Your Dog's Oral Health
Your dog's dental health and overall health are closely related. Your pooch uses their teeth, gums and mouth to both eat and communicate, so when the oral structures are diseased or become damaged they may no longer function properly and a dog can suffer from pain that interferes with their ability to effectively eat and vocalize.
Many oral health problems are caused by infections and bacteria that do not stay in your dog's mouth. If left untreated, these bacteria and infections can spread and infect other parts of your pet's body, causing damage to vital organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys. This could have serious consequences for your canine companion's health and longevity.
This is one of the reasons why regular pet dental care and what many people refer to as veterinary dentistry are such important aspects of your dog's routine preventive healthcare - regularly scheduled dental cleanings can help your vet identify and treat developing health issues.
How to Spot Dental Issues in Dogs
While particular symptoms will vary based on the issue your dog is experiencing, your dog may be suffering from a dental disease if you see any of these behaviors or conditions.
Some common symptoms of dental disease in dogs can include:
- Visible tartar
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Difficulty or slow eating
- Pawing at the teeth or mouth
- Loose or missing teeth
- Excessive drooling
- Weight loss
- Swollen, bleeding or noticeably red gums
Have you noticed any of the above-mentioned signs of dental disease in your dog? If this is the case, take them to your Bellevue vet as soon as possible for an examination. Early detection and treatment of dental disease in dogs is critical for good prognoses and long-term health outcomes.
Common Dog Dental Problems
Your dog's teeth, gums and other oral structures can be impacted by several potential health issues. Here are a few common conditions to watch out for.
Plaque & Tartar Buildup
Bacteria are the primary constituents of plaque. This whitish substance is a biofilm that forms on the teeth and has a foul odor that worsens the longer it stays in the mouth. Plaque accumulation can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
If teeth are not brushed and plaque is not removed within 24 to 48 hours, plaque hardens and forms tartar, a yellow or brown substance your veterinarian refers to as calculus. Tartar adheres to the surfaces of the teeth and cannot be removed unless scraped away with a dental scaler or other hard object.
Tartar aggravates tooth decay and gum irritation. Plaque and tartar put your dog's teeth at risk of decay and gum disease. Common symptoms include discolored deposits on teeth, a red, swollen gum line (gingivitis), and bad breath. As dental disease progresses, owners may notice more frequent bleeding gums and worsening breath.
Bacteria gets under the gum line when plaque and tartar remain in the mouth, eroding the tissue and bone that hold your dog's teeth in place. Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease. As the disease progresses, soft tissue and bone loss around the teeth occurs. The support structures of the teeth deteriorate, and pockets form around the tooth roots.
Bacteria, debris, and food can accumulate here, allowing dangerous infections to develop. The teeth loosen and begin to fall out over time.
If periodontal disease develops, bacteria can enter the open space around tooth roots, causing infection and possibly a tooth root abscess.
To fight the infection, pus forms in the bacteria-infested pocket around the tooth. If left untreated, the abscess can grow so large that it causes facial swelling and anatomical deformity.
While periodontal disease is a common cause of oral infections, they can also occur as a result of trauma to the mouth. Trauma can occur as a result of chewing on hard or sharp objects.
Chewing on very hard plastic, antlers, or bones can cause teeth fractures in powerful chewers. Most veterinarians will advise you not to let your dog chew on anything harder than what you would want to bang hard on your knee.
A chew that is too large for a dog's mouth may cause the tooth and chew to line up, breaking 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 accidentally swallowing. However, they are not so large that your dog will need to chew on them with his mouth fully open.
Preventing Dental Issues in Dogs
Routine brushing and cleaning of your cat's mouth is the most reliable way to help prevent the development of dental problems with your dog's teeth. Brushing away plaque before it causes damage or infection will give your dog a much better chance of having healthier teeth and gums.
Schedule a professional dental examination and cleaning for your dog once a year to keep their teeth in good shape and their breath fresh. Pet dental appointments at Sawtooth Animal Center are comparable to taking your animal to the veterinary dog or cat dentist. We can also treat any emerging dental health problems your dog is having.
Although there is no such thing as a "veterinary dentist," our veterinarians provide dental care for pets in and around Bellevue.
To avoid developing oral health issues in the first place, begin cleaning your dog's teeth and gums while they are still puppies and can quickly adapt to the process. You could also add 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.