Doggie Dental Care
by Renee Jones, CPDT
Although dogs rarely get cavities, they are prone to gum disease & excess tartar build-up on the teeth. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), an astounding 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age three. Animals can suffer the same kinds of dental problems as humans, including infection, severe pain and fractured teeth. With the advent of better preventive medicine and better ways to diagnose and treat many diseases we are now seeing more pets whose most severe medical problems are dental problems.
Food particles and bacteria collecting along the gum line in our petsâ€™ mouths form plaque. Routine home care can remove this plaque. If plaque is not removed, minerals in the saliva combine with the plaque and form tartar, which adheres strongly to the teeth. The tarter is irritating to the gums and causes inflammation called gingivitis. It is one of the things that can cause bad breath. At this point it is necessary to remove the plaque with special instruments called dental scalers, and then polish the teeth.
If the tartar is not removed, it builds up under the gums. It separates the gums from the teeth to form pockets and encourages even more bacterial growth. At this point the damage is irreversible and is called periodontal disease. It can be very painful and can lead to loose teeth, abscesses and bone loss or infection. This can cause infection of the heart valves, liver and kidneys. Veterinary treatment with special procedures can slow or stop periodontal disease.
A good dental care program includes regular visits to your veterinarian which should include an oral exam and daily home oral care.
Warning signs of developing dental problems include:
- Bad breath
- Tartar buildup on teeth
- Swollen, receding or bleeding gums
- Fractured or abscessed teeth
- Change in eating habits
To help keep your pets teeth and gums healthy follow these guidelines:
- Feed a dry kibble diet. Dry foods are abrasive and help keep the teeth clean. If you prefer to feed canned food, offer dry biscuits or cookies daily.
- Brush the teeth and gums three times a week using a toothpaste made for dogs. Do not use toothpaste made for humans. Its foaming action is unpleasant to dogs, and dogs cannot spit and rinse after using it.
- Provide your dog with toys and chews designed to remove plaque.
- Schedule annual veterinary visits for cleaning and, if necessary, scaling. A yearly check-up is the best prevention against dental problems.
These are all first-line-of-defense measures that you can take to ensure your pet will have a healthy dental life. Avoid feeding chicken bones and long bones that splinter.
Keeping your petsâ€™ teeth clean & their gums healthy is important for more than just pleasant breath. Many veterinarians feel that oral disease is the number one health problem diagnosed in dogs. Most dogs should receive professional dental care by age two to three years. The frequency of dental examinations, scaling and polishing depends on how quickly calculus forms on the dogs teeth.
Originally Published 2/5/2007 at Jeffers Online Community Articles section
Next week â€“ Cold Weather Tips for Dog Owners
As always, information given here is meant to be helpful and/or educational. It is, in no way, intended to supersede, challenge or supplant the diagnosis, treatment or advice of a licensed veterinarian.
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