One of the most important aspects of your dog's care is his dental health. Problems with a dog's teeth can result in his refusal to eat, weight loss and bacterial infections that can spread throughout his mouth to organs including the heart, liver and kidneys. Keep your dog's teeth clean by taking him for regular cleanings and checkups with a veterinarian to prevent the possible dental problems that can occur.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, one of the most common dental problems in dogs is periodontal disease, which affects 85 percent of dogs more than 5 years old. This condition results from the buildup of food particles and plaque on a dog's teeth. As these particles accumulate on the surface of the teeth, they turn into tartar, a hard substance that causes inflammation of the gums. Once inflamed, the gums become infected with bacteria, leading to gingivitis, a reversible condition. Signs of gingivitis include an unpleasant odor in the dog's mouth, bleeding gums, vomiting from insufficient chewing and a refusal to eat. As gums recede due to the gingivitis, the roots of the teeth are exposed. If this condition is not treated, it results in periodontitis, an irreversible condition that can result in loosening of the teeth, bone loss, abscess formation and the eventual loss of teeth.
When dogs chew on hard objects such as beef bones or hard rubber chew toys, they can suffer fractures or breaks in their teeth. Other causes of broken teeth include falls and play accidents when catching a hard item or toy in the mouth. If the fracture reaches the nerve endings of the tooth within the pulp, it can cause severe pain. Injury to the teeth can also occur over a period of time. Attrition, a condition in which the enamel of the teeth wears down to the dental pulp, is caused by excessive chewing of hard items and of the skin -- usually due to itching, according to PetPlace.com. This wear occurs faster than the body can produce dentin, a substance that helps to protect the pulp or root of the tooth. Any injury to a dog's teeth requires examination by a veterinarian and may result in either a root canal or removal of the affected teeth.
Like people, dogs can have orthodontic problems from the misalignment of their teeth. These problems can begin in puppyhood if their deciduous teeth -- also called puppy teeth -- do not fall out by 6 months of age. This later leads to issues in their adult teeth coming in straight and in the correct position. Misalignment of the teeth can lead to tooth decay, problems chewing and bacterial infections without orthodontic treatment, which is usually performed before 9 months of age, according to DVM360.com. Bring your puppy to a veterinarian if his infant teeth are not coming out; the doctor will surgically extract them so that adult teeth come in correctly. Orthodontic problems in older dogs may also require surgery to correct the placement of the teeth and prevent further problems from developing.
The best way to prevent dental problems in dogs is to brush their teeth regularly. Using toothpaste and a toothbrush specifically made for dogs, gently brush the teeth, especially the back ones, and keep them clean of food and plaque. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations on how often to have your dog's teeth professionally cleaned, a procedure that requires anesthesia. A dog with some health conditions may require more frequent cleanings to prevent the formation of bacteria that can travel through the bloodstream to the rest of his body. Feed him crunchy dental-care treats that scrape the teeth of food particles as he chews, and include dry kibble in his diet to assist in keeping his teeth clean. Monitor your dog's breath and eating habits for signs of tooth problems, and take him to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis if you suspect any issues.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Brushing Your Dog's Teeth
- PetPlace.com: Attrition (Worn Teeth)
- DVM360.com: Tooth Eruption and Exfoliation in Dogs and Cats
- VetInfo: Dog Dental Problems
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Ten Steps to Your Dog’s Dental Health
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Q&A With Dr. Murray: Dental Disease in Pets
- VetInfo: Dental Problems in Dogs
- PetPlace.com: How to Care for Your Dog's Teeth
- PetPlace.com: How to Tell if Your Dog Has Dental Disease
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