It is incredibly important to provide regular and thorough dental care because it is the most sever medical problem facing our canine population, today. About 80% of dogs by age 3 have some form of dental disease. And dental disease doesn't just stop in the mouth. As it advances, infections may travel to include the heart, liver or kidneys.
Dental disease begins with a buildup of food particles and bacteria along the gum line. This buildup is called plaque. If the plaque is not removed through regular brushing, minerals in the dogs' saliva transform the plaque into a strongly solidified, slimy, unsightly yellow-brown coating at the base of the teeth called calculus or tartar. The plaque begins its solidification process within 36 hours of forming. The accumulation of tartar irritates the gums, resulting in gum inflammation, or a redness and puffiness. The dog usually has bad breath at this point.
Once there is tartar buildup your dog has the beginnings of periodontal disease. With the buildup of tartar the only form of removal is a veterinarian visit to have your dog's teeth professionally cleaned.
The hardened tartar is rough - a great place for more tiny food particles to adhere, which in turn encourages greater bacteria growth. Your dog's gums don't like the growth of the bacteria and plaque and recede away from it, loosening and pulling away from the firm hold around each tooth the gums once had. With this loosening a pocket is formed between the tooth and the gum, which in turn holds even more food particles and bacteria. Once pockets have formed your dog has irreversible damage, leading to loosening of the teeth, abscess, bone loss and/or infection of the area.
With the continued growth of bacteria, the continued formation of plaque and tartar the possibility of infection and bacteria entering the bloodstream rises. Possible results include endocarditis or infection of the heart valves, as well as infections of the liver or kidneys.
As with any problem, being aware of the possibility is the first step toward prevention. That awareness includes both in-home and veterinarian checks of your dogs teeth. Veterinarians should check the teeth of puppies and young dogs (to the age of 3) every 6 months, and adult dogs (age 3 to 6 years) annually. Dogs older than 6 years might need to be checked on a semi-annual basis.
Optimally, at-home checks are preformed weekly. To inspect your dog's teeth very gently lift their lips and look all around the mouth - in front, in back and inside the mouth, if possible. You are looking for:
- Red or puffy gums
- Bleeding gums
- Brownish/yellow build-up around the base of the teeth - this is tartar, a solidified coating formed from a
- build-up of plaque, and not a good thing
- Missing or loose teeth
- Bad breath
At-home mouth exams are a great start toward good dental care, however exams are never a prevention. As in us pet owners, a dental care program that includes teeth brushing is the only from of prevention. Impeding the growth of plaque and tartar is the best defense against any dental disease. And that means brushing your dog's teeth.
So, how do you brush your dog's teeth? Rule number one: begin when they are only a puppy. However, if you didn't start then, begin as soon as possible. Here are some suggestions:
Brush at least 3-4 times weekly, daily if possible - remember, plaque starts solidifying into a shell of tartar around your dog's teeth within about 36 hours, and then needs a vet trip to remove.
1. NEVER use human toothpaste - it contains fluoride and other things that could easily sicken your dog.
2. Use a canine toothpaste - they usually are chicken or beef flavored and have an enzymatic action which helps reduce the growth of the plaque bacteria.
3. Use either a special, longer handled, dog tooth brush or a "finger brush" - when first beginning the brushing process the finger brush might be easier for both you and your dog.
4. Your veterinarian might be able to show you techniques that could make brushing easier for you and your dog.
In addition to regular tooth brushing there are other ways you can provide for dental health. Feed your dog high quality, crunch, dry dog food. Soft, canned dog food stays on the teeth and encourages the buildup of plaque. In addition, you can provide your dog with a Veterinary Oral Health Council of Acceptance approved canine chew product. These products include the following:
- Canine Bright Bites and Checkup Chews for Dogs
- Canine Greenies, Greenies Senior and Greenies Lite
- Del Monte Tartar Check Dog Biscuit, any size
- Friskies Cheweez Beefhide Treats for Dogs
- Hartz Flavor Infused Oral Chews, any size
- Healthymouth Antiplaque water Additive
- Plaque atacker dental toys - rope, toys or rawhide chips
- Tartar Shield Soft Rawhide Chews for Dogs
- Vetradent Dog Chews, can be also sold as Bluechews and Tiny Toy Dental Chews
There are also several crunchy dog foods which are formulated to help prevent plaque buildup. Please see your veterinarian for advice in foods formulation.
Veterinary dentistry, like human dentistry, is common, sophisticated and thorough. Some veterinarians specialize in pet dentistry and thus are Board-certified. Pet owners have many avenues available to provide quality dental care to your pets. Your veterinarian can provide specific suggestions geared toward your dog and his/her personal habits. However, the most important one thing you can do for your pet is provide regular tooth brushing. The second most important thing is, having your dog's teeth cleaned regularly by your veterinarian. Join the band wagon of providing good dental care for your pet.
I am owned by my silky terrier and all the wild birds, which I feed daily, surrounding my home. When not researching information for my blog, Animals Galore (http://paradeofpets.blogspot.com) I keep body and soul together working in the medical field.
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