Doggy dental decay: how to prevent it and what to look for

If you’re like most pet owners, you probably consider your dog to be part of the family. As a pet parent, you have a responsibility to ensure your dog is both happy and healthy. Unfortunately, it’s not always as easy to tell when your dog is feeling foul. Since many pets downplay their illnesses or injuries as a means of survival, you’ll need to pay close attention to even recognize the signs that something isn’t quite right.

What’s more, some health conditions are more obvious than others. When certain parts of the body are hidden or the symptoms are more subdued, pet parents really have to do their due diligence. That’s certainly the case with dental disease. Although most dogs and cats have some evidence of periodontal disease by the time they turn three years old, you might not realize your pet is dealing with dental decay until this condition has progressed significantly. But because dental disease in dogs can lead to serious consequences (including heart disease), it’s essential to make recognition and prevention a priority.

The Signs of Periodontal Disease in Dogs

As anyone at your local veterinary clinic will tell you, the signs of dental disease in dogs can be hard to spot. But if anyone is in a position to notice shifts in your dog’s behavior or overall health, it’s you. Potential signs of dental disease may include…

  • Bad Breath: Dogs aren’t especially known for their sweet-smelling breath. But when a particularly foul stench is emanating from their oral cavity, it might be time to investigate further. It’s possible that bad breath could indicate a build-up of plaque and bacteria or even gum disease. Should you notice a pattern of especially smelly breath, you’ll want to seek out assistance from veterinary services in your area to assess the issue.

  • New Eating Behaviors: If you notice an obvious deviation from your dog’s normal behaviors with food (i.e., they no longer want to eat their regular food or are turning down treats they used to love), you’ll want to visit your local vet right away. It could be that they’re in too much pain to eat normally — or it could be something totally unrelated to their oral health. Either way, forgoing food can be a pretty serious sign, so don’t delay to head to your vet services department for diagnosis and treatment.

  • Tooth or Gum Issues: You may need to conduct a bit of a visual inspection to see whether there’s a problem. If your dog’s teeth are stained a brown or yellow hue, this usually indicates dental plaque and tartar. And if your pet shows signs of gum inflammation or bleeding, they might have an oral infection or gum disease that needs veterinary treatment. When owners already suspect something might be amiss, it’s generally a good idea to check this out for yourself for confirmation.

How to Prevent Doggy Dental Disease

At home, you can use dental treats and dental chew toys, which help to clean your dog’s teeth as they chew. This can be an enjoyable way to unconsciously amp up their oral health. Making a switch to hard food can also be beneficial. Using a doggy toothbrush and accompanying toothpaste on a daily basis will also help; you need only use downward strokes to brush the outside of your dog’s teeth.

One of the best ways to prevent and treat periodontal disease in dogs, however, is to rely on your veterinary services team. Many veterinary services will provide dental cleanings, which can be effective for more extreme cases of plaque build-up and for dental disease prevention. Be advised that your veterinary services staff will need to place your dog under anesthesia to complete the procedure, so not all dogs can or should undergo this type of treatment. If you believe your dog has signs of gum disease, broken teeth, or other serious oral issues, your first stop should also be your local office for veterinary services.

If you’re worried that your dog might be experiencing dental pain or discomfort, we’re here to help. For more information or to schedule an appointment for veterinary services, please contact us today.

All rights reserved. © 2024 Brandywine Valley SPCA.