Dogs And Gum Disease: What You Need To Know

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

By the tender age of three, more than 80 percent of dogs show signs of gum disease, according to the American Veterinarian Dental Society. It’s no surprise, then, to learn that two-thirds of dog owners aren’t giving their pets the recommended dental care.

If left untreated, gum disease leads to tooth decay and tooth loss. Other problems, such as a chipped or fractured tooth, can cause infection, which may necessitate extracting the tooth. Worse still, untreated problems can have a domino effect on overall health, leading to heart, lung, and kidney disease.

While it may not be a priority for most owners, dental care is serious business for your dog, especially since he so often uses his mouth to interact with the world.

Fortunately, dental care is one area where dog owners can have a significant positive impact without too much effort. To tell the truth, it’s a lot like taking care of your own teeth: simple steps taken now can prevent many problems (and expenses) down the road.

When it’s time to see a vet

Regardless of your diligence with your dog’s dental care, it’s important to have your vet examine his teeth and gums at least once a year. This is the best way to catch problems before they become too serious.

If there’s a problem with your dog’s teeth, the first sign is often bad breath, caused when bacteria begin to multiply in food trapped between teeth or at the site of an infection. Other signs to watch for:

  • Drooling more than normal
  • Reluctance to chew food or toys
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Missing teeth or failure to develop adult teeth

What’s next

Treatments for your dog’s dental problems will vary, depending on the source of the trouble. Solutions range from simple brushing at home to get rid of bad breath to medication or surgery for more serious problems.

How to prevent dental problems

You can take easy steps at home to help keep your dog’s teeth shiny, healthy, and clean:

  • Feed a diet of dry food: Dry dog food (kibble) is abrasive, helping to keep the teeth clean. In general, feeding a dental treat like Hartz Crunch ‘n Clean can help to break down plaque and tartar.
  • Provide the right toys: Never let a dog play with an object that’s harder than his teeth. Knuckle bones are too hard for many dogs (nylon bones are a better alternative). Dogs will also occasionally try to eat rocks or other obviously dangerous objects that can break teeth.
  • Brush! Three times a week, brush your dog’s teeth and gums, using a soft toothbrush. Starting this habit early can make it a pleasant (and fun) experience for you and your dog. Be sure to use special toothpaste made for dogs; never use human toothpaste.
  • If a toothbrush seems too challenging for you and your dog, try a finger toothbrush: This a small brush that fits, like a glove, snugly over the index finger. It can be easier to maneuver inside your dog’s mouth than a conventional toothbrush.




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