Oral Care for Your Dog

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Periodontal disease is the most common oral problem that dogs face. Affecting the tissues that support and surround the teeth, periodontal disease is usually the result of excessive plaque buildup. As plaque accumulates on the teeth, it gradually hardens into tartar.

When plaque builds up it provides an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria. This bacteria causes irritation to the gums causing them to swell and eventually bleed. As the dog’s gums become more inflamed additional bacteria is produced, causing the gums to recede and exposing the root. Eventually the teeth become loose in their sockets and, if left untreated, the teeth ultimately fall out.

The symptoms of periodontal disease include brown or yellow stains on the teeth, consistently bad breath, reddened gums and exposed tooth roots. In addition if your dog seems to have difficulty chewing, excessive drooling, a reluctance to eat or mouth pain (as evidenced by rubbing his face on the ground or pawing at his mouth) the cause may be periodontal disease.

Although periodontal disease is very painful and may result in tooth loss, the condition can cause additional, even more serious, health issues. Continued bacterial growth may result in bacteria entering the blood steam and then migrating to the urinary tract, heart valves, and other systems of the body.. This chain reaction that starts innocently enough with inadequate oral hygiene can ultimately lead to very serious illness and even death.

All breeds of dogs are at risk; however oral problems are more commonly found in dogs with short muzzles and flat faces. In addition, older dogs are also at increased risk. Dogs who are fed soft dog food are also more at risk than those who are fed primarily dry dog food.

Treatment of periodontal disease is dependent upon the degree to which the disease has progressed. Brushing your dog’s teeth on a regular basis may resolve the problem. For more advanced cases the dogs teeth may require descaling – usually performed by the veterinarian with the dog under general anesthesia. When the disease has progressed to a very late stage, a specialist may be required to perform advanced dental surgery.

As always, prevention and early detection are critical. Routine brushing of your dog’s teeth will help fight the buildup of plaque. In addition, regular visits to your veterinarian for a routine check-up can identify any hidden damage to the teeth before a problem grows more serious.

Help your dog maintain overall health by regularly visiting your veterinarian, feeding him a healthy diet, routine brushing of your dog’s teeth, and giving him the occasional chew toy. He’ll appreciate your efforts to keep him from getting “long in the tooth”.


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