As I stated in an earlier post February is Dental month for our pets. Most vet offices give a discount on dental procedures for the month of February so take advantage of it if your pup needs it.
It can be really challenging to know when your dog has dental issues – after all, dogs are genetically wired to eat despite almost any degree of discomfort. Add to that the fact that most pet parents don’t know what dental disease in their dogs really looks like, and it can be a recipe for disaster in terms of untreated dental disease. Read on to learn the signs and symptoms of dental disease in dogs.
His breath smells like an open sewer
This one is pretty easy. I mean, there’s dog breath, and then there’s dog breath. And you know when your dog’s breath has gone above and beyond the commonly-accepted standard for how dog’s breath normally smells, which is a bit stinky but not terribly so.
It’s probably actually more correct to say that when your dog’s breath smells like an open sewer, he has needed a dental cleaning and examination for quite some time. Oftentimes, when you smell that really rotten smell coming from your dog, it’s actually the bacteria and infection that you’re smelling. Abscesses show up at the tips of the roots, and it happens because the presence of plaque and tartar on the teeth causes the attachment between the gums and the teeth that sit in them to begin to loosen. And this creates something of a freeway between the mouth (nasty and filled with bacteria on a good day) and the tooth root (typically a squeaky clean, if not completely sterile, place), which sets up a fantastic environment for an infection. And this infection leads to pain and bone decay and a host of other complications.
Two take away points: once the gum pulls away from the tooth, it’s almost impossible to get it to reattach; and once there is an abscess present, there is very little that can be done except to surgically remove the tooth. The moral of the story: don’t let this happen to your dog.
Worn or Broken Teeth
Teeth wear gradually – it happens in people, for sure, but the rate is drastically accelerated in species that make it their business to chew up every stick and rock in the tri-state area (Pro-tip: don’t let your dog chew on sticks and rocks).
The teeth are designed to withstand some wear. That’s what the “crown” is for – it’s the enamel on the top of the tooth that forms the biting or chewing surface. Once the enamel on the crown wears down, the sensitive pulp cavity is exposed, causing not only pain but also, again, a pathway for mouth bacteria to travel to the tip of the root and form an abscess.
When Mr. Squirrel is cast aside
Dental pain can be so subtle in dogs, their owners are often shocked when they learn the ugly truth of the state of their teeth. Many times the dog is continuing to eat just fine – even hard kibble – but they’ll start to be less interested in playing with a favorite chew toy, and that’s likely a sign that their teeth are hurting.
Reluctance to accept a chewy treat, less interest in play that involves grasping objects with the mouth, and even favoring one side of the mouth when eating are all signs that you should watch for.
When he seems to just sloooooooow down
While you shouldn’t assume your older dog’s lethargy is related to dental disease, if he is slowing down, he does have dental disease, your veterinarian can’t find another cause, and routine testing (blood work, chest x-rays) are normal, get his teeth cleaned. A thorough cleaning and exam including x-rays of all of the teeth can reveal significant disease, and very possibly the source of all of his problems.
I once had a botched root canal, and I can tell you that when the local anesthetic subsided, I experienced intense and debilitating pain. So, it makes complete sense to me that untreated dental disease can cause enough pain to slow your dog down considerably. Again – be sure to look for other problems, but if everything else checks out, address the dental disease. You will likely be surprised in the improvement in your dog’s overall attitude.
When your veterinarian tells you
It’s not easy to get a thorough look in your dog’s mouth, but your veterinarian is trained to do it. Most dogs need to have their teeth cleaned by age 3, and yearly after that. Veterinarians are trained to recognize subtle signs of dental disease, such as red gums, gum recession, and worn and fractured teeth. So be sure to keep your dog’s yearly or semi-annual appointment with his veterinarian, and heed the advice you are given.
Well I hope you all learned something from this post and I hope you all keep a close eye on your pups dental heath. Especially this month when you might be able to save a couple bucks on that expensive vet bill.
If you ever have any questions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org