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Common Dental Problems in Dogs

Dental issues are among the most naturally occurring health problems found in dogs. Today, our vets in Exeter will discuss the causes, signs, and treatment of common dental issues seen in dogs.

Plaque & Tartar Buildup

Like humans, dogs can accumulate plaque and tartar buildup over time, especially without regular dental cleanings. Plaque is a white sticky substance that is primarily made up of bacteria. If it is left on the tooth, it will harden and turn into a yellowish color, which is also called calculus. Tartar will remain stuck to the tooth until it is scraped off with an object such as those used by a veterinarian.

Plaque and tartar buildup are the main causes of dog gum disease and can lead to tooth loss. The most common signs of dental problems in dogs are gingivitis, which is a very red and swollen gum line, discolored deposits on the teeth, and increasingly bad breath. As the dental disease gets worse, dogs may experience even worse breath as well as bleeding of the gums.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is a condition that affects the gums and bone surrounding the tooth. It usually happens when plaque and tartar are left untreated and make their way under the gum line.

Initially, it manifests as gingivitis and then progresses into periodontal disease as the gum and bone around the tooth deteriorate. As the disease advances, pockets can form around the tooth, allowing bacteria and food to accumulate below it.

If left untreated, periodontal disease can cause infections and lead to tooth loss. Canine periodontitis has common symptoms that include:

  • Discolored teeth (brown or yellow)
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Weight loss
  • Inflamed or bleeding gums
  • Irritability
  • Excessive drooling
  • Blood on chew toys or in the water bowl
  • Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
  • "Ropey" or bloody saliva
  • Reduced appetite
  • Problems keeping food in the mouth

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, please contact a veterinarian.

Tooth Fractures

Tooth fractures are a frequently occurring issue in dogs, caused by their constant chewing during eating or playing. Dental fractures can be caused even by common objects such as bones or hard plastic toys. To avoid such injuries, it is recommended that dog chew toys be of an appropriate size, small enough that the dog doesn't need to open its mouth entirely, but also large enough to avoid the risk of accidental swallowing or choking.

Oral Infections

An oral infection can happen when bacteria accumulate in a pocket around the root of a tooth. The most common cause of these infections is periodontitis, although they can also result from chewing on hard or sharp objects that cause trauma. It's important to note that some infections can be very serious and even life-threatening since the bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause organ disease or failure in the heart, liver, kidneys, or brain.

Preventing Dental Problems

It's important to create a dental care routine for your dog to maintain their oral hygiene and prevent oral issues. One easy way to improve and maintain the health of their teeth and bones is by introducing food or water additives.

You can also adjust your dog's diet by providing dental chews instead of less healthy treats to increase their oral hygiene.

While it may not be very realistic, brushing your dog's teeth regularly is ideal for dog owners. If your dog can tolerate it, brushing their teeth every day would be best.

Additionally, bringing your dog in for an oral hygiene cleaning and examination at least once a year is important. Smaller breeds of dogs should go twice a year due to their teeth having shallow roots.

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.

Is your dog due for a dental exam and cleaning? Contact our Exeter veterinarians to book your pup an appointment.

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Pacific Crest Companion Animal is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Exeter companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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