What’s the big deal about my pet’s teeth?
Answer: Small dogs are especially susceptible to oral health issues for a number of physiological reasons. Their mouths are small and uniquely shaped, and their small teeth are often more compacted, so they are more prone to oral health problems and related bad breath. Also, since small dogs have different skull sizes, their jaw strength and biting force varies. The relative size of other parts of their mouth structure also affects their overall oral health. In addition to small dogs physical differences, their longer lifespan (average 15 years), puts them at a greater risk of experiencing health conditions that are associated with advanced aging – including gum and dental disease.
How does oral disease start?
Answer: It starts immediately after a hearty meal or tasty treat. Soon after your dog finishes a meal, plaque begins to form when bits of food, saliva, mouth bacteria and protein bind together into a sticky film on the surface of your pet’s teeth. Within 48 hours, tarter develops when the minerals in the saliva mix with the plaque (calcification) to create a tough, yellow-brown layer, usually around the gums. It’s easy to remove plaque from your pet’s teeth by simply using a toothbrush, but once calcification begins, it requires more aggressive means for removal; a professional scaling with special dental instruments. Plaque and tarter create damage in your pet’s mouth if they go unchecked. Bacteria thrives in this enviroment and begins to aggravate your pet’s gums, causing swelling, bleeding and soreness. This is the first phase of periodontal disease, also known as gingivitis. Other signs include bad breath, a change in temperament and a sudden resistance to having the mouth or head area touched. In extreme cases, your pet may lose his or her appetite from the pain of chewing.
Peritonitis is a direct result of gingivitis left unchecked and untreated. Symptoms in phase two of peridontal disease include the breakdown of your pet’s gums, and the eventual pulling away of the gums from the teeth. Ultimately tooth loss will occur and your dog or cat can experience severe mouth pain. Unfortunately, this stage of periodontal disease can cause irreparable damage.
Does every dog have this problem?
Answer: Absolutely. Every single dog or cat requires home dental care. If they are not getting their teeth brushed at least every other day, they will have gingivitis to some degree. Most people are surprised to learn that gum disease is one of the biggest and most common threats to a pet’s health. Dubbed the SILENT KILLER, gum disease affects up to 80% of dogs by the age of 3. Regrettably, gum disease, if left untreated can cause more systemic problems, including infections which can challenge the immune system. At this point, bacteria can take over and enter the bloodstream, moving to the organs where more serious diseases can start.
How can I stop this from happening to my pet?
Answer: You can help to protect your pet’s oral health. Brushing your pet’s teeth daily and maintaining a regular oral check-up program every 4-6 months is imperative for tooth and gum health. Provide your pet with effective chew aids so your pet is working their mouth and teeth. Finally, be good to your pet’s teeth. Feed your pet only food and treats specifically designed with an oral care focus. It’s a small but significant measure towards making sure your pet looks and feels their best.