Taking care of your dog's teeth and gums is an essential step in protecting your pet's long-term oral health and overall health. In this post, our Westminster vets explain how you can ensure that your dog's mouth is getting the attention it needs.
The Importance of Maintaining Your Dog's Oral Health
Your dog's oral health plays a critical role in their overall health and well-being. Our canine companions often begin showing signs of periodontal disease (gum disease) by the time they reach three years of age. When poor dental health begins to occur early in your dog's life it can have serious negative consequences for their long-term health.
The link between heart disease and periodontal disease in dogs is believed to be 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.
Taking a little time to care for your dog's teeth at home, combined with providing occasional dental treats and taking your pooch for annual dental cleanings at your veterinarian's office can go a long way toward controlling the buildup of plaque and tartar and preventing tooth decay. Neglecting regular professional cleaning could put your dog at risk of developing gingivitis, periodontal disease, bad breath, and in severe cases pain, tooth decay or even tooth loss.
Signs That Your Dog May Have a Dental Issue
Specific symptoms will differ between oral health conditions, but if your dog is experiencing dental health problems you notice one or more of these behaviors or symptoms:
- Bad Breath (halitosis)
- Visible tartar
- Difficulty with or slow eating
- Pawing at their teeth or mouth
- Missing or loose teeth
- Excessive drooling
- Bleeding, swollen or noticeably red gums
- Weight loss
If your canine companion is displaying any of the above symptoms related to dental disease in dogs, it's time to book a dental exam for your dog. The sooner your pup's dental disease is diagnosed and treated the better for your dog's long-term health.
How to Clean a Dog's Mouth
If you are scratching your head wondering how you should be cleaning your dog's mouth, here are a few suggestions:
Use Dog Dental Chews
Dog dental chews are a great way for your dog to clean their teeth while also providing them with a tasty treat. The chews are made to reduce the amount of built-up plaque and tartar while also providing a quick polish.
Dental chews are generally much more appreciated by dogs than a toothbrush or tooth wipes, and they do a great job of keeping your dog’s mouth and breath fresh. These treats come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors so you are sure to find something that your dog will love.
Provide a Variety of Chew Toys
Chew toys are a great way to keep your dog happy and entertained, but they also provide a good oral hygiene benefit. Using these toys, regardless of the material (plastic, rubber, rawhide, nylon), will satisfy their instinct to chew, while also scraping plaque off of their teeth.
Some toys are designed to gently rub against the gums to stimulate blood flow.
It is suggested to rotate between toys to keep your dog stimulated because different toys will reach different places around the teeth and gums depending on size, rigid edges etc.
Brush Your Dog's Teeth Regularly
Many pet parents ask us, 'Should I brush my dog's teeth?'. The answer is yes, brushing your dog's teeth can go a long way toward helping your dog maintain healthy teeth and gums.
Just like humans, it is ideal to brush your dog's teeth on a daily basis. Once a day may be a bit unrealistic, so even once a week will do the trick, but the more often you can, the better.
Start brushing your dog's teeth from a young age to get them comfortable with the process. Even if your dog doesn't like brushing at first, they usually will learn to appreciate and tolerate it.
You will need to use specific toothpaste designed for dogs, as human toothpaste can contain toxic ingredients that could be harmful to your pup.
Use a finger brush from your vet, or a child’s toothbrush to brush your pet’s teeth daily to remove any plaque or debris. It's as simple as brushing your own teeth. If your dog resists having their teeth cleaned try some doggie toothpaste in flavors your pooch will find irresistible. These special dog-friendly kinds of toothpaste can turn a chore into a treat.
Try different combinations of toothpaste and dog-specific toothbrushes to see what your dog likes best. Also, try to create a brushing schedule so it is part of your dog's daily/weekly routine.
Schedule Annual Dog 'Dentist' Appointments
To help prevent your pooch from developing tooth decay and periodontal disease, our team of Westminster veterinarians at Wachusett Animal Hospital and Pet Retreat recommend bringing your dog in for a dental appointment at least once each year (or more frequently if your canine companion is suffering from more severe or recurring dental problems).
When you bring your dog to Wachusett Animal Hospital and Pet Retreat for a dental checkup our vets will perform a full oral examination for your pooch and check for signs of dental issues, such as:
- Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
- Bleeding around the mouth
- Swelling or pain in or around the mouth
- Plaque or tartar buildup on teeth
- Discolored teeth
- Loose or
- Broken teeth
- Bad breath
If you detect symptoms of periodontal disease in your pet, such as reduced appetite (which can be an indication of tooth pain), abnormal chewing, drooling, dropping food from the mouth, bad breath or other symptoms be sure to contact your vet right away to schedule a dental appointment for your pet. Oral health issues can become severe if left untreated and cause your pet a great deal of pain and discomfort.
Once your pet is safely sedated, we will perform a full tooth-by-tooth examination, complete with charting, (just like your dentist does during your examinations).
While we have your dog safely and comfortably under anesthesia, we will thoroughly clean and polish your pup's teeth, both above and below the gum line. We probe and x-ray the teeth, then to help protect against future decay and damage we use a fluoride treatment before applying a dental sealant to prevent plaque buildup.
If your pooch is suffering from advanced periodontal disease, we will work with you to develop a treatment plan to help restore your dog's mouth to a pain-free and healthy state.
Whenever your pet undergoes a procedure that involves anesthesia there are risks involved. That's why our vets assess all pets to ensure that they are healthy enough to handle anesthesia and we conduct additional diagnostics (if required) to ensure that a dental exam while anesthetized is safe for your four-legged friend.
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.