Common Dental Problems in Dogs

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Your Dog’s Oral Health

Your dog’s dental health is closely linked to their general health. Your pup uses their teeth, mouth, and gums to both eat and communicate, so when the oral structures become damaged or diseased, they may not function properly anymore and a dog may suffer from pain that interferes with their ability to effectively eat and vocalize. 

Infections and. bacteria can cause many oral health issues, then spread beyond your dog’s mouth into other areas of their body. Left untreated, these bacteria and infections can damage vital organs including the heart, kidneys, and liver. This may lead to even more serious negative consequences for your canine companion’s health and longevity. 

This is one of the reasons regular pet dental care is such a critical aspect of your dog’s routine preventive healthcare – regularly scheduled dental cleanings can prevent health issues, or help your vet identify and treat developing issues early. 

How to Spot Dental Problems in Dogs 

Particular symptoms will vary based on the issue your dog is experiencing. However, there are some signs to watch for that indicate your dog may be suffering from a dental disease. These symptoms can include:

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

Have you noticed any signs of dental disease in your dog that are listed above? If so, make an appointment for a dental examination with your Los Angeles vet as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to positive prognoses for dental diseases in dogs, and better outcomes for their long-term health. 

Common Dog Dental Problems 

Several potential health issues can affect your dog’s teeth, gums, and oral structures. Here are a few conditions we commonly diagnose in dogs. 

Plaque & Tartar Buildup 

Plaque is primarily made of bacteria. This whitish biofilm develops on the teeth and is accompanied by a bad odor that grows worse the longer it stays in the mouth. Plaque buildup can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. 

If teeth are not brushed and plaque removed within about 24 to 48 hours, plaque then hardens and forms into tartar, a yellow or brown-colored substance your veterinarian may refer to as calculus. Tartar sticks to the surfaces of the teeth and cannot be removed without being scraped with a dental scaler or other hard object. 

Tartar causes tooth decay and gum irritation to grow worse. Plaque and tartar leave your dog at high risk for tooth loss and gum disease. Common signs include discolored deposits on teeth, a red, swollen gum line (referred to as gingivitis) and bad breath. Owners may notice more frequent bleeding gums and worsening breath 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 cat’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 damage or infection. 

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 Washington Dog and Cat Hospital 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 Los Angeles.  

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 quickly adapt to the process. 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.

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