Your Dog's Oral Health
Your dog's dental health is closely related to their overall health. Because your pup uses their teeth, gums, and mouth to both eat and communicate, if the oral structures become damaged or diseased, they may no longer function properly and your dog's ability to effectively eat and vocalize will be reduced due to severe pain.
Infections and bacteria that don't remain confined to your dog's mouth can cause many oral issues. Left untreated, these infections and bacteria can spread and infect other areas in your pet's body, damaging vital organs including the liver, kidneys, and even the heart. This may lead to more serious negative consequences for your canine friend's health and longevity.
For this reason and many more, regular pet dental care is an important aspect of your dog's routine preventive healthcare. Regularly scheduled dental cleanings can prevent health issues, or help your vet diagnose and treat developing issues early.
How to Spot Dental Disease & Other Problems in Dogs
While specific symptoms will vary based on the problem your dog is experiencing, your dog may be suffering from a dental disease if you notice any of these behaviors of conditions.
Some common symptoms of dental disease in dogs can include:
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Visible tartar
- Difficulty or slow eating
- Excessive drooling
- Pawing at the mouth or teeth
- Weight loss
- Swollen, bleeding, or noticeably red gums
- Loose or missing teeth
Dogs experiencing dental disease may display one or more of these symptoms. If you see any of these, book a dental examination with your Queens vet as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to good prognoses for dental disease in dogs, and better outcomes for their long-term health.
Common Dog Dental Problems
Your dog's teeth, gums, and other oral structures can be affected by several potential problems or health issues. Here are a few common conditions to keep an eye out for.
Plaque & Tartar Buildup
A whitish substance primarily consisting of bacteria, plaque is a biofilm that develops on the teeth and is accompanied by a bad odor, which worsens the longer it remains in the mouth. Plaque buildup can cause tooth decay and gum disease.
If teeth are not brushed and plaque removed within about 24 to 48 hours, plaque will harden and develop into tartar, a yellow or brown-colored substance your veterinarian may also refer to as calculus. Tartar stays on the surface of the teeth and cannot be removed without being scraped off with a dental scaler or other hard object.
Tartar causes gum irritation and tooth decay to grow worse. Plaque and tartar will also leave your dog at high risk for tooth loss and gum disease. Common signs included discolored spots on the teeth, bad breath, and a red, swollen gum line (known as gingivitis). Owners may notice that gums bleed more frequently and bad breath worsens as dental disease progresses.
Bacteria gets under the gumline when plaque and tartar remain in the mouth. The tissue and bone that hold your dog's teeth in place then erode. Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease. As the disease advances, your dog will lose soft tissue and bone surrounding the teeth. the teeth's support structures erode and pockets develop around the tooth roots.
This allows bacteria, debris and food to accumulate here and dangerous infections to develop. Over time, the teeth loosen and start to fall out.
If periodontal disease develops, bacteria can make its way into the open space around tooth roots, leading to infection, which may manifest as a tooth root abscess.
Pus then develops in the bacteria-laden pocket around the tooth to fight the infection. Left untreated, the abscess may become so large that it leads to swelling in the face and anatomical deformity.
While oral infections are often caused by periodontal disease, they often happen secondary to trauma in the mouth. Trauma may be due to injury from chewing on hard or sharp objects.
Dogs that are powerful chewers can fracture their teeth chewing on very hard plastic, antlers or bones. Most vets will recommend against allowing your dog to chew on anything harder than what you would want to bang hard on your knee.
Size of chews can also factor into the occurrence of tooth fractures - a chew that's too large for a dog's mouth may make the tooth and chew line up that breaks the outside of a tooth (known as a slab fracture).
Your veterinarian may recommend pick chews, which are small enough to hold in the mouth without swallowing by accident. However, these are not so large that your dog will need to have a fully open mouth to safely chew on them.
Preventing Dental Issues in Dogs
The most reliable way to help prevent the development of dental problems with your dog's teeth is routine brushing and cleaning of your cat's mouth. You'll give your dog a much better chance of having healthier teeth and gums if plaque is brushed away before it can cause damage or infection.
To keep your pup's teeth in great condition and their breath fresh, schedule your pet for a professional dental examination and cleaning once a year. Pet dental appointments at Queens Animal Hospital are similar to taking your animal for an appointment at the veterinary dog or cat dentist. We can also treat any emerging dental health issues your dog may be experiencing.
While there is technically no such thing as a "veterinary dentist", our veterinarians do provide dental care for pets in and near Queens.
To prevent oral health issues from developing in the first place, you should start cleaning your dog's teeth and gums when they are still a puppy and will be able to quickly adapt to the process. You may also consider adding dog dental chews to their routine.
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.