Identifying And Preventing Oral Health Problems In Dogs

It's not unusual for responsible pet owners to lack knowledge concerning the dental health of their furry friends. On average, dogs begin to show signs of deteriorating teeth and gums by the time they are four or five years old. Fortunately, there are many things that you can do at home to help ensure the good health of your canine companion. Following are several ways to identify oral health problems in dogs as well as how to keep your dog's teeth as healthy as possible.

Signs of Dental Disease

The first sign that your dog may be experiencing dental distress is bad breath. However, it's important that you distinguish between normal doggie breath -- which can be slightly unpleasant -- and the type of bad breath likely to indicate a dental or gastronomical issue. What you should watch for is strong, particularly bad-smelling breath, especially if it's accompanied by loss of normal appetite or vomiting. Other signs that your pet may need to see a veterinarian for oral health issues include:

  • Swollen or discolored gums. Your dog's gums should be pink without any signs of swelling. White or red gum tissue can indicate an oral infection.
  • Excessive drooling. Although some breeds, such as bloodhounds and mastiffs, produce more saliva than others, a dog that is drooling more than normal may be experiencing gum disease.
  • Loose teeth. This is another sign that your dog may have some kind of gum disease.
  • Cysts in the gums and under the tongue. This could possibly mean that your dog has oral cancer.

Inspecting your pet's mouth on a weekly basis will help identify oral diseases early enough to prevent most of them from becoming serious enough to be life-threatening.

Proper Canine Oral Care

Along with thoroughly inspecting the interior of your dog's mouth once per week, proper oral care will help prevent serious dental issues. Your dog's teeth should be brushed once per day using a mild toothpaste specifically formulated for dogs and a toothbrush made for dogs. In a pinch, baking soda and water can be used in place of canine-specific toothpaste, but never substitute a brand made for humans because this can cause your dog to experience digestive distress.

Beginning a brushing regime is easiest when your furry friend is a puppy -- simply gently brush its teeth when you perform other daily grooming. To acclimate an older dog to having its teeth brushed, you should:

  • Gently massage its lips with your finger twice per day for a period of two weeks in order to get it used to having your hands in its mouth area.
  • After two weeks has passed, move on to its teeth and gums for a period of one to two weeks.
  • After you become confident that your dog is comfortable with being touched this way, slowly your dog to the toothbrush and toothpaste, with brushing sessions becoming longer and more thorough every day.
  • Your dog's teeth should be cleaned in small, circular motions.
  • Keep in mind that the outer surface of your dog's teeth that touch its cheek are more likely to develop plaque and tartar buildup than the inner side, so concentrate more on this area.

An excellent alternative to a traditional canine toothbrush is one that fits directly on your finger, particularly if your furry friend is skittish. Once your dog is thoroughly used to having its teeth brushed, you can scale back brushings to once per day. Your vet at a place like the Pet Medical Center – Full Service Veterinary Care may also recommend that your dog have a professional tooth cleaning session once or twice per year as part of its oral health regime.

Supplying your pet with chew toys and feeding it a diet designed to optimize dental health is also recommended. Ask your vet for breed-specific advice on appropriate food, snacks, and toys.