Doing what you can to keep your furry family member healthy is an important part of being a responsible pet owner. However, some ailments are easier to spot than others. For instance, you’re unlikely to miss a broken bone, a large wound, or a painful abscess. On the other hand, unless you’re checking your dog’s mouth regularly, you might not know whether their teeth are in good shape. Read on to find out how to spot dental disease in dogs and how to improve your dog’s dental health.
What Are the Symptoms of Poor Dental Health in Dogs?
Even if you haven’t looked in your dog’s mouth recently, there might be a few telltale signs that their teeth and gums are diseased. You might notice that they have bad breath, they might dribble more than normal, and they might be less interested in food. If they are still not eating, you might notice them dropping food or favoring one side of their mouth. They might even yelp or show pain by pawing at their mouth during eating. In addition to this, you might notice they’ve lost a bit of weight recently.
What Does Dental Disease Look Like?
If your dog has periodontal disease, their teeth may be covered with softer plaque or mineralized tartar. The gums surrounding the teeth might look red and inflamed, and the tooth roots might be visible. If the dental disease is quite severe, you might notice blood or pus in the mouth too. Of course, there are other causes of mouth problems in dogs, so check with your vet if you’re not sure.
What Are the Possible Consequences of Bad Dental Health in Dogs?
One of the most important problems associated with bad dental health is pain. Toothache is a very painful condition, as many humans will vouch for. Although dogs don't show signs of pain in the same way we do, dental disease can still cause chronic pain. In severe cases, dental infections can also spread to the bloodstream leading to sepsis or bacterial infection of the heart valves (endocarditis).
How Can You Improve Your Dog’s Dental Health?
There are many things you can do to improve your dog’s dental health, depending on the stage of the condition of their teeth and gums.
Any food that causes abrasion on the teeth can help to remove plaque and disrupt the layer of bacteria that builds up on the teeth. Safe options include prescription dental formula and other dry foods (feeding dry kibble instead of wet or meat-based diets is better for a dog’s teeth), dental chews, raw carrots (and other dog-safe veggies), It might be tempting to reach for other tough objects like bones, rawhide, and antlers, but be aware that these materials can splinter, cause gut obstructions, and damage teeth. Consult with a veterinary nutritionist if your dog needs diet planning.
Brushing your dog’s teeth will disrupt the biofilm of bacteria and prevent plaque formation if it’s performed at least every other day. However, it won't remove existing tartar, only a veterinary scale and polish can do that. It's still very beneficial for halting the progress of dental disease or keeping your dog's teeth in good condition after a scale and polish. You should use pet-safe toothpaste, and you can choose a fingertip brush or standard toothbrush depending on what suits you and your furry friend best.
Other Oral Products
If brushing your dog's teeth isn't practical because they are very nervous, head shy, or painful, there are other options available. Antibacterial gels, mouthwashes, and water supplements can also help to keep your dog's teeth healthy by reducing plaque buildup and bacteria.
Sadly, dental disease isn't always reversible, even with a scale and polish. The tartar can be removed, but if it has been present for a while and the gums, tooth root, and socket structures have become affected, there could be permanent damage. This could mean that regular tooth brushing is required to prevent further damage that could cause tooth loss, or it may mean that the tooth is already so unstable or damaged that it needs to be extracted. Thankfully, dogs can manage well with fewer teeth and are often much more comfortable just a day or two after the procedure.
What Should You Do If You Think Your Dog’s Dental Health Is a Problem?
If you think your canine companion’s oral health is poor, see if you can have a look in their mouth safely. Check for plaque, tartar, and gingivitis, and keep an eye out for any of the other symptoms listed above. You can also book an at-home pet wellness check or schedule a pet dental cleaning by contacting our team.
Dental disease is one of the most common diseases dogs can develop. However, until recently it was rarely noticed by pet parents, especially in the early stages. It’s really important to recognize the signs that your dog has periodontal disease so that you can help keep them healthy and pain-free. By taking measures to maintain your dog’s teeth at home, and getting extra veterinary help when it’s needed, you can keep your dog smiling for years to come!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you reverse dental decay in dogs?
Dental disease can be reversed in its early stages. However, once the gums have begun to recede and the ligament and bone surrounding the tooth are compromised, the changes are irreversible.
What foods are good for dogs’ dental health?
Hard foods that cause friction on the teeth are good for your dog's teeth. Raw carrots, dry dog food, and dental chews are all good options. You should avoid offering bones, antler chews, and other hard materials that could cause gut obstructions or damage the teeth or mouth.
What are five of the common signs of dental problems in dogs to look for?
Five common signs of dental problems in dogs include bad breath, reduced appetite, drooling, weight loss, and visible damage to or discoloration of the teeth.
How can I soften the plaque on my dog’s teeth?
Plaque isn’t mineralized, so it can be removed with regular tooth brushing. However, once it becomes mineralized calculus, it can only be removed with an ultrasonic scaler used by a veterinarian or qualified veterinary technician.