Dog Dental Care Tips

by Aug 1, 2019

Every animal has the potential for dental disease. A dog has 42 adult teeth. Experience shows that by three years of age, most dogs have some evidence of periodontal disease. We tend to see a significantly higher incidence of periodontal disease in small toy breeds. There are several reasons for this:

Retained Baby Teeth

When these teeth don’t fall out, as they should, they can push the adult canines out of position. This affects the bite of a dog, which contributes to dental disease.

Toy breeds have small heads and small mouths, but relatively large teeth. Small and large dogs have the same number or teeth, so the toy breeds tend to experience teeth crowding. Ideally, teeth should never be touching one another. But when they do, it causes inflammation and disease to the bone and gums.

Ideally, teeth should never be touching one another

In some Brachiocephalic breeds – referring to the short noses and flat faces of breeds such as the English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Pug, Pekingese, and Boston Terrier, the teeth can even be rotated causing further complications.

Malocclusion

This refers to the bite of a dog – how the teeth look when the mouth is closed. In a dog’s mouth, the teeth are not supposed to touch soft tissue at all, so any tooth-to-soft tissue contact is abnormal. The only place there is supposed to be any tooth-to-tooth contact is between the upper and lower molars.

Chewing

I have subjectively noted that small dogs that chew on oral toys tend to have better teeth than those that don’t. That being said, we need to be careful about what we let our pets chew on.

Never have your pet chew on an antler bone. They are much too hard and are often the underlying cause to tooth fractures that I see in practice.

I recommend treats that are approved by the VOHC – Veterinary Oral Health Council.

Some great chews, for example, are:

  • Oravet
  • Greenies
  • T/D Diet Science Diet
  • Veggie Dents
  • Checkup chews

I also recommend Kong Toys packed with threats to help minimize tarter.

Treats are not the only thing you should do. I ask to all my clients to think of something dental every day. The most effective way to prevent dental disease is brushing on a daily basis.

The most effective way to prevent dental disease is brushing on a daily basis

Yes, daily. This is not what everyone wants to hear, but in small breeds it’s the way to go.

I shudder when clients say, ‘first we have to pin her down.’

Brushing your pet’s teeth is not easy. Please watch the video for help brushing your pet’s teeth. I recommend starting with soft gauze pad or children’s wash cloth and wiping where the gum and tooth meet on the upper and lower teeth. After you feel comfortable, add pet toothpaste and then graduate to a finger brush.

I strongly recommend positive reinforcement. Give a dental treat when you’re done. I shudder when clients say. “Well, first we have to pin her down.”

We want to make it fun and relaxing because we should do this a lot. On top of brushing there are also water additives. These help decrease plaque and bacteria and soften existing plaque. One VOHC product is Healthy Mouth, a safe water additive that has studies to back up that it works.

Having said all this, some dogs require – dare I say it – dentals under anesthesia to carefully evaluate the mouth get dental X-rays and clean deep beneath the gum line. I know that every client dreads me telling them their pet needs a cleaning under anesthesia.

The sad fact is that, in my experience, almost 80% don’t practice good home care

It’s the anesthesia they dread the most. The fact is that most pets have anesthesia without incident. Every pet being put under anesthesia should have blood work, or possibly x-Rays, depending on their age or medical conditions.

I have done procedures on as old as 18-year-old cat. It’s also important that your vet has the ability to monitor your pet and take dental X-Rays.

The truth is that even with home care, dentals are needed. The sad fact is that, in my experience, almost 80% don’t practice good home care. These pets would probably benefit from more frequent dental cleaning under anesthesia. Some may need them every 6-12 months.

VET TALK

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Dr. Stacey Kilcullen DVM

photo of veterinarian stacey kilcullen in her white professional outfit holding maltese

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