Oral Health Concerns for Dogs

Gum disease affects about 85% of dogs that present with bad breath, bleeding gums and trouble chewing. Such dogs are at higher risk of losing teeth, developing heart disease, chronic inflammation, suffering tissue and bone damage, and, ultimately, death.
Symptoms include thick saliva, red or inflamed gums, halitosis, swelling around the mouth, bleeding gums, pockets of pus in the mouth, excessive drooling or pawing at the mouth repeatedly. If the dog refuses to eat hard foods, he could be experiencing dental pain. If you discover your dog has missing, broken or loose teeth, see a vet.

Keep teeth and gums healthy. Avoid the buildup of plaque and tartar, which can lead to gingivitis, a simple but reversible inflammation of the gums. Untreated gingivitis becomes periodontal disease, which is irreversible; the gums pull away from the teeth and the teeth can fall out. About 80% of dogs over three years old experience periodontal disease.

Dogs should have a professional dental cleaning– scaling and polishing– by a vet every six months. Vets can follow up with a fluoride treatment or dental rinse.

To avoid plaque and tartar buildup, dogs should have their teeth cleaned daily at home with specially shaped, soft toothbrushes and toothpaste formulated for dogs. Concurrently:

1. Water additives are available which include anti-plaque and anti-tartar agents.

2. Dental chews can be effective cleaning aids; for dogs sensitive to protein ingredients, there are vegetable protein chews.

Dry food is always better than wet for dental cleaning action. Some dental-formulas have a special composition that allows the kibble to penetrate the teeth, which clean the teeth better.

If the dog injures or breaks a tooth, see the vet. Dogs do not show pain like humans. In fact, their pain tolerance levels can be quite high.

We took our 9-year-old dachshund to the vet for her 3-year rabies vaccine. She informed us our dog had two badly abscessed teeth that had to come from a months-old injury. We recalled that Babie had howled with pain one day when chewing a cow hoof…18 months before. She had never shown further discomfort or avoided hard foods. Under general anesthetic, a dental specialist removed the two infected teeth, and Babie lived several more, pain-free years.

Do not overlook your dog’s oral health. Preemptive care may seem expensive, but the alternative is even more costly in terms of lost time, greater expense, and possibly unrecognized pain for your dog.

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