Pet dental care is a vital part of their ongoing routine healthcare. Without an at-home oral hygiene routine and professional cleaning and exams, serious issues can arise. Our vets in Westfield share some of the common types of dental problems and how veterinary dentistry can help protect your dog's oral health.
What are the common dental problems that affect dogs?
The easiest way to keep your dog's mouth and teeth clean and healthy? Use a toothbrush! Brushing helps to clear away food particles, plaque, and debris. Plaque is made up of bacteria and leaves a whitish substance on your teeth. This can eventually turn yellow and harden into what we know as tartar or 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.
Gingivitis is one of the more common symptoms of dental conditions along with 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.
If a dog experiences periodontal disease, their oral structure will eventually begin to break down. This can cause the eventual loss of jawbone and teeth. 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. While the structures begin to deteriorate, small pockets will form which allow food particles to become trapped. When not treated swiftly, decay and tooth loss can result.
If a dog experiences periodontal disease, they may show signs such as:
- 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
While chewing can do your dog a lot of good, it can also be harmful if they are chewing on something they shouldn't be. 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 in the Teeth and Mouth
Another concern with dental health is infections. If the bacteria on a dog's teeth build up and aren't cleaned away it can cause an infection. This infection may even enter the bloodstream and affect other parts of the body such as the vital organs. 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.
How can veterinary dentistry prevent oral health issues?
Creating a dog dental care routine is a great way to maintain oral hygiene and prevent dental diseases in dogs.
Luckily, there are a number of dental supplements that can be added to food and water to improve your pup's oral health. Adjusting your dog's diet can also increase oral hygiene, even with small exchanges like providing dental chews instead of less healthy treats.
Daily teeth brushing is also a solid way that you can help thwart the effects of dental issues. 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 pet dental care or about suspected dental problems in dogs, please reach out to your vet in Westfield.
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.