Your furry friend can experience unbearable pain due to dental problems, which can also trigger other health concerns. Our vets Marina del Rey provide information on identifying dental issues in dogs, along with the most frequently occurring problems and how to prevent or manage them.
Your Dog's Oral Health
Your dog's oral health is closely linked to its overall health and well-being. Your dog uses their mouth, teeth, and gums to eat and vocalize, so when its oral structures become damaged or diseased, it can stop functioning properly, and a dog can experience pain that interferes with its ability to eat and communicate normally.
If left untreated, the bacteria and infections responsible for many oral health problems in dogs can spread beyond their mouths and cause damage to vital organs like the liver, kidneys, and heart. This can have serious implications for your furry companion's overall health and lifespan. It is important to address any oral health issues promptly to prevent further complications.
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.
How to Spot Dental Issues 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 lose teeth
- Excessive drooling
- Bleeding, swollen, or red gums
- Weight loss
If you see any of the above signs of dental disease in your dog, bring them to your Marina del Rey 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
Although there are various health problems that can affect your dog's oral health, there are a few common conditions that you should be mindful of.
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.
It is important to brush your teeth and remove plaque regularly as if left for 24 to 48 hours, it hardens and becomes tartar. Tartar is a yellow or brown-colored substance that attaches to your teeth and cannot be removed without the use of a dental scaler or another hard object. Your veterinarian refers to tartar as calculus.
The buildup of tartar in your dog's mouth can lead to tooth decay and gum irritation. This can increase the risk of tooth loss and gum disease. Signs of dental issues include discolored deposits on teeth, red and swollen gums (known as gingivitis), and bad breath. As dental disease progresses, you may also notice more frequent bleeding gums and worsening breath.
If plaque and tartar are left in the mouth, harmful bacteria can get under the gum line and harm the tissue and bone that keep your dog's teeth in place. This condition, known as periodontal disease, often begins with gingivitis. As the disease progresses, the soft tissue and bone around the teeth begin to deteriorate, leading to the development of pockets around the tooth roots and weakening the teeth's support structures.
This allows bacteria, debris, and food to accumulate here and dangerous infections to develop. Over time, the teeth loosen and start to fall out.
When periodontal disease occurs, bacteria can enter the area around the roots of the teeth, causing an infection that can result in a tooth root abscess.
Pus forms in the pocket around the tooth to fight the infection. If left untreated, the abscess can grow so large that it causes swelling in the face and changes the shape of the mouth.
Although periodontal disease is a common cause of oral infections, these infections can also be caused by mouth trauma, such as from chewing on hard or sharp objects.
If your dog is a powerful chewer, it's important to be mindful of the chews they are given. Hard plastic, antlers, and bones can all potentially lead to tooth fractures.
It's best to avoid giving your dog anything that is harder than what you would feel comfortable banging on your own knee.
The size of the chew also matters - if it's too large for your dog's mouth, it can cause a slab fracture where the tooth and chew align and break the tooth's outside.
Your vet may suggest choosing chews that are small enough for your dog to hold in their mouth without swallowing accidentally but not so large that they need to have their mouth fully open to chew safely.
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. If plaque is brushed away before it can cause damage or infection, you'll give your dog a much better chance of healthier teeth and gums.
To ensure that your dog's teeth are healthy and their breath is fresh, it's important to schedule a yearly dental examination and cleaning with a professional. At Shane Veterinary Medical Center, our dental appointments for dogs are similar to a visit to the veterinarian's office.
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 adapt to the process quickly. 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.