Dogs use their teeth daily, whether they are chewing on a toy, picking up a ball, or of course enjoying a meal. It is important therefore, to ensure that the mouths and teeth of our canine companions are kept as healthy as possible.
Dental diseases can hold our pups back from enjoying the things they love doing the most but are surprisingly common.
Here are a few of the most common dental diseases affecting dogs, and what can be done about them:
Periodontal disease in dogs
Periodontal diseases are very common dental diseases of dogs. Oral bacteria form plaque which attaches to the teeth. As the bacteria secrete toxins, inflammation of the gingiva (gums) and periodontal tissues (the tissues surrounding the teeth) occurs. The inflammation of the gums is known as gingivitis and is generally an early visible sign of dental disease.
As the inflammation advances, the gum starts to retreat away from the teeth. This causes pockets to form between the tooth and the gum. This is periodontitis, which is the loss of the important tissues that surround the teeth. If left for too long, the disease advances towards the roots of the teeth, which can eventually lead to tooth loss.
In some cases, the loss of oral tissue can extend up into the nasal cavity, creating what is called an oronasal fistula – or a communication between the mouth and the nasal sinuses. Infected bone (osteomyelitis) can also be a concerning complication of periodontal disease.
Signs of periodontal disease
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Red gums with or without calculus
- Bleeding gums
- Reluctance to chew or changes to eating
- Wobbly or loose teeth (in advanced cases)
- Sneezing, nasal discharge
Prevention is better than cure, so oral hygiene is the first great step in ensuring that dogs don’t develop periodontal disease. This means at home teeth cleaning, along with other products recommended by your Vet which may include dental powders, water additives, mouth washes, dental diets, and dental chews. Regular dental checkups with your Vet (recommended every 6 months), will help to ensure that early dental disease can be quickly identified.
Treatment may include at home care as noted above, or in clinic procedures including dental x-rays, probing, and scaling and polishing of the teeth (just like we have at the dentist).
Our pets can have anaesthetic for dental treatments so that they sleep peacefully through the procedure. In advanced cases of periodontitis, teeth extractions, antibiotics and other treatments may be required.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, with their “ruff” and tumble natures as well as love of chewing, broken teeth are not uncommon in dogs. Teeth can also break through accidents like falls, car, and sporting mishaps. Some breaks in teeth can be quite minor and not cause pain or problems but breaks that expose the sensitive pulp of the tooth are usually very painful and will require Veterinary treatment.
Your Vet will be able to examine your dog’s broken teeth to let you know the severity of the break. If left untreated, broken teeth can become infected and cause other painful complications such as abscesses. Treatment for broken teeth depends on the severity of the break, but often extracting the affected tooth is an effective resolution. Root canal procedures can also be performed in some cases. Your Vet will be able to discuss the pros and cons of each procedure and recommend the best course of action for your pet.
Retained Deciduous Teeth
Usually a problem of young dogs, this is a condition where the puppy teeth, commonly the upper canine teeth, stay in the location meant for the adult canines. This can result in damage to the adult teeth, or an abnormal bite. Regular checkups with the Vet as the puppy grows are important to make sure that the teeth are growing as they should. Generally, the recommended treatment is extraction of the offending puppy teeth, to allow the adult teeth to grow normally.
While there are many dental problems that can affect dogs, these are a few of the most common. Regularly check your pups’ mouth for any signs of abnormalities of the teeth, gums and lips and consult a Vet if there are any changes. Remember that even if your dog is still eating and drinking, they could still be suffering quietly from the effects of dental disease, so don’t delay in reaching out to your Vet.
- MSD Veterinary Manual, Periodontal Disease in Small Animals, accessed 29/07/2021
- VIN Veterinary Partner, Periodontal Disease in Dogs and Cats, accessed 29/07/2021
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