You already know that you should be brushing your dog's teeth daily, and you probably know why: dental disease can be painful, frustrating, and hard on the pocket book. Here at Intermountain Pet Hospital, we talk often about how to keeping your pet's dental health in check can help improve their quality of life and stop them from living in pain. But pet dental health is about much more than just staving off a toothache: left untreated, dental disease in dogs is deadly.
The sad fact is that dental disease—the most common ailment seen in dogs—can be fatal for canines. The disease can turn deadly the bacteria that causes decay ends up in the bloodstream, infecting the heart, kidneys, and other organs. Dental disease in dogs is on the rise—some estimates suggest that it's gone up by over 12% in the past ten years. But you can protect your dog, and with a little attention, you can be your dog's hero.
Protecting Your Dog from Dental Disease
Your first line of defense: daily brushing. Just like humans, dogs require cleaning to keep plaque from building up. Plaque build up is what leads to bacteria growth and decay. Be sure that you're bringing your dog in for regular dental checkups—at least annually—and keep an eye on your furry friend's mouth and eating habits to catch any tenderness or pain early.
Your second line of defense? Knowing your stuff. The more you know about dental disease, the more prepared you will be to treat any issues as they arise. Here are the facts that every dog owner should be aware of to protect their dog from the potentially deadly effects of dental disease.
The Gums Have It
Periodontal disease is common in humans and dogs, and it's the most common form of dental disease seen in dogs. When dogs have periodontal disease, their gums become inflamed, bleed, and are tender. Dogs will present with sore, red, swollen gums when they have gingivitis—the earliest stage of periodontal disease. Gingivitis is simple to treat, but without treatment, it will progress to the more severe periodontitis.
Periodontitis is a more serious form of inflammation that can result in tooth loss, bone damage, and has dangerous health implications for your pet.
Is Your Dog at Risk?
Some breeds are more at risk for dental disease, although all dogs can develop it at any point. Yorkshire terriers, Pomeranians, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Maltese dogs have teeth that are relatively large compared to their jaw, giving plaque a comfortable place to build up. The breeds with "smashed" faces such as Bulldogs, Boxers, and Pugs are also susceptible because of teeth crowding.
What to Look For
If you notice that your dog's teeth are discolored in one area, you may be spotting dental disease in the early stages. And although no one wants to get a nose-full of dog breath, you should pay attention to any changes in the smell of your dog's mouth. If you notice that your dog is eating less or seems to be in any pain while eating, you should immediately call your vet to schedule a checkup.
- Brush your dog's teeth daily!
- Use a dog-friendly toothpaste (never human toothpaste)
- Feed dry foods to decrease plaque buildup
- Give your dog tooth-friendly toys and treats
For more information on giving your dog the gift of good dental health, contact us.