Canine Dental Disease
Written by Dr Claire Stevens
Periodontal disease, or dental disease, is common in dogs, affecting more than 80% of dogs aged three or older. In most cases, there are no obvious outward signs that your dog has periodontitis, so it’s advisable to check your dog’s teeth and gums regularly and to have your veterinarian conduct a dental examination to ensure all is well.
If your dog’s breath smells really bad or he shows signs of dental pain such as inflamed or bleeding gums, drooling, difficulty eating, or pawing at the mouth, there is a good chance that your pooch may be suffering from painful dental disease.
Causes of Dental Disease in Dogs
Dental disease starts when food and bacteria build up on the gums to form a layer of plaque, which gradually hardens into calculus (tartar). This tartar scale causes the gums to become inflamed (gingivitis) and is the beginning stages of dental disease. If not addressed, tartar can accumulate under and around the gums, causing the gums to separate away from your pet’s teeth. The space between the gums and the teeth provides an ideal breeding ground for bacteria to thrive, eventually leading to irreversible dental disease that can result in the loss of bone and tissue structures that hold the teeth in place, ultimately leading to infection, tooth loss and other health complications.
Some dogs, such as older dogs and dogs with weakened immune systems, are more vulnerable to advanced gum disease as their immune defenses are less resistant to bacterial infections. Diet is also a key contributing factor. Not only does poor nutrition contribute to dental disease, but chewing behaviour, or lack thereof, can lead to an accumulation of plaque.
How to Prevent Dental Disease in Dogs
The best way to prevent dental disease in dogs is to prevent plaque and tartar from building up on the gums and teeth in the first place. This can be achieved by brushing your dog’s teeth every day using a specially formulated canine toothpaste that is safe for your pet to swallow. Since this can be a time-consuming process and not all dogs will willingly allow you to shove a toothbrush in their mouth, never mind scrub their teeth each day, an alternative approach may be needed.
Another good option is to provide chew toys such as Kong puzzle toys together with dog chew treats or kibble which can help reduce the rate of plaque and tartar accumulation. It’s a dog’s natural instinct to chew and the chewing action, especially on dry food, raw hides or chews, promotes good oral hygiene and optimal dental health. Hypro Premium duck and kangaroo flavoured healthy chew treats are perfect for feeding alone or for putting inside a Kong puzzle toy to keep your pooch busy and may also help in combating plaque buildup. However, since Hypro Premium chews are not grain free, dogs with grain allergies need to find a grain-free alternative chew.
Dry food, such as the Hypro Premium grain-free complete and balanced range of dog foods, is better than wet food and canned foods for maintaining oral health, as the latter tend to stick to the teeth and promote plaque and tartar build-up whereas dry food helps to physically remove plaque and tartar during the chewing action.
How to Treat it?
Once periodontal disease is evident, you will need to seek help from your veterinarian. They will conduct a thorough examination which may include dental x-rays to assess what stage the periodontal disease is at and how much damage to the tissues, ligaments and bone has occurred. The treatment will ultimately depend on the diagnosis and what stage the periodontal disease is at. For early stages (1 and 2) of dental disease, your vet will recommend a dental scale and polish. The descaling will remove plaque from below and above the gums as well as the teeth, while the polish will smooth the tooth surfaces to prevent bacteria from attaching and forming plaque. For more advanced stages (3 and 4) of dental disease, your pet may require additional treatment, including antibiotics and dental extractions.
Preventing plaque and tartar from building up on the teeth and gums is important for maintaining your pet’s oral health. This can best be achieved by brushing your pet’s teeth regularly, by feeding a proper diet and by providing clean, healthy chews that mechanically remove plaque and tartar from the teeth. It is advisable to have your dog’s teeth examined by your vet regularly to spot any signs of periodontal disease early, as left untreated it can lead to irreversible damage that could have been prevented.