Dental Disease in Dogs: Symptoms & Treatment

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Spending a lot of face time with your pooch is a fun time for both of you - until you get a whiff of his breath! Taking care of your dog's teeth can do more than just freshen his breath - it could improve his quality of life.

What is dental disease?

It can be difficult to keep your dog's teeth clean, so dental health problems are very common.

In fact, research shows that at around the age of 2, 80% of dogs have some sign of dental disease. Problems usually start with a buildup of sticky plaque that hardens to form tartar. If not removed, this can lead to gingivitis, a painful condition of inflamed gums, and eventually periodontal disease may develop. Dogs may lose teeth and be prone to infections that may affect other organs in the body.

What causes dental disease?

Plaque, a colorless film on your dog's teeth, is the perpetrator of bad breath and gum disease. Because he doesn't brush his teeth like you do, this plaque can cause tartar buildup. The result is swelling, redness and inflammation of the gums - otherwise known as gingivitis. If not checked, your dog can develop periodontal disease, which destroys the gums and tissue that support his teeth.

The condition is serious, but don't worry, dental disease is preventable and treatable in most dogs. Ask your veterinarian for a complete oral checkup for your dog and schedule regular dental cleanings

There are some factors that can contribute to dental health problems in dogs. These include:

Age: Dental disease is more common in older dogs

Breed: Small dogs are more likely to have overcrowded or misaligned teeth that are difficult to keep clean, making them more prone to dental disease.

Food: Feeding sticky dog foods can lead to a more rapid buildup of plaque.

It's surprisingly easy to keep your dog's teeth and gums clean and healthy. The first step is to ask your veterinarian about a professional prophylaxis to clean the teeth. After that, you should feed a special dry dog food made in larger pieces (kibbles) that wipe the teeth clean as your dog eats them. Also start brushing your dog's teeth regularly. Your veterinarian will advise you on how to do this.

Does my dog have oral health problems?

If your dog has oral health problems, the first thing you'll notice is his bad breath. If you notice any of the following, it could mean your dog has a dental problem. If you notice any of the following signs in your dog, contact your veterinarian for a complete examination.

  • Bad breath
  • Sore mouth
  • Difficulty eating
  • Loose teeth or tooth loss
  • Pawing or rubbing the mouth
  • Bleeding gums
  • Yellow or brown tartar on the teeth
  • Dribbling
Common signs of dental disease

IMPORTANT: Even if your dog isn't showing signs of oral health problems, it's worth asking your veterinarian for a dental checkup and advice on how to clean your dog's teeth to prevent problems in the future.

The importance of nutrition

The food your dog eats plays an important role in his overall health and well-being. Normal dry dog food provides a dental benefit for your dog because when he crunches on the kibbles, the moderate scraping action cleans his teeth. If your dog has the more serious symptoms of gingivitis, specially formulated dog foods are available which can do a much better job of cleaning his teeth than normal dry dog food.

Balanced nutrition is an essential part of an active, healthy lifestyle. If your dog has dental health problems, it's even more important to feed the right dog food. For accurate diagnosis and treatment options, always consult your veterinarian and ask them to recommend the best food for your dog's dental health.

Ask Your Veterinarian About Dental Health & Disease:

  1. Are there any foods I should avoid giving my dog because of his condition?
    • Ask how human food can affect your dog's health.
  2. Would you recommend a Hill's® Prescription Diet® dog food for my dog's dental health?
    • Ask about special nutritional concerns for your dog
    • How much / how often you should feed the recommended food to your dog
  3. How quickly should I expect to see signs of improvement in my dog's condition?
  4. Can you provide me with written instructions or a booklet on dental health & disease for my dog?
  5. What is the best way (email/phone) to reach you or your hospital if I have questions?
    • Ask if you need a follow-up appointment.
    • Ask if a reminder email or notice will be sent.

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