The Health & Well-Being of Your Dog
Keeping your dog's mouth clean is essential to their overall well-being, but most dogs don't receive the dental health care they need to keep their teeth and gums healthy.
Sadly, our Huntsville vets often see dogs developing signs of periodontal disease (gum disease) or other dental issues by the time they reach about 3 years of age. This early start to dental disease can have serious negative consequences for the dog's long-term health.
The best way to ensure that your dog maintains good oral health is to combine routine at-home dental care with an annual professional dental exam.
Signs That Your Dog May Have a Dental Health Problem
It isn't always easy to spot the signs of dental health issues in dogs, especially in the early stages. Nonetheless, if you notice that your dog is displaying any of the following symptoms it's time to arrange an appointment with your vet:
- Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
- Bleeding around the mouth
- Swelling or pain in or around the mouth
- Plaque or tartar buildup on teeth
- Excess drooling or blood in drool
- Discolored teeth
- Loose or broken teeth
- Bad breath
- Dropping food
- Chewing on one side
Common Dog Dental Problems
There are 4 main dental issues that we commonly see in dogs:
1. Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, is a condition that occurs when there is an excessive amount of plaque build up on your pup's teeth. If plaque (a thin, sticky film of bacteria) isn't regularly removed, it can harden into a substance called calculus or tartar that becomes more difficult to remove.
Tartar buildup causes pockets to form between your dog's teeth and gum line where infection can develop. If gum disease isn't treated eventually your dog's teeth can become loose and fall out.
2. Oral Infections
With periodontal disease, the open space around the tooth roots can become filled with bacteria, leading to an infection. This infection can cause a good deal of pain for your dog and can result in a tooth root abscess.
Besides the negative oral health impacts a tooth infection has, it can also negatively affect your dog's overall body health. Just as in humans, there have been links found between periodontal disease and heart disease in dogs. This is due to bacteria entering the bloodstream from the mouth, damaging heart function, and causing issues with other organs. These health issues are in addition to the more obvious problem of pain caused by eroded gums, and missing or damaged teeth.
3. Tooth Fractures
We all know dogs love to chew! However, as a pet parent, you should be aware that chewing on certain items, such as bones or very hard plastic can cause your pup's teeth to fracture or break. Tooth fractures are also more likely when your dog is chewing on an object that is too big for their mouth.
When selecting chew toys be sure to pick something that is an appropriate size and material for your dog. Speak to your vet about what they would recommend.
4. Retained Baby Teeth
Like a child's baby teeth, all puppies have baby teeth too (also called deciduous teeth). In most situations, these teeth will fall out by the time your dog reaches 6 months of age. However, in some cases some of the teeth will remain. This can cause over-crowding which can result in extra plaque build up and make it more difficult to keep your pup's mouth clean.
Typically, your vet will recommend these teeth be removed under anesthetic to prevent future issues. Many vets will do this when the dog is already under anesthesia for a spay or neuter.
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.