Everyone has heard the age old-saying: Dog is man's best friend. While this may be true for many people (others, such as I, prefer furry friends of the feline persuasion), the question has to be asked: just how good of a friend are you to your beloved canine companion? While most pet owners take their dogs to the vet regularly, there is one aspect of animal health that is surprisingly not addressed as much as it should be: dog dental problems.
While many dental problems that dogs face are easy to take care of, a surprising number of owners ignore-or don't know how to identify- the warning signs of a dental problem their dog may have. Here is a simple guide to several of the most common dental problems dogs experience.
By far, the most common dental problem that dogs face is fractured or broken teeth. Just like humans, dogs can get their teeth broken or knocked out in many ways. Unlike humans, however, dogs are regularly given things that can cause this to happen. Sticks, bones, rocks, and a myriad of other objects can break a dog's teeth. And while not every broken tooth can be a crisis, if the break or fracture involves the pulp of the tooth, it may need to be pulled out or even restored.
Objects stuck in the teeth
This is another common problem that affects dogs that can be easily prevented. Like the explanation for broken teeth above, having a dog get things stuck in their teeth is caused by them chewing on things they really shouldn't be. Many times, the warning signs that a dog may have something lodged in their teeth are drooling, choking, and a difficulty or dropping food while eating. If you examine your dog's mouth and can't find anything stuck in their teeth but they are having these problems, it's recommended to take them to a vet; some objects may just be too small to see.
Another extremely common dental problem that dogs face is tartar buildup. Tartar is a yellowish substance that builds up on teeth, and it's made up of bacteria and calcium. In its early stages, tartar builds up as a softer substance called plaque, but if the plaque is left as it is and ignored, it turns into tartar. Tartar is most often found on the sides of the teeth that face the dog's cheek, and it is relatively uncommon next to the tongue. Built-up tartar can be reduced by brushing a dog's teeth and feeding them regular dog food instead of canned food or table scraps.
Gingivitis is, put simply, an infection of the gums. It is caused by too much tartar buildup. While healthy gums will look tight around the teeth, infected gums will appear loose from the teeth. This looseness allows bacteria and food particles to become trapped inside of the gums, causing the infection to grow. Gingivitis-affected gums will appear red and swollen, and the disease is often accompanied by very bad breath.
Periodontal disease usually follows gingivitis. When plaque continues to build up and a dog's gingivitis gets worse, periodontal disease begins to form. With periodontal disease, the infection of the gums attacks the area where the teeth are connected, causing them to loosen and potentially fall out. Dogs with periodontal disease will often have trouble chewing or eating, and as a result of this, they will often lose weight. Another sign that your dog may have periodontal disease is if they avoid being touched around the mouth.
While the idea of good dental hygiene for dogs is spreading around more than it used to, it's still not something that every pet owner knows about. This is why, if you see your dog having any of these problems, it's important to take them to a vet so they can get the care they need!