Did you know that dental health is also a critical aspect of maintaining your dog’s health and wellness? The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), a not-for-profit association, stated that dental problems can cause other health complications. Your dog’s teeth should be checked at least once a year by your vet to determine early signs of dental issues and to keep your canine’s mouth healthy.
Dental Home Care In Dogs (2020)
Karolina Brunius Enlund and colleagues of open access journal portal BMC distributed two questionnaire surveys—one to dog owners and another to veterinarians and veterinary nurses. Target groups were composed of all currently registered dog owners, all registered veterinarians (V), and all registered licensed veterinary nurses (VN) in Sweden.
The largest breed groups were Group 9 (Retrievers, Flushing Dogs, Water Dogs), followed by dogs of mixed breed) (15%) and Group 9 (Companion and Toy Dogs) (15%). 33% of dogs weighed less than 10 kg and 78% of dogs were intact. When asked how common or uncommon are dental problems in the dogs veterinarians and veterinary nurses meet, 62% of VNs and 57.2% said “very common.” 35.3% and 37.1% said “fairly common.” 1.4% and 3.2% said “fairly uncommon” and 0.9% and 0.2% said “very uncommon.”
29% of dog owners, 66% of veterinarians, and 80% of veterinary nurses considered tooth brushing to be very important for good dental health in dogs. Respondents who were most likely to consider tooth brushing to be important for good dental health were owners of Italian Greyhound (60%), Toy Poodle (58%), Maltese (55%), Miniature Schnauzer (53%), and Yorkshire Terrier (52%). Those who were least likely to consider this process as very important were owners of Finnish Hound (4%), Swedish Elkhound (7%), and Norwegian Elkhound (8%).
36% of dog owners said dental cleaning with textiles was considered important for good dental health and 64% said dog food manufactured especially for dental health was deemed as important. 51% deemed dental chews as important for their dogs’ dental health.
When dog owners were asked if they would consider brushing their pet’s teeth daily, 36.1% said no, 35.9% said maybe, and 27.2% said yes. When asked how often have they brushed their canine’s teeth with a toothbrush in the last month, 45.7% said never, 29.1% said more seldom/single occasion, 15.6% answered 1-3 days/week, 4.5% stated 4-6 days/week, and 3.7% answered daily. For dog owners, the most common sources of information about tooth brushing in canines were either books or journals (60%) or the internet (51%). Those who were likely to report receiving recommendations at a veterinary clinic to brush were owners of Toy Poodle (74%), Yorkshire Terrier (70%), Miniature Schnauzer (68%), Coton de Tuléar (67%), and Miniature Poodle (67%).
Least likely to report receiving recommendations to brush were owners of Norwegian Elkhound (16%), Swedish Elkhound (19%), and Hamilton Hound (21%). 67% of dog owners stated that tooth brushing was for maintaining the dog’s teeth and 64% said it was for maintaining good general health.
51% of veterinarians and 56% of veterinary nurses said they considered lack of time to be a common reason why veterinary health practitioners do not talk about tooth brushing. Moreover, 40% of veterinarians and 52% of veterinary nurses considered owners’ lack of knowledge to be a common reason why owners do not brush their pet’s teeth.
The authors concluded that there is a lack of knowledge about dental care among dog owners and veterinary health practitioners. This also includes a discrepancy between owners and practitioners about the perception of whether and how recommendations of tooth brushing were conveyed and veterinarians’ and veterinary nurses’ preconceptions with regard to attitudes of dog owners towards dental home care.
Prevalence of Dental Disease In Dogs
Lorraine Hiscox and Jan Bellows of VCA Hospitals, an operator of over 1,000 animal hospitals in the US and Canada, stated that dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions seen by vets. Few dogs show clear signs of dental diseases. Hence, it is up to you and your vet to diagnose and treat this condition.
Periodontal Disease: The Most Common Dental Problem In Dogs
Periodontal disease is characterized by an infection and inflammation of the periodontium, the tissues surrounding the tooth. There are four tissues namely the gingiva (gums), the cementum (covering of the root surface), the periodontal ligament (which attaches the tooth root to the bone), and the alveolar bone.
Your dog’s mouth contains thousands of bacteria. These bacteria multiply on the tooth’s surface, forming an invisible layer called plaque and organizing themselves into a biofilm. The latter refers to a collection of bacteria structured in a way to be resistant to removal. It can also be difficult for antibiotics to access. Some of the plaque is removed naturally thanks to your dog’s tongue and chewing habits. But if plaque remains on the tooth’s surface, it can thicken and mineralize into tartar—a rough material that allows more plaque to glue to the tooth surface.
Plaque bacteria that come into contact with the gums can lead to inflammation, also knowns as gingivitis. Periodontal disease starts with gingivitis and when left untreated it spreads into the tooth socket and destroys the bone. The tooth becomes loose, possibly falling out as time passes. The gingivitis stage is the only reversible stage when treating periodontal disease.
Treatment for Periodontal Disease
Treating periodontal disease involves a thorough dental cleaning. However, surgery will be done to access the root surface for cleaning, at least in some cases, noted Alexander M. Reiter of MSD Veterinary Manual, a trusted source of animal health. Treatment may also involve x-rays to determine the severity of the condition. Your vet will then make a recommendation based on your dog’s health and the health of its teeth, and provide you with options.
Extractions are usually necessary if your dog has periodontal disease. Extractions enable the tissue to heal and surprisingly, your dog will do well even without the teeth. Your vet will also treat any factors that might have contributed to periodontal disease like tooth crowding or underlying diseases.
If treated, you will need to take care of your dog’s oral hygiene at home. Follow your vet’s instructions, which might include changes in diet, oral rinses, daily tooth brushing, and plaque prevention gel.
There are other dental disorders you need to look out for such as cavities. Observe if your dog has become irritable or demonstrates any changes in behavior, as it could be suffering from a dental problem. Consult your vet for diagnosis and treatment. Most importantly, be patient and careful when providing oral care to your dog. Ask your vet for advice on how to brush your pet’s teeth properly.