A Dog Depends On Healthy Teeth and Gums
The average person may not understand how critical this issue is to a dog – unless 1) they own or have owned a dog and 2) have experienced these problems – suffering the consequences.
We have raised Dalmatians for over 20 years and have learned this lesson. We watched Lady start to chew gingerly and delicately at first. Then she wouldn’t take her treats or crunchy bones. A trip to the vet and we discovered just how serious the problem had become. Chewing was actually uncomfortable – it hurt to eat. That should tell you a lot right away.
Well after several hundred dollars in vet bills, we learned how critical “dental care” is to a dog and its health. Not only do healthy teeth help chewing but healthy gums are important to holding the teeth in place and comfort of eating. Additionally, some gum diseases lead to other problems just like humans. Heart disease, stomach and similar problems are caused or exacerbated by poor dental health.
It Is Easy To Overlook – If You Are New To Pet Ownership
For some reason, the common wisdom is that a dog should have “bad breath”. Imagine what they eat and where they have been. The truth is simply much different. Other than some food odor – a “bad” smell should not exist and must be investigated. Because of this misconception many don’t check and most don’t “brush” a dog’s teeth.
Watch Your Dog’s Health Closely
Paying attention to your dog’s health is important to you both. Your dog’s well being, outlook, attitude and quality of life are important. Your wallet will also benefit from some preventive action – I promise.
If you catch a dog’s teeth problems early you can avoid the pain and discomfort of more severe dental disease. The easiest way to do this is — look at the teeth. “Look” means inspect and remember. Regular attention will alert you to unusual changes or issues that when small can be resolved by you rather than a professional.
Inspecting and Remembering Your Dog’s Teeth
The first time will be a little strange but with care and some kindness, it will become a process that you will become comfortable with in a short time. Just lift your dog’s lips all around the mouth. Look at the front and back teeth. The point is to observe and remember. The first few inspections set a “base line” for you and your dog’s present condition.
Remember, you and your dog have a “relationship” and this inspection is an extension of that mutual care and concern. Be gentle, speak softly, move slowly and allow your dog to understand what you are doing. He or she will pull back. Be ready. Don’t “jump” just wait and stroke around the mouth and nose until another chance to move the lips and look at the teeth. The whole issue is one of trust and will take a little time but it is not impossible.
Additionally, during the annual checkups your veterinarian will also take a look at your dog’s teeth. Obviously, you will want to make sure there is a routine to these exams and that you report any generalized concerns during the vet visit. Your vet is absolutely the best source for education on what to look for and how to treat any problems that may crop up.
What To Look For Between Vet Visits
Between the vet visits you should watch out for:
* Bad breath or any unusual changes in breath;
* Any reluctance your dog shows chewing or unusual behavior while chewing like whining;
* Any unusual or unexpected salivation – different then when he or she sees food or a treat – you will know when it s outside the norm;
* If you see red and/or puffy gums, watch them for a period of a few days. See if there is a change in condition. How does your dog react when he or she is eating. Any concerns contact your vet;
* If any of the gums are bleeding and there is no obvious reason – that is cause for concern and a trip to the vet’s office;
* Even tartar and hard coating on the teeth called calculus which is the result of plaque build-up is important. Believe it or not, dog’s teeth can be cleaned just like ours if it is too serious. Try some crunchy treats, bones and other solid items. Give them to your dog and see if that helps. A constant diet of caned food will add somewhat to the problem. If it does not improve or grows worse, consult your vet.
* Be on the look out for missing and/or loose teeth during your inspection. Watch closely, your first base line will tell you what to look for in the future. In some instances you may want to keep a journal to discuss with the vet.
* Then there is the general “catch all”. Anything that just doesn’t look “right”. We learned quickly that this will come natural to almost any pet owner. There is a sense we develop that warns. Just be open to those concerns and act as you feel best.
Always consult with your vet. Watch for early signs and resolve the problem early. In a future article we will describe the more serious aspects of dental disease and its more detailed care.