It’s easy to ignore things that are not visible, like your pets teeth. Their cute muzzle lips cover the teeth so well that it takes effort and intention on your part to actually observe what is going on inside their mouth. What you can’t see can be hurting their very existence.
It’s important to become familiar with your pet’s oral cavity. Starting at an early age, you should pull up their lips, touch the teeth, and examine the mouth. This way you know what it normal, so that you can detect subtle changes. Early on there may be a slight discoloration or some food particles stuck between the teeth. Left unobserved, as time goes on, it can worsen.
Periodontal disease begins as bacteria forms plaque that sticks to the surface of the teeth. Minerals in the saliva harden the plaque into dental calculus, commonly called tartar. Tartar can extend below the gum line creating damage to the supporting tissues around the tooth, eventually destroying it.
The bacteria secrete toxins, causing more damage and stimulating the immune system. The white blood cells and inflammatory chemicals, while in part are beneficial, will damage the supporting tissue. Instead of helping the problem, the pet’s own protective system actually worsens the disease where there is severe build-up of plaque and tartar. As a portal to the body, infection here can move to the lungs, heart, kidneys, and other organs, creating systemic disease.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF ADVANCED DENTAL DISEASE IN DOGS
- Foul breath
- Change in eating habits
- Painful mouth – may growl or snarl if mouth or head is touched
- Excessive drooling
- Not wanting to chew on toys
- Dropping food out of mouth when eating
- Rubbing face on ground or pawing at face
- Weight loss
We don’t want it to get that advanced. Prevention is the key. Early attention can make a big difference.
- Start at a young age perusing the mouth.
- Provide special canine chew toys and dental aids, designed specifically for oral health, is an easy and effective way to help reduce the build-up of tartar on the teeth.
- Oral rinse in the morning, and brush your dog’s teeth before bed. (Tropiclean has some very effective products.) There are many videos on the internet that demonstrate how to be effective at brushing. For those who resist the brush, I recommend a Q-Tip saturated with a bactericidal dissolving gel or solution. Then roll it across the tooth-gum line. For little pets this is often much more comfortable than a brush.
- Avoid feeding extrusion processed dry food. If you want to feed dry, select a baked grain free formula (Like Lotus). Better yet, choose raw, freeze-dried, or dehydrated grain free diets. Get back to nature and feed more like what they would eat in the real world. It is not the kibble that helps the teeth; it is how the body digests the food that leads to tartar (Or prevents it.).
- Take your dog to the veterinarian for routine oral examinations. Schedule a dental if gingivitis and periodontal disease is present.
Treating is expensive, so let’s try preventing it. In this case, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure!
Ava Frick, DVM, CVC, FAIS
HP Feb 2017