Dental problems can cause significant pain for your dog, and lead to other health issues. In this post, our Scottsdale vets explain how to spot dental health problems in your dog, what the most common issues are, and how they can be prevented or treated.
Your Dog's Oral Health
The oral health of your dog is closely related to its overall health and well-being. Your dog eats and communicates using their mouth, teeth, and gums, so when their oral structures become damaged or diseased, it can stop functioning properly, causing pain and interfering with its ability to eat and communicate normally.
Furthermore, bacteria and infections that cause many oral health issues in dogs will not be contained within your dog's mouth. If left untreated, these bacteria and infections can spread throughout your pet's body, causing damage to organs such as the liver, kidneys, and heart. This can have serious consequences for your canine companion's health and longevity.
This is one of the reasons regular pet dental care and veterinary dentistry are critical elements of your dog's routine preventive healthcare - regular dental cleanings can prevent health concerns, or ensure developing issues are caught and treated early.
Symptoms of Dental Diseases in Dogs
While specific symptoms will differ between conditions, there's a chance your dog is suffering from dental disease if you notice any of these behaviors or conditions.
Some of the most common symptoms of dental disease in dogs can include:
- 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 you see any of the above signs of dental disease in your dog, bring them to your Scottsdale vet as soon as possible for examinations. The sooner your dog's dental disease is diagnosed and treated the better for your dog's long-term health.
Common Dog Dental Problems
While a variety of health issues can affect your dog's teeth, gums, and other oral structures, there are a few conditions to keep an eye out for.
Plaque & Tartar Buildup
Plaque is a whitish substance made primarily of bacteria. This biofilm develops on the teeth and has a bad odor that worsens the longer it remains in the mouth. Tooth decay and gum irritation can result from plaque buildup.
If teeth are not brushed and plaque is not removed within 24 to 48 hours, plaque hardens and forms tartar, a yellow or brown substance your veterinarian refers to as calculus. Tartar adheres to the surfaces of the teeth and cannot be removed unless scraped away with a dental scaler or another hard object.
Tartar aggravates tooth decay and gum irritation. Plaque and tartar put your dog's teeth at risk of decay and gum disease. Discolored deposits on teeth, a red, swollen gum line (referred to as gingivitis), and bad breath are all common symptoms. As dental disease progresses, owners may notice more frequent bleeding gums and worsening breath.
Bacteria gets under the gum line when plaque and tartar remain in the mouth, eroding the tissue and bone that hold your dog's teeth in place. Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease. As the disease progresses, soft tissue and bone loss around the teeth occurs. The support structures of the teeth deteriorate, and pockets form around the tooth roots.
Bacteria, debris, and food can accumulate here, allowing dangerous infections to develop. The teeth loosen and begin to fall out over time.
If periodontal disease develops, bacteria can enter the open space around tooth roots, causing infection and possibly a tooth root abscess.
Pus then develops in the bacteria-laden pocket around the tooth to fight the infection. Left untreated, the abscess may become so large that it leads to swelling in the face and anatomical deformity.
While oral infections are often caused by periodontal disease, they often happen secondary to trauma in the mouth. Trauma may be due to injury from chewing on hard or sharp objects.
Chewing on very hard plastic, antlers, or bones can cause teeth fractures in powerful chewers. Most veterinarians will advise you not to let your dog chew on anything harder than what you would want to bang hard on your knee.
The size of chews can also play a role in the occurrence of tooth fractures; for example, a chew that is too large for a dog's mouth may cause the tooth and chew to line up, breaking the outside of a tooth (known as a slab fracture).
Pick chews, which are small enough to hold in the mouth without accidentally swallowing, which may be recommended by your veterinarian. However, they are not so large that your dog will need to chew on them with his mouth fully open.
Preventing Dental Issues in Dogs
The most reliable way to help prevent the development of dental problems with your dog's teeth is by routine brushing and cleaning your dog's mouth. You'll give your dog a much better chance of having healthier teeth and gums if plaque is brushed away before it can cause damage or infection.
To keep your pup's teeth in great condition and their breath fresh, schedule your pet for a professional dental examination and cleaning once a year. Dental appointments at Scottsdale Ranch Animal Hospital are similar to taking your dog for an appointment at the veterinary dog dentist.
To prevent oral health issues from developing in the first place, you should start cleaning your dog's teeth and gums when they are still a puppy and will be able to quickly adapt to the process. You may also consider adding dog dental chews to their routine.
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.