Many pet owners don’t realize it, but dental care is just as an important part of your pet’s health care plan as vaccines, heartworm prevention and proper diet. We diagnose dental disease more than any other type of infection. An unhealthy mouth can affect the dog’s entire body; inside and out.
I’m a CVDT (Certified Veterinary Dental Technician), have been in the field for over ten years and have noticed a trend in the most commonly asked questions among pet owners. The answers found in this article reflect how things have been done in my experience only; keep in mind that all veterinarians and veterinary hospitals have varying policies, techniques and practices.
So how can you recognize if your dog has oral disease? Take a look at some of the signs below.
Bad breath is one of the most common complaints made by pet owners. Plaque, tartar and bacteria build up on the teeth and gums and can cause a strong, foul odor. In short, what you could be smelling is infection.
Excess Plaque and Tartar Build Up
Plaque and tartar build up is simple to check for. Simply flip up your dogs lip and have a look. Many people make the mistake of just checking the front teeth or the canines, but where most oral disease starts is at the large teeth in the back, the premolars.
Almost all dogs have some amount of plaque and tartar, and what that actually looks like can be different in every one of them. Commonly, it is a thick brownish substance that is stuck to the surface of the teeth. It can also be of a yellowish color or even black in some cases.
Bleeding gums, also known as gingivitis, can be caused by the build up of tartar as it attaches to or pushes up against the gum line. The longer the tartar remains, the worse the condition becomes, eventually causing the gums to recede too far. In a case where the gums are bleeding, it is important to also be aware that every time the dog chews, bacteria is getting into his blood stream therefore being delivered to his organ system. This is when we get cases of heart, liver and kidney problems.
A mouth of poor health will loose teeth. Whether the pet owner finds the actual teeth or not is hit or miss. Excess plaque and tartar, as discussed earlier, press up against the gum line causing it to recede. At this point the root can be exposed causing the tooth to become loose and possibly fall out.
Teeth can also fall out in cases without receded gums. Here the infection can actually be hidden behind the gums, next to the tooth root. This bacteria actually eat away at the tooth root as well as the bone surrounding it. This explains many of the cases of why when we find teeth that have fallen out, the root is no longer present.
Believe it or not, weight loss can also be a sign of oral disease in dogs. When a dog has oral disease, it can be very painful to eat or chew. Many will begin to eat more slowly or make odd movements with their head or mouth as they try to chew differently. Some will stop eating altogether.
Weight loss can also be a sign of oral disease due to the fact that the liver, heart or kidneys may have become affected. These organs are commonly infected when oral disease is present. As the bacteria from the mouth travels through the blood stream it is taken to these organs where it remains and can cause infections and even failures.
Oral disease may or may not be a painful thing in your dog. It is a disease that is very important to treat as it affects his whole body, whether he seems to be affected by it or not. The very best way to determine if your pet has any degree of oral disease is to have him examined by his veterinarian. There you can discuss any questions about oral disease and what the treatment plan may be.