Lack of Dental Care Can Cause Illness, Pain and Even Death in Your Dog

Poor oral hygiene can affect a dog’s overall health and happiness in many ways. And, it can affect the level of happiness you have in your relationship with your dog. The first sign of poor oral hygiene that most dog guardians notice is bad breath.

Poor oral hygiene can also lead to pain for your pet with infected gums, rotting teeth and blisters in the mouth. These conditions can cause the dog to stop eating or eat less. It can cause an overall feeling of malaise in the pet and make the dog age more quickly.

The good news is that no matter your dog’s age, most dogs respond well to treatment and starting proper oral care for your dog can improve health at any age.

Four years ago, I rescued a pointer mix dog I named Glory. When trying to determine a dog’s age, the first thing a veterinarian looks at is the dog’s teeth. Many of Glory’s teeth were broken. Some were black and there was a thick buildup of tarter. The veterinarian estimated Glory might be as much as 10 years old.

Regardless, we scheduled him to be neutered and to have a dental cleaning at the same time. After his teeth were cleaned, the veterinarian changed his estimate of Glory’s age to about 3 years. Glory had obviously had a hard life on the streets for sometime and had been eating whatever foods he could scrounge from trash cans and dumpsters. The veterinarian also guessed, from the appearance of his broken teeth, that Glory had been chewing on rocks.

For the first six months of his new life, Glory ate very little of his dry kibble. His foods had to be supplemented with softer “treats,” such as cottage cheese, so that he would be encouraged to eat and could eat with his bad teeth. With proper oral care and time to heal, he can now eat dry kibble and relishes his meals.

More than three-quarters of adult dogs have problems caused by poor oral hygiene. Conditions can include gingivitis, periodontitis, pyorrhea, caries, plaque and calculus. Poor oral hygiene can even lead to death in dogs. Dental infections release toxins that may enter the dog’s blood stream and permanently damage vital organs. Most of these could be prevented in pets with proper oral hygiene.

Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth is part of proper oral hygiene, along with regular dental exams as part of your dog’s routine veterinary care. Professional dental cleaning should be done if your veterinarian recommends the procedure. A professional cleaning requires that your dog be anesthetized so the necessity of the procedure should outweigh the risks of anesthesia.

Diet also plays a role in proper oral hygiene for dogs. To maintain good oral health, dogs should not be fed only soft foods. Chewing hard kibble is important to removing tartar. There are special formulations of food designed specifically to improve oral health in dogs that may have already developed oral health issues. Many toys and treats may also help your dog to maintain good oral health. Consult with your veterinarian about what would be best for your pet.

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