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Common Dental Problems in Dogs

Without routine dental care, dogs are at risk of developing serious oral health conditions that can lead to other more serious issues. In this post, our Westminster vets talk about dental diseases and problems in dogs, the causes and symptoms as well as how they can be prevented.

How to Care for Your Dog's Oral Health

Your dog's dental health and overall health are closely related. Your pooch uses their teeth, gums and mouth to both eat and communicate, so when the oral structures are diseased or become damaged they may no longer function properly and a dog can suffer from pain that interferes with their ability to effectively eat and vocalize. 

Many oral health issues are caused by infections and bacteria that won't remain confined to your dog's mouth. Left untreated, these bacteria and infections can spread and infect other parts of your pet's body, damaging vital organs including the heart, liver and kidneys. this may lead to more serious negative consequences for your canine friend's health and longevity. 

This is one of the reasons regular pet dental care and what many think of as veterinary dentistry are such important aspects of your dog's routine preventive healthcare - regularly scheduled dental cleanings can prevent health issues, or help your vet identify and treat developing issues early. 

What are the signs of dental problems in dogs?

While particular symptoms will vary based on the issue your dog is experiencing, your dog may be suffering from a dental disease if you see any of these behaviors or conditions. 

Some common symptoms of dental disease in dogs can include:

  • Visible tartar
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Difficulty or slow eating
  • Pawing at the teeth or mouth 
  • Loose or missing teeth 
  • Excessive drooling 
  • Weight loss 
  • Swollen, bleeding or noticeably red gums

Have you noticed any of the signs of dental disease in your dog that are listed above? If so, bring them to your Westminster vet as soon as possible for an examination. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to good prognoses for dental disease in dogs and better outcomes for their long-term health. 

What are some of the most common dental problems in dogs?

Your dog's teeth, gums and other oral structures can be impacted by several potential health issues. Here are a few common conditions to watch out for.

Plaque & Tartar Buildup

Plaque is primarily made of bacteria. This whitish substance is a biofilm that develops on the teeth and is accompanied by a bad odor that worsens the longer it remains in the mouth. Plaque buildup can cause tooth decay and gum disease. 

If teeth are not brushed and plaque removed within about 24 to 48 hours, plaque then hardens and forms into tartar, a yellow or brown-colored substance your veterinarian calls calculus. Tartar remains attached to the surfaces of the teeth and cannot be removed without being scraped off with a dental scaler or other hard object. 

Tartar causes tooth decay and gum irritation to grow worse. Plaque and tartar leave your dog at high risk for tooth loss and gum disease. Common signs include discolored deposits on teeth, a red, swollen gum line (referred to as gingivitis) and bad breath. Owners may notice more frequent bleeding gums and worsening breath as dental disease progresses. 

Periodontal Disease

When plaque and tartar remain in the mouth, bacteria get under the gum line, eroding tissue and bone that hold your dog's teeth in place. Periodontal disease starts with gingivitis. Loss of soft tissue and bone surrounding the teeth occurs as the disease becomes more advanced. The teeth's support structures degrade and pockets develop around the tooth roots. 

This allows bacteria, debris and food to accumulate here and dangerous infections to develop. Over time, the teeth loosen and start to fall out.

Oral Infections

If periodontal disease develops, bacteria can make its way into the open space around tooth roots, leading to infection, which may manifest as a tooth root abscess. 

Pus then develops in the bacteria-laden pocket around the tooth to fight the infection. Left untreated, the abscess may become so large that it leads to swelling in the face and anatomical deformity. 

While oral infections are often caused by periodontal disease, they often happen secondary to trauma in the mouth. Trauma may be due to injury from chewing on hard or sharp objects. 

Tooth Fractures

Dogs that are powerful chewers can fracture their teeth chewing on very hard plastic, antlers, or bones. Most vets will recommend against allowing your dog to chew on anything harder than what you would want to bang hard on your knee. 

The size of chews can also factor into the occurrence of tooth fractures - a chew that's too large for a dog's mouth may make the tooth and chew line up breaking the outside of a tooth (known as a slab fracture). 

Your veterinarian may recommend picking chews that are small enough to hold in the mouth without swallowing by accident. However, these are not so large that your dog will need to have a fully open mouth to safely chew on them. 

How can dental problems in dogs be prevented?

The most reliable way to help prevent the development of dental problems with your dog's teeth is routine brushing and cleaning of your cat's mouth. You'll give your dog a much better chance of having healthier teeth and gums if plaque is brushed away before it can cause damage or infection. 

To keep your pup's teeth in great condition and their breath fresh, schedule your pet for a professional dental examination and cleaning once a year. Pet dental appointments at Choice Veterinary Specialists are similar to taking your animal for an appointment at the veterinary dog or cat dentist. We can also treat any emerging dental health issues your dog may be experiencing. 

While there is technically no such thing as a "veterinary dentist", our veterinary team offers comprehensive dental care for pets in and near Westminster.  

To prevent oral health issues from developing in the first place, you should start cleaning your dog's teeth and gums when they are still a puppy and will be able to quickly adapt to the process. You may also consider adding dog dental chews to their routine. 

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.

Contact our Westminster vets today if your dog is showing signs of dental issues. Our specialists can offer comprehensive dental care for your pup.

New Patients Welcome

Choice Veterinary Specialists is accepting new patients. Our experienced veterinary specialists are passionate about improving the health of Westminster animals with complex healthcare needs. Contact us today.

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