Gum disease and tooth decay are as problematic for dogs as they are for people. That's why caring for your dog's teeth is an important element of caring for your dog's overall health. Today our Mount Vernon vets share some tips on how to keep your dog's teeth clean and their mouth healthy.
Is Dog Dental Care Necessary?
Your dog's oral health, like yours, is an important component of its overall health. By the age of three years, most dogs begin to show signs of periodontal disease (gum disease). This early onset of dental disease can hurt their physical health and well-being.
Periodontal disease has been linked to systemic diseases such as heart disease in humans, and this appears to be true for our canine companions as well.
Periodontal disease in dogs has been linked to heart disease due to bacteria entering the bloodstream from the mouth, potentially causing problems with other organs and damaging heart function. These complications are in addition to the more obvious issue of pain caused by eroded gums and missing or damaged teeth.
At-home oral health care routines, combined with dental diets and treats, can go a long way toward assisting your dog in cleaning its teeth and controlling plaque and tartar buildup. However, the best way to keep your dog's mouth clean and healthy is to take him to the vet for an annual dental exam and cleaning.
When you prioritize your pet's annual wellness exam, we can be proactive about signs of periodontal diseases, such as gingivitis, bad breath, tooth decay, gum loss, and pain.
If you skip your dog's annual professional cleaning, he or she may develop gingivitis, periodontal disease, bad breath, and, in severe cases, pain, tooth decay, and tooth loss.
How Often Should I Have My Dog's Teeth Cleaned?
The frequency with which you should have your dog's teeth cleaned is determined by several factors, including your dog's age, breed, and lifestyle.
Older dogs require more dental care than younger dogs, simply because time, diet, and eating habits all contribute to oral decay. If your dog is over the age of seven, you should have an annual exam with your veterinarian to ensure their teeth and gums are healthy.
Breed & Size
Most dogs do not require dental care until they are six or seven years old. But smaller breeds and toy dogs may require dental cleanings as young as two years old. This is because their teeth are large in comparison to their mouths, causing overcrowding. Smaller breeds (such as Yorkies) are notorious for retaining both their baby and adult teeth.
Pugs, Bulldogs, and Shih Tzus, for example, and others with short faces and noses are more prone to dental disease. Small dogs have very shallow tooth roots, so any type of periodontal disease can be more severe in them than in larger dogs. Another breed-related dental issue is malocclusion, which occurs when the jaws are misaligned and do not connect properly.
Larger dogs do not have the same dental concerns as small dogs, but they are more prone to damaged or cracked teeth as a result of strong chewing habits, which can cause oral pain, loss of appetite, and irritable behavior. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you when and how often your dog should undergo dental care if you schedule regular exams with them.
The frequency with which you should have your dog's teeth cleaned is also determined by your lifestyle and at-home dental health. If you brush your dog's teeth regularly and feed him dry food or a dental diet, these precautions may help in the time between professional cleanings. In addition, if your dog is not a chewer and eats mostly soft food, it may require more frequent cleaning.
What Happens During My Dog's Dental Care Appointment?
Our Mount Vernon vets at Northwest Veterinary Clinic of Mount Vernon recommend bringing your dog in for an annual wellness exam to help prevent periodontal disease. We will examine their mouth for early signs of disease during this visit. Periodontal disease symptoms include the following:
- Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
- Bleeding in or around the mouth
- Inflamed gums
- Pain associated with chewing
- Plaque or tartar buildup on teeth
- Discolored teeth
- Loose or broken teeth
- Bad breath
If you notice signs of periodontal disease in your pet, be sure to contact your vet right away to schedule a dental assessment for your pet. Oral health issues can become severe if left untreated and cause your pet a great deal of pain and discomfort.
Our veterinarians examine all pets to ensure that they are healthy enough to undergo anesthesia and, if necessary, perform additional diagnostics to ensure that a dentist is safe for your pet. We will perform a full oral exam (tooth-by-tooth) with charting (just like your dentist does during your examinations) and x-ray the teeth once your pet has been safely sedated. X-rays are necessary for the medical team to understand the extent of periodontal disease beneath the gum line, which typically reveals hidden diseases.
Once we gather information from the full oral exam, charting, and x-rays, we can create a customized treatment plan for your pet that includes cleaning and polishing your dog’s teeth, both above and below the gum line.
Should I Brush My Dog's Teeth?
As a pet owner, you play a pivotal role in helping your dog fight dental disease. Here are a few easy ways that you can help to keep your dog's teeth clean and healthy:
- Use a finger brush from your vet or a child’s toothbrush along with specially designed pet toothpaste to brush your pet’s teeth daily to remove any plaque or debris.
- Use a plaque prevention product (your vet can recommend some), which you can apply to your pet’s teeth and gums or add to their drinking water. These products act as a barrier to prevent plaque buildup.
- Offer your dog treats such as dental chews or special foods designed to help prevent plaque buildup and tartar.
Dental care is an important part of your pet's overall health. Be sure to book your pet's annual wellness exam today, your dog will thank you.
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.