Keeping your dog’s teeth healthy is important because dental disease in dogs can lead to serious consequences for your dog’s overall health. Consequences of poor dental care include:
- Tooth loss
- Bad breath
- Oral pain
- Organ damage
- Worsening of existing dental disease
According to petmd.com, over 80 percent of dogs experience some type of dental disease by age three. Dental disease in dogs, also known as periodontal disease, begins with plaque buildup on your dog’s teeth. The plaque then hardens into tartar. Tartar manifests in two ways: above and below the gumline. Tartar above the gum line is clearly visible and can be removed fairly easily by a veterinarian. When tartar is below the gumline it causes inflammation, infection and damages the structures supporting the teeth. This tartar is responsible for tooth loss, bad breath, oral pain, and organ damage. Additionally, failing to realize why dog dental care is important can lead to significant health concerns down the road.
Some signs of dental disease are:
- Teeth that are broken
- Teeth that are loose
- Bad breath or halitosis
- Pain when eating
- Blood in the mouth
- Excessive drooling
- Inability or refusal to eat or drink
While tooth loss, bad breath, and pain are all reversible, organ damage is by far the most serious consequence of poor doggy dental health. Dental disease can have detrimental effects on your dog’s heart, liver and kidneys. Due to the fact that dental disease results in a break down of the structures supporting your dog’s teeth, bacteria are able to enter into your dog’s oral cavity. This bacteria can then be released into the circulatory system. If the bacteria manage to travel to the heart it can damage the cardiac tissue, resulting in endocarditis. In fact, several studies have shown that bacteria from oral infections are directly linked to strokes and heart attacks. This same bacteria can also travel to the kidneys and liver. Bacteria can damage the membranes of the kidney and cause functional changes to the liver. Prolonged dental disease may cause kidney disease and/or liver disease.
It’s important to invest in proper dental care for your dog. To properly clean your dog’s teeth you should start when your dog is young. This will habituate them to the routine. However, anytime is a good time to start brushing your dog’s teeth. If your dog is older though, you will need to start a bit slower. Begin by placing a little toothpaste on a brush and letting your dog lick it off. Next, try touching your dog’s teeth with the toothbrush. Then you’re going to want to try brushing for a few seconds. Repeat this routine for one or two months. Once they’re comfortable with this, move on to real brushing. To properly brush your dog’s teeth, first raise their lips to expose their teeth and gums. Next, move the brush from the gum line to the tip of the tooth. Try not to open your dog’s mouth as this can cause them to panic and struggle.
It’s also important to make sure to use toothpaste that’s been designed specifically for dogs. Human toothpaste contains detergents and fluorides that we spit out after brushing. Dogs, however, will swallow toothpaste. Additionally, dog toothpaste comes in a variety of flavours that your pup will love, such as chicken, beef, fish and peanut butter. You should also use a dog-specific toothbrush. Human toothbrushes tend to be made too wide for a dog’s mouth and the bristles are often hard. If you have more than one dog, each dog should have its own brush to avoid sharing germs. Additionally, you should provide your dog with plenty of chew toys. Chewing helps dogs to keep their teeth clean as well as relieving stress and exercising their jaws. Lastly, make brushing your dog’s teeth fun and rewarding for your dog. Be sure to pet, play and praise your dog before and after brushing.
Proper doggy dental care doesn’t begin and end with brushing. It’s important to include regular dental exams as well. Dental exams should include x-rays and professional cleaning using general anaesthesia.
When you properly care for your dog’s teeth you’re not only safeguarding their health but you’re also safeguarding your wallet. Treating dental disease can be extremely expensive. Depending on the procedure, prices can range from $500 to $3000. Therefore, to avoid pain for both you and your dog, get your dog’s teeth checked regularly, and make sure to brush them every few days.
credits: Photo by Marek Szturc on Unsplash