Don't Forget Your Dog's Teeth

Illnesses like heartworms and rabies may grab the attention of most dog owners, but you need to be just as vigilant about protecting your dog's teeth. Increasingly, veterinarians are seeing dogs with severe periodontal disease. At the least, this causes pain to your dog. At worst, it can shorten your canine friend's life.

Dangers of Poor Oral Health
The most obvious casualty of peridontal disease in dogs is the teeth. Left untreated, peridontal disease can cause the gums to recede and teeth to fall out. This is a long, painful process for the dog marked by repeated oral infections. These infections are triggered by a buildup of bacteria and food particles in the gums.

Fighting these infections takes a toll on your dog's immune system. The infections can spread to other organs, including the liver, heart and kidneys, leading to permanent organ damage or death.

Signs of Peridontal Disease
Peridontal disease progresses through four stages, beginning with gingivitis. If you catch the disease at this early stage, the effects are reversible and your dog can go on to have a full and happy life with regular dental care.

Signs to look for include the following:

  • Persistent bad breath
  • Low appetite or refusal of certain foods
  • Scratching at the mouth
  • Extremely red gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Drooling
  • Pus around the gums

If you notice these signs in your dog, schedule a vet appointment to have his teeth checked.

Preventing Peridontal Disease
The good news is that it's easy to keep peridontal disease at bay. Brushing your dog's teeth daily is a good way to keep the teeth healthy. You'll find toothpaste and brushes at your pet store. It can take a while for dogs to get used to this, so be patient.

  • Start by letting your dog taste a little toothpaste on your finger. Dog toothpaste comes in flavors that dogs like, but your dog may prefer a particular brand.
  • Put toothpaste on your finger and run it across your dog's teeth.
  • Once he's used to your hand in his mouth, you can graduate to a toothbrush.

Other things you can do to keep your dog's teeth healthy include the following:

  • Provide hard food and biscuits. Soft foods are the culprit in peridontal disease in dogs. Hard treats and kibble help to scrub your dog's teeth clean and they won't get stuck between his teeth and gums.
  • Offer fresh meat. Dogs are carnivores. Eating fresh meat helps to keep their mouths healthy.
  • Provide hard chew toys. Believe it or not, dogs need to exercise their teeth to keep their teeth and gums in top shape. Hard plastic toys and rawhide chews are great for giving teeth their needed workout.
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