Friday, November 20, 2015

Getting Between Your Dog’s Teeth

By Alissa Hicks

How concerned should we be about our dog’s teeth? We checked in with Dr. David Hagan of Dr. John’s Pet Care Clinic.

Q: What is the main importance of good dental health for dogs?
A: “Just as in people, it’s important to take care of your dog’s dental health. Oral health issues can affect a dog’s overall well-being and can take a toll on your pet’s heart and kidneys especially. While it mostly occurs in older dogs, having poor dental health can add to any health problems and make them worse. Dental disease is genetic — almost all dogs get some form of it, unfortunately. But you can do your part to keep it at bay.”

Q: What are some things you can do at home to help maintain your dog’s dental health? Do those advertised dental chews really work?

A: “Use whatever is easiest for you as an owner — finger brushes, actual toothbrushes, chews, water additives, etc. Most effectively, getting your dog used to a toothbrush early on will help. Honestly though, the chews aren’t doing a whole lot for the oral health of the dog unless you can tell them exactly how to chew on it in a certain spot. For the most part, they just become a treat for the dog. Long-term, it is best to feed your dog harder kibble rather than a soft food since the soft food sticks to their teeth much easier.”

Dr. David (left) and Dr. John suggest that owners schedule annual dental checkups for their dogs.

Q: What signs might signify trouble?
“The three main things are bad breath, redness and inflammation of the gums, and tartar buildup. Pay attention to tartar buildup on a specific tooth. Abscesses can also present themselves at times — almost like a pocket of infection. Dogs don’t want to show weakness to their pack, so it’s rare that they will show signs of pain until it’s almost too far gone. Oral health issues can also affect their spirits, energy, and overall well-being, so be sure to pay attention to signs of that. If your dog is a chewer, be sure to check for any other problems such as cracked or fractured teeth.”

Q: Do all dogs lose their puppy teeth?
“Right around 4 months of age, all dogs will begin to lose their puppy teeth. They are progressing from puppyhood to adulthood. Smaller dogs will often have retained puppy teeth, so check with your vet because this can often cause other problems and the teeth will need to be extracted.”

Q: How often should you have your dog’s teeth checked?
“Annually. Look for signs and symptoms every three months or so and have your vet double check when you are in for a check-up. A lot of people are turned off by dental health procedures for their pets because of price, but owners should know that it’s very important to the health of their pet, so they shouldn’t try to cut costs by avoiding it.”

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