Top 7 Signs that Your Dog Has Dental Disease
The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMA) has designated February as National Pet Dental Health Month, dedicating it to improving your dog’s oral hygiene. And it’s a good thing, given that 80 percent of dogs show signs of early dental disease by age three. So, that puppy breath you used to relish? It’s not necessarily gone because puppyhood is over. It may be gone because your pup needs a little dental attention from his vet.
Periodontal disease is simultaneously among the most common health issues for your dog and the most underdiagnosed condition. Many well-meaning, responsible pet owners are misinformed about dog dental care and therefore underestimate the importance of incorporating annual teeth cleanings into the overall preventive health care for their dog. Misconceptions about dogs’ mouths and teeth have convinced many dog lovers that bad breath and dirty teeth are a normal, harmless part of a dog’s life. And further, that somehow a dog’s mouth is a self-cleaning system that—with a few good bones and some hard food—will take automatically care of potential tooth decay.
How can I tell if my dog has periodontal disease?
Just like humans, dogs need regular dental care in order to remain healthy, so if you’ve never scheduled a teeth cleaning for your dog, the likelihood of periodontal disease is high. Fortunately, dental disease is easily avoided with good, regular dental care from Ambassador Animal Hospital and can even be reversed if addressed in its early stages.
Plus, there are some symptoms of dental disease that are easy to spot so that you can seek quick treatment and get your dog’s oral health back on track. If you notice any or all of these typical signs of dental disease, it is time to make an appointment for a dental exam:
- Bad breath. This is the number one indicator of dental disease. Yes, we know it’s common, but that’s only because dental disease is common among dogs.
- Broken or loose teeth. Broken or loose teeth could be the result of an injury, but more often these symptoms are caused by the tooth and gum decay associated with dental disease. Either way, your dog will be more comfortable if you schedule a check-up to remove broken teeth.
- Teeth that look gray or brown, or covered in tartar. If you look inside your dog’s mouth and see a gray or brownish film covering the teeth, especially around the gumline, it’s time to schedule a cleaning.
- Irregular chewing or dropping food from the mouth. If you notice your dog chewing on one side or being unable to grasp food in the mouth then it’s likely she has dental disease or tooth decay.
- Loss of interest in eating. Similarly, if your dog loses interest in eating altogether, dental disease is a likely culprit.
- Pain, excessive drool, or blood in or around the mouth. Dogs have a higher tolerance for pain than humans, so it may take a while to notice your dog is in distress. Pawing around the mouth, excess drool, and even blood are all typical symptoms associated with dental disease.
- Swelling around the mouth. Dental disease can cause inflammation, so look for swollen gums that cover the teeth more than normal.
It is important to remember that dental disease can cause pain and make your dog irritable. A dog who may otherwise be completely docile may bite while you are evaluating her mouth—so use caution and be patient and gentle.
Why should I worry so much about dental disease?
If left untreated, dental disease will worsen and can lead to more serious problems for your four-legged friend. Untreated dental disease can cause gum recession, loose teeth, bone loss or infection, and even fractured jaw bones. All of these things are very painful!! Internally, it can threaten the health of the liver and kidneys. That is why we emphasize the importance of annual dental cleanings as part of preventative care at Ambassador Animal Hospital.
Canine periodontal disease begins innocently enough, as plaque on the teeth that turns into tartar. Regular dental cleanings remove that tartar from your dog’s teeth. Without consistent, proper cleaning, the tartar moves below the gum line and alters the pH of the mouth, making it a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Over time, it can cause infection and damage to the bones and tissue.
What does a veterinary teeth cleaning involve?
Ambassador Animal Hospital is committed to your pet’s healthy mouth and uses extra care and caution while offering top-quality treatment. We use the lowest level of general anesthesia available in order to keep your dog comfortable. Anesthesia is an important component in teeth cleanings because our dogs are unable to communicate to us how and when they are uncomfortable during a treatment, and they are unable to cooperate with us during a cleaning the way people can. Anesthesia will reduce stress, anxiety, and discomfort for your dog and reduce the risk of bite to the doctor. It also allows for higher quality images and more thorough cleanings.
Are there things I can do at home to help my dog maintain healthy teeth and gums?
While dental appointments should be a regular part of your dog’s healthcare regimen and are first line of defense against canine periodontal disease, there are also some measures you can take to improve and maintain your dog’s oral hygiene at home.
- Brush his teeth regularly. Just like brushing is critical to protecting your teeth, it will go a long way in reducing plaque in your dog’s mouth. Make sure to use products designed specifically for pets—a dog toothbrush and toothpaste. Never use human toothpaste. If you could use a few tips to make tooth-brushing time as easy as possible, ask us at your next wellness visit. We are here to help teach you and you furry best friend. You can also visit the Veterinary Oral Health Council website for lots of valuable information.
- Limit table scraps. It’s hard to resist that precious pitiful look when your canine companion begs you to share your ice cream or popcorn, but scraps and treats can be high in sugar, fats, or cereal grains—all of which are bad for teeth. If you want to give your dog treats, aim for high-quality dog treats or fresh fruits and veggies. Would it surprise you to know that many dogs enjoy a tasty raw carrot or slice of apple just as much as a crunchy potato chip? It’s true!
- Offer chewy treats that aid in scraping plaque from teeth. Dried meat and other natural dog chews encourage good chewing action and can even have enzymes that help break down plaque. If you prefer to avoid chews that add calories to your dog’s diet, there are high quality nylon or rubber chew toys. Avoid plastic toys and hard bones that can damage and fracture teeth or cut gums. And remember, while these can be beneficial, they cannot offer complete protection against dental disease and should not replace regular veterinary dental appointments.
- Supplement with a dental diet or dental rinse. Some dogs are especially resistant to teeth brushing. For these dogs, a high-quality dental rinse for dogs or a scoop of dental health diet dry food can rebalance the pH in the mouth and reduce the growth of harmful bacteria. All pet stores carry rinses and diets that are specially formulated to promote healthy teeth and gums, and plenty of dogs eagerly accept them. But be sure to look for a VOHC-approved label to assure you are getting a safe and effective product.
Of course it is of the highest benefit to start a careful and regular oral hygiene regimen while your pooch is still a pup. But don’t fret if you’re late to the game! Late care is so much better than no care. Some damage can be reversed and you can always improve the quality of your dog’s future health. Good dental care is an investment in your dog’s overall health. Contact us at (864) 271-1112 to schedule your appointment.