Periodontal disease is the most common health problem for dogs. It’s also the one that we have the most control over. Many dog owners are guilty of neglecting their dog’s dental health, but the truth is, the health of your dog’s gums and teeth has a huge impact on their overall health and quality of life.
Periodontal Disease in Dogs
Did you know that plaque can form in as little as two hours? If left to grow undisturbed, the plaque on your dog’s teeth will thicken with bacteria and eventually become tarter. Once it gets to this point, a professional cleaning at the vet will be required to remove the tartar.
If the tartar is left on the teeth, gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) occurs. From there, periodontitis sets in and the gums become swollen and inflamed, leading to bad breath and pain. With mild to moderate periodontitis, the tarter and infection destroy the gums and it becomes difficult for the dog to eat. The good news is, with proper treatment, the disease may still be reversible at this stage.
If the disease is allowed to progress to its final stages, the bacterial infection will begin to destroy not only the teeth and gums but the bone as well. Organ damage can also occur in the kidneys, heart, and liver. Once the disease has reached this point, its effects are irreversible.
How to Care for Your Dog’s Teeth
You can do a lot to prevent dental problems for your dog by simply brushing his teeth every day.
Tips for brushing your dog’s teeth:
- Establish a routine. Brush your dog’s teeth at the same time and in the same place every day. When you first start out, use a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger. Once your dog gets used to the sensation, you can graduate to a finger toothbrush, and eventually a regular toothbrush.
- Be patient. If you have never brushed your dog’s teeth before, let him lick the toothpaste off the brush so he can get used to the taste.
- When you brush, pay special attention to the outside of the teeth where tartar and plaque are most likely to build up.
To supplement your daily brushing, talk to your vet about dental chews that have enzymes to help remove plaque.
Most importantly, don’t wait until your dog is having issues with his teeth to take him in for a professional cleaning. Proper preventive care is key to keeping your dog’s mouth healthy. He should have his teeth cleaned by the vet at least once a year.