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Common Dental Problems in Dogs

Dental problems can cause your dog severe pain and lead to other health issues. Today, our Fort Oglethorpe vets explain how to identify common dental health issues in your pooch, and how they can be prevented and treated.

Your Dog's Oral Health 

Your dog's dental health is closely linked to their general physical health. Your pup uses their teeth, gums and mouth to both eat and communicate, so when these oral structures become damaged or develop disease, they may no longer work as they should. This can lead to your dog suffering from severe pain that interferes with their ability to effectively eat, bark, and engage in other activities. 

Dental infections and bacteria can cause several oral health issues. Plus, if these infections and bacteria are left untreated, they can spread to other parts of your pooch's body and damage vital organs including the kidneys, liver and heart. This may lead to severe negative consequences for your four-legged friend's long-term health and longevity. 

This is one reason regular pet dental care is such an important part of your dog's preventive healthcare routine – regularly scheduled dental cleanings help prevent health issues and give your vet the opportunity to identify and treat developing issues early. 

How to Spot Dental Issues in Dogs 

While specific symptoms will vary depending on the issue your dog is experiencing, your pup may be suffering from dental disease if you notice any of these conditions or behaviors. 

Common symptoms of dental disease in dogs include: 

  • Difficulty eating, or eating slowly 
  • Visible tartar on teeth 
  • Bad breath (halitosis) 
  • Pawing at the mouth or teeth 
  • Loose or missing teeth 
  • Weight loss 
  • Swollen, bleeding, or noticeably red gums 
  • Excessive drooling 

If you've noticed any signs of dental disease in your dog that are listed above, schedule an examination with your vet in Fort Oglethorpe as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment may result in better prognoses for dental disease in dogs, and improved outcomes for their long-term health than if you wait to take action.

Dogs Often Experience These Dental Problems

Several dental health issues can potentially impact your dog's teeth, gums and other oral structures. Here are a few common dental problems and conditions to look out for. 

Plaque & Tartar Buildup 

Primarily made of bacteria, plaque is a white-colored biofilm that covers the teeth and is accompanied by a bad odor that worsens the longer it remains in the mouth. Buildup of plaque can cause tooth decay and gum disease. 

If teeth are left unbrushed and plaque remains for longer than 34 to 48 hours, it then hardens and forms into tartar, a brown or yellow-colored substance that's also called calculus. Tartar attaches itself to the surfaces of the teeth and cannot be removed without being scraped off with a dental scaler or other piece of dental equipment. 

Tartar leads to worsening of tooth decay and gum irritation. Plaque and tartar put your dog at high risk for gum disease and even tooth loss. Common symptoms include colored deposits on teeth, a red, swollen gum line (gingivitis) and bad breath. Owners may find that their dog's gums bleed frequently and their breath grows worse as dental disease progresses. 

Periodontal Disease

When plaque and tartar remain in the mouth, bacteria gets under the gum line, eroding tissue and bone that hold your dog's teeth in place. Periodontal disease starts with gingivitis. Loss of soft tissue and bone surrounding the teeth occurs as the disease becomes more advanced. The teeth's support structures degrade and pockets develop around the tooth roots

This allows bacteria, debris and food to accumulate here and dangerous infections to develop. Over time, the teeth loosen and start to fall out.

Oral Infections

If periodontal disease develops, bacteria can make its way into the open space around tooth roots, leading to infection, which may manifest as a tooth root abscess. 

Pus then develops in the bacteria-laden pocket around the tooth to fight the infection. Left untreated, the abscess may become so large that it leads to swelling in the face and anatomical deformity. 

While oral infections are often caused by periodontal disease, they often happen secondary to trauma in the mouth. Trauma may be due to injury from chewing on hard or sharp objects. 

Tooth Fractures

Dogs that are powerful chewers can fracture their teeth chewing on very hard plastic, antlers or bones. Most vets will recommend against allowing your dog to chew on anything harder than what you would want to bang hard on your knee. 

Size of chews can also factor into the occurrence of tooth fractures - a chew that's too large for a dog's mouth may make the tooth and chew line up that breaks the outside of a tooth (known as a slab fracture). 

Your veterinarian may recommend pick chews, which are small enough to hold in the mouth without swallowing by accident. However, these are not so large that your dog will need to have a fully open mouth to safely chew on them. 

Preventing Dental Issues in Dogs

The most reliable way to help prevent the development of dental problems with your dog's teeth is routine brushing and cleaning of your dog's mouth. You'll give your dog a much better chance of having healthier teeth and gums if plaque is brushed away before it can cause dental disease, damage, infection, or other symptoms. 

To keep your pup's teeth in great condition and their breath fresh, schedule your pet for a professional dental examination and cleaning once a year. Pet dental appointments at The Animal Medical Center of Fort Oglethorpe are similar to taking your animal for an appointment at the veterinary dog or cat dentist. We can also treat any emerging dental health issues your dog may be experiencing. 

While there is technically no such thing as a "veterinary dentist", our veterinarians do provide dental care for pets in and near Fort Oglethorpe.  

To prevent oral health issues from developing in the first place, you should start cleaning your dog's teeth and gums when they are still a puppy and will be able to adapt to the process quickly. You may also consider adding dog dental chews to their routine. 

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.

Are you concerned about your dog's dental health? Contact our Fort Oglethorpe vets today to book a dental exam and cleaning. We can also offer advice and treatment options.

New Patients Welcome

The The Animal Medical Center of Fort Oglethorpe is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Fort Oglethorpe companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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