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Dental Disease in Dogs

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Extreme close-up of a white dog with a black nose biting into a green soft toy.

Just like with humans it is important that a dog’s teeth are properly cared for. Keeping up with your dog’s dental hygiene can not only ensure that they have healthy teeth but also a healthier life.

What is Dental Disease? 

Dental disease in dogs is a condition where teeth begin to fall out due to neglected dental health. Dental disease typically begins when tartar and plaque begin to build up around the teeth and gums. If the tartar and plaque sit for too long and are never attended to it can lead to gingivitis. A condition where the gums become inflamed creating a painful experience for your dog. Once a dog has gingivitis, the more likely that their teeth will begin to fall out and they become prone to other infections that can spread to other organs. 

What Causes Dental Disease? 

Plaque is the known culprit behind a dog’s bad breath and gum disease. It is easier for a dog to get an infected mouth because they aren’t able to tend to their teeth the same way humans can, allowing plaque and tartar a better chance to build around the teeth. If this isn’t taken care of it can lead to the gums and tissue being destroyed which in return affects the support of the teeth, this is known as periodontal disease.

To help ensure that your dog’s mouth is as healthy as it can talk to your veterinarian for guidance on how to best care for your dog’s teeth.

Diet and cleanliness are the biggest determining factors when it comes to dental disease. However, there are a couple of others than can have some influence, such as:

  • Age: Dental disease is said to be more common among senior dogs.
  • Breed: Smaller dog breeds can have more teeth that create misalignment, making good teeth cleaning not as easy.
  • Food:Dry food helps with keeping a dog’s teeth clean because as the kibble breaks it scrapes off that built-up tartar. Wet and sticky food can increase the buildup of plaque.

Dental Disease in dogs can cause other serious issues

Dental disease in dogs can cause issues not only within their mouths but in other organs. If infected teeth and gums go untreated your dog has the potential of getting:

  • Heat disease
  • Diabetes
  • Broken jaw

Untreated periodontal disease can affect the health of a dog’s heart. The bacteria that is found in the infected mouth of a dog is said to be the same bacteria found in the infected heart of a dog. The two diseases are often seen together as well.

Diabetes can happen in very severe cases of dental disease because the inflammation can affect blood sugar metabolism.

A dog breaking their jaw can happen when the infection is bad enough to weaken the jaw. Something as simple as jumping off a couch can lead to the jaw being affected enough to seek treatment. This is more common in smaller breeds because of how small their jaws are.

What symptoms to look for

A young girl with brown hair standing behind a golden retriever puppy,. The young girl is holding a toothbrush to the puppy's face so the puppy can lick the toothpaste off the toothbrush.

Bad breath can be the first indicator that your dog may have dental issues that needs attention. If you notice that your dog has bad breath in pair with any of the following it could be a sign of a dental problem. If this is the case, contact your veterinarian for an exam.

  • Bad Breath
  • Sore Mouth
  • Difficulty eating
  • Loose teeth or tooth loss
  • Pawing or rubbing at the mouth
  • Bleeding gums
  • Yellow or brown tartar on the teeth
  • Dribbling

Ways to prevent dental disease

The type of dog food that you choose can make a big difference in your dog’s dental health. As stated above dry food is preferred over wet food and the bigger the pieces are (kibbles) the better job it will keep your dog’s teeth clean. To avoid tartar build-up even further, you can take matters into your own hands and brush your pup’s teeth every day. You can choose to brush with specially formulated toothpaste for dogs or go the more natural route and use coconut oil which is great for their teeth gums and more.

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How to brush your dog’s teeth

Brushing your dog’s teeth is a great way to help them avoid a trip to the veterinarian for a big dental surgery. The first step to take when brushing your dog’s teeth is to make sure that you have a toothbrush made specifically for dogs. Make sure that you also have toothpaste made for dogs or, again, coconut oil makes for a great alternative. The second step is to get your dog as comfortable as possible with this routine by allowing them to try a sample of the toothpaste you have chosen. Third, you will want to lift the lips to expose the outside surfaces of your dog’s gums and teeth, use the same circular motions you would use as if you were brushing your own teeth. You will most likely be focusing on the outside of your dog’s teeth but if you are able to brush the insides without causing your dog much pain or stress, you will simply repeat the same steps. Fourth, praise your dog as they allow you to brush, afterward do or provide something that your dog enjoys to make teeth cleaning a rewarding experience.

At-home teeth cleanings should be given as often as possible but professionally cleanings by your veterinarian are still highly advised to be able to clean the places that you are not able to reach as well as getting rid of the lingering plaque and tartar. It is advised that you take your dog in for a professional cleaning at least once a year.

Dental disease in dogs is one of the most common medical conditions veterinarians treat. Over 80% of dogs over the age of three are affected, dental disease can be easily treatable if it caught early on and taken care of as soon as possible. Avoiding the symptoms or veterinarian advice may result in serious pain and discomfort for your dog and possible complications in other organs.

If you are ever unsure about what type of food to buy, how to brush your dog’s teeth, or any other questions regarding your dog’s dental health, contact your veterinarian for further advice.


Merck Manual Dental Disorders in Dogs

Hillspet Dental Disease in Dogs Symptoms & Treatment

VCA Dental Disease in Dogs

Dog Dental Disease By: Rhiannon Taylor

Rhiannon Taylor

Rhiannon is a Content Producer at SitStay as well as a full time student at Wichita State University in the Elliott School of Communication. She loves all dogs a but currently has a special place in her heart for her 5 year-old Australian Shepherd named Memphis.

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