Dental issues are health problems that are quite common amongst dogs. Our Milledgeville vets share some advice to help you identify, treat, and prevent some of the more common dental issues found in your canine companion.
Plaque & Tartar Buildup
Just like humans, dogs will accumulate plaque and tartar buildup over time, especially without regular cleanings. 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 veterinarian.
Plaque and tartar buildup are the main cause of gum disease in dogs as well as 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.
There are a few steps you can do at home to minimize plaque and tartar buildup, but regular professional cleanings are still necessary.
Periodontal disease refers to the deterioration of the gum and bone that surround the tooth. 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. If left unattended, dangerous infections can arise and the teeth will begin to fall out.
Common symptoms of canine periodontitis include:
- Discolored teeth (brown or yellow)
- Loose or missing teeth
- Bad breath
- Excessive drooling
- Blood on chew toys or in the water bowl
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- Weight loss
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- “Ropey” or bloody saliva
- Reduced appetite
- Problems keeping food in the mouth
If you notice any of these symptoms present in your dog, please contact a veterinarian.
An oral infection is an outcome of a pocket (usually around the root of the tooth) that has been filled with bacteria. 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.
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 like 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.
How to Prevent Dental Problems
Creating a dental care routine for your dog is a great way to maintain their 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.