Dogs can easily begin to experience dental issues from a build-up of plaque and tartar that hasn't been properly cleaned away. Regular at-home care and professional veterinary dental care can help prevent this. Our vets in Cumming share some of the most common types of dental problems in dogs and some of the prevention methods that can protect their teeth.
Dental Conditions That Affect Dogs
Regular teeth cleaning and dental care are needed to help keep your dog's teeth clean and healthy. Plaque is a whitish substance made up primarily of bacteria, that if left on the tooth, will harden and turn a more yellowish color (also called calculus). Tartar will remain stuck to the tooth until it is scraped off with an object such as those used by a dog or cat dentist. When left untreated, plaque can build up causing decay and eventual tooth loss. The most common signs for a dog owner to look out for are gingivitis (very red and swollen gum line), discolored deposits on the teeth, and increasingly bad breath. As the dental disease gets worse, dogs may experience even worse breath as well as bleeding of the gums.
Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease)
Periodontal disease or gum disease happens when bacteria develops below the gum line causing a deterioration of the gums and other structures that hold your teeth in place. This most commonly occurs when untreated plaque and tartar stick to the tooth and make their way beneath the gum line.
This disease starts in the form of gingivitis and develops into periodontal disease as the gum and bone around the tooth deteriorate. As this occurs, pockets around the tooth can develop, allowing food and bacteria to collect below the tooth. When not treated swiftly, decay and tooth loss can result.
Common symptoms of canine periodontitis include:
- Discolored teeth (brown or yellow)
- Loose or missing teeth
- Bad breath
- Weight loss
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Excessive drooling
- Blood on chew toys or in the water bowl
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- “Ropey” or bloody saliva
- Reduced appetite
- Problems keeping food in the mouth
With all of the chewing that dogs do whether they are eating or playing, it is not surprising that tooth fractures are a very common occurrence. Even everyday items that dogs use can be the cause of a tooth fracture such as bones or hard plastic used to make toys.
Dog chew toys should be small enough that the dog doesn't have to entirely open its mouth, but large enough that there won't be a concern of accidentally swallowing or choking on the toy.
Infections of the Teeth and Other Structures
Oral infections are pockets of bacteria that develop usually in and around the teeth and gums. Infections are primarily caused by periodontitis but can also be initiated due to trauma-induced chewing on hard or sharp objects. Some infections can be fatal as the bacteria makes its way to the bloodstream and cause organ disease/failure in the heart, liver, kidneys, or brain.
Preventing Dental Problems in Dogs
Creating a dog dental care routine is a great way to maintain oral hygiene and prevent oral issues.
Introducing food or water additives is an easy way to improve and maintain the health and strength of their teeth and bones. Adjusting your dog's diet can also increase oral hygiene, even with small exchanges like providing dental chews instead of less healthy treats.
Brushing your dog's teeth regularly is an ideal tactic for dog owners to use. Although it is not very realistic, brushing their teeth every day would be best if your dog will tolerate the process.
Be sure to bring your dog in for an oral hygiene cleaning and examination at least once every year. Some smaller breeds of dogs should go two or more times a year due to their teeth's shallow roots.
If you have any questions about recommended dog and cat dental care, please reach out to your vet dentist in Cumming.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.