouth is in pain it can cause the salivary glands to kick into high gear.
• If your dog’s teeth are loose or if they are losing teeth, then it is a good indication that there is a more predominant underlying issue. Aside from losing their baby teeth, it is not normal for a dog’s teeth to fall out.
• If you have noticed that your dog seems to be chewing only on one side, then it is a good indication that something on the opposite side is bothering them and they are trying to avoid using it.
• If you notice that your dog’s drool has blood in it, then it may be due to bleeding gums. If your pooch has red or bleeding gums, then it is a serious sign of a tooth infection and pain.
• This may be one of the hardest symptoms to notice, however, if you have noticed other warning signs of a possible dental infection then you should check to see if your dog has cysts under their tongue. This is also one of the most common signs of poor dental hygiene and decay.
Common Dental Issues Faced by Canines
One of the very first steps that you can take to preventing and caring for your dog’s dental hygiene is understanding what dental diseases are commonly faced by canines.
The most common dental issue faced by dogs is periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is the ultimate result of the plaque and tartar that buildup along the gum lines. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most under-treated issues. When left untreated it can cause numerous oral issues and can also be associated with internal organ damage. While periodontal disease is the most common dental disease faced by dogs, there are also many other issues which canines may face alone or in conjunction with it.
• Loose Teeth – While it is normal for dogs to lose their first set of teeth (just like humans), losing teeth later on in life is not natural and could be a red flag for more serious issues.
• Misaligned Teeth – Having crooked or misaligned teeth can sometimes be a result of the dog’s breeding, however, it can only be treated if it is causing discomfort or pain. Misaligned teeth could also be an indicator for a more serious condition, such as periodontal disease.
• Tooth Trauma – Tooth trauma is commonly caused by a dog chomping on something that is rigid and solid, which causes a part of the tooth to chip off. The exposed tooth often leaves the nerves exposed which can cause extreme discomfort and pain, and possibly infection. In cases such as this, a veterinarian can explain the extent of the damage and possible options for fixing it.
• Tooth Root Abscess – This occurs when an infection sets in along the gum line due to periodontal disease or tooth trauma. It is very painful and can cause facial swelling or even make it appear as though their eye is inflamed or infected. An abscess can also spread to surrounding teeth. The only treatment is to get your dog to a vet quickly so that they can provide the correct medications and treatment.
Taking Care of Doggy Dental Health
While there are several factors which can contribute to a dog’s oral health, such as breed, age, health, diet and the dental care received, there are a few steps that dog owners can take to reduce the risk of periodontal disease in their pets.
1. An Appropriate Diet
Owners can help their dog’s dental hygiene by ensuring that they are given a balanced and nutritious diet. This helps keep their immune system working in top condition, as well as provides some teeth cleaning action. There are many lines of dog food which are specially formulated to provide good dental health and may contain additives which help to prevent plaque from forming.
2. Provide ‘Chewy’ Chew Toys
Providing appropriate chew toys for your canine companion can help prevent many of the most common dental health conditions face by dogs. Ensuring that they have a safe chew toy every day helps keep their teeth in top condition. Chew toys should be hard and rubbery, or thin rawhide bones that bend easily. You should avoid treats and toys that do not bend. You can also find treats that are fully digestible and specially formulated to reduce the buildup of plaque and tartar.
3. Daily Oral Care
One of the most common ways to prevent and reduce the risk of periodontal disease is by providing daily oral care, a.k.a. brushing your dog’s teeth. Most pet supply stores, can provide specially formulated toothpastes and toothbrushes which are designed to help you deal with pet oral care. Even if you cannot brush your pet’s teeth every single day, you should do it as often as possible. For more detailed instructions on brushing your dog’s teeth, click here.
4. Routine Oral Examinations
Finally, performing routine oral examinations on a weekly basis can provide early detection of any dental problems. You can do this yourself by inspecting your dog’s mouth, lips, teeth and gum lines. Keeping a watchful eye will also allow you to notice any behavioral issues which may be a red flag for dental problems, such as trouble chewing, mouth pain or loss of appetite. If you believe that your pet may be suffering from a severe dental issue, then you should take them to your vet. A veterinarian can provide a full oral examination as well as x-rays which can look below the gum lines where many problems hide. You may also wish to include an oral examination as part of your routine yearly checkups.
Doggie dental problems can be just as painful and cumbersome as the dental problems faced by humans. By providing routine dental care, dog owners can help reduce the chances of their pet having to face dental disease. Owners can help their pets by knowing what oral problems are most commonly faced and how to prevent them.