In the UK dental disease is the most common health issue observed in dogs. We’re going to show you ways to look after your dog’s teeth and the signs that indicate you should take your dog to a vet.
Dental disease is painful with many owners unaware it can lead to further health issues such as heart, liver and kidney disease. It affects the teeth, gums and even the jaw bone! It’s estimated that in the UK over 80% of dogs and cats display signs of dental disease!
Symptoms of Dental Disease
Bad breath is often the first sign owners pick up on. After all, it’s pretty hard to ignore! But there’s a number of other signs that also show your dog could be suffering from the first stages of dental disease. They are as follows:
- Bad breath (Halitosis)
- Plaque & tartar build up
- Increased drooling
- Gums that are red and inflamed (Gingivitis)
- Bleeding gums
- Weight loss
- Signs of difficulty or pain when chewing
- Swollen face, lumps in the mouth (Tooth root abcess)
- Blood in saliva
- Receding gums
- Tooth loss and broken/cracked teeth
If your dog is displaying any of the above signs it’s a good idea to book an appointment with your vet. Signs of pain will warrant an urgent appointment.
Breeds Most Prone to Dental Issues
If your dog is brachycephalic (flat-faced) they’re more susceptible to dental issues. Dogs have 42 teeth and those with smaller jaws and shorter muzzles tend to have overcrowded mouths due to the smaller space. The most common breeds affected are as follows:
- Greyhounds- Periodontal Disease
- Yorkshire Terriers- ‘Yorkie Breath’, Periodontal disease
- Dashchunds- Gingivitis & Periodontal disease
- Collies- Overbites
- Boxers- Gingival Hyperplasia
- Bulldogs- Gingivitis & Periodontal disease
- Pugs- Gingivitis & Periodontal disease
- Shetland Sheepdogs- Underbites
- Chinese Crested- Fragile teeth
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel- Gingivitis
- Labrador- Tooth fractures
According to the research by Royal Veterinary’s Colleges VetCompass programme, 39% of Greyhounds surveyed suffered from dental issues. A statistic that is significantly higher than any other breed. The study has piqued the interest of Professor Steve Dean, Chairman of the Greyhound Trust and previous Chairman of the Kennel Club.
Periodontal Disease in Dogs
Periodontal disease, also known as Periodontitis, is the most common dental issue seen in dogs. Bacteria is the prime cause of this disease which often results in infections to their oral cavities. It targets the gums, teeth and bone.
Your dog uses its mouth for a variety of reasons but after they eat, plaque is most likely to form. It’s made up of protein from food, bacteria, and saliva but if it isn’t removed it will accumulate, forming into a brown hard substance known as Tartar.
A further build-up of bacteria and tartar will cause gingivitis, an early sign of gum disease. Symptoms include inflammation and receding gums. If the disease continues to progress an infection will occur spreading into the tooth socket thus destroying the bone. Such damage is often irreversible and will lead to tooth loss.
The first signs of Periodontal disease in dogs aren’t normally noticed by owners. Your dog should be examined by its vet for any dental issues once or twice a year. Early treatment is key to preventing health complications. Vets can give a full dental clean or an X-ray if they suspect something more sinister.
Periodontal Disease Health Complications
Many dog owners are surprised to learn just how badly dental disease can affect their dog’s health. Including in areas of the body that are nowhere near the mouth! If bacteria is able to enter your dog’s bloodstream it could damage their major organs.
Dental disease harbours large quantities of bacteria in the mouth if enough enters the bloodstream it could lead to Systemic disease. Three organs most at risk include the heart, liver and kidneys. Bacteria in the mouth is the same as that found in endocarditis, an infection targeting the inside of the heart.
Periodontal disease undoubtedly increases the risk of heart disease. The liver and kidneys filter the blood, so bacteria is easily able to infiltrate and damage these organs. Signs of infection and inflammation include a decrease in appetite, weight loss, and fever.
Other Dental Issues
Periodontal disease is the most common dental issue in dogs but there are other issues you should be aware of. These are as follows:
Fractured & Worn Teeth
Your dog’s mouth goes through a lot and play can also cause dental issues. Tooth damage is common in dogs, especially since some of the objects they chew and play with are stronger than their enamel. Constant chewing will wear the teeth down and could end up revealing the pulp (nerve) causing a great deal of pain. The pulp may also be exposed through fractures that mostly occur via rough play with hard objects.
Smaller dogs like the Maltese, Havanese, Shih Tzu and flat-faced dogs are susceptible to unerupted teeth. These teeth lay below the gumline and are unable to breakthrough. They may form into a cyst resulting in the destruction of the jaw. Unerupted teeth must be extracted if they begin to cause issues.
Abnormal development may cause under and overbites. Signs of an elongated upper or lower jaw can be seen in puppies as early as 8 weeks. In severe cases, tooth extraction is needed. Collies are particularly prone to overbites whilst Shetland Sheepdogs are commonly affected by underbites.
Death of the nerve inside the tooth will cause a darkish yellow, pink or even grey discolouration. It’s typically caused by blunt trauma but may also be due to abnormal development. The pulp’s tissue is bruised leading to a haemorrhage in the canal. If the blood supply to the pulp stops, it will die.
As a result of trauma to the tooth, inflammation and infection affect the pulp. This is known as Endodontic disease. Visible fractures, pain, facial swelling and a decrease in appetite are common symptoms. A tooth extraction or root canal operation will be needed.
The tissue of the gum surrounding the teeth becomes overgrown. It’s commonly caused by poor oral hygiene. Gums become inflamed and thickened as a result of plaque left along the gumline. If left untreated it’ll lead to periodontal disease. Breeds commonly affected are Boxers, Great Danes, Dobermanns, Dalmatians, and Collies.
Dental Care Routine
It’s important you establish a regular dental routine for your dog. Vets recommend daily brushing for the best oral hygiene results. Always use a doggy toothpaste as human toothpaste could hold ingredients harmful to your pet. A number of factors also contribute to dental health and these include your dog’s diet, playtime and genetic factors.
Brushing of course is the most ideal way forward but not all dogs are so accepting. If this is the case dental wipes for dogs can be used to remove plaque. If you feel your dog will benefit more from a deep clean contact your veterinarian.
Dog chews and dental treats are also great ways to remove plaque. They can be found in a variety of textures and flavours so your dog is more likely to prefer these to brushing. Chewing scrapes off the plaque, cleaning teeth as a result. The enzymes contained in all-natural meat chews also promote your dog’s dental hygiene.
Toys such as rubber and nylon are also beneficial to your dog’s dental health. Again the chewing removes the plaque from the teeth. It’s excellent for dogs prone to weight gain as there is no calorie intake. Some owners apply doggy toothpaste to the toy for a better cleaning effect.
Top Rated Dog Dental Health Products
Below we’ve listed the most highly rated dog dental health products that have been tried, tested reviewed by dog owners!