Canine Dental Care

February & October

For all Small Animal Dental Procedures

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Canine Dental Care & Health

Dogs have 28 deciduous teeth (temporary) and 42 permanent teeth. Deciduous or "milk" teeth begin to appear when a puppy is about four weeks of age, and are lost gradually between 14 and 30 weeks of age. During this time, puppies may eat slightly less and chew more. Hard rubber or rawhide toys made especially for dogs are a good investment to help prevent household damage during this time. Common signs of dental problems in dogs include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Red, swollen and bleeding gums
  • Drooling
  • Blood in the saliva
  • Yellow-brown tartar at the gum line
  • Broken teeth
  • Foul breath

Dogs sometimes suffer from broken teeth, often a result of biting on sticks or rocks. A cracked or broken tooth can be painful if the nerve tissue is exposed; if it becomes infected, there is the danger of the infection spreading through the bloodstream. Prompt veterinary attention is recommended.

Tooth and Gum Disease

Tooth and gum disease can be dangerous to your dog's health. When left untreated, the harmful bacteria caused by this disease can enter the blood stream and travel to the major organs, such as the kidney liver, and heart....causing illness and even death.

Gum disease begins with the formation of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms in the mouth at the gum line. Plaque hardens into tartar which harms the gums causing them to become red and swollen, known as gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis will lead to gum or periodontal disease. Periodontal disease can involve infections of the bone that hold the teeth in place, resulting in loss of bone, which can cause the teeth to fall out.

To ensure your dog's dental health, they require dental care on a regular basis. Otherwise they may develop problems. Dental problems may also result from injury, foreign bodies such as porcupine quills, malnutrition or systemic diseases which infect the mouth as well as other parts of the body.

Occasionally a puppy or kitten will retain some deciduous (baby) teeth after the permanent teeth have appeared. This may damage the soft tissues of the mouth and may even accelerate wear of permanent teeth. A veterinarian should be consulted to determine whether or not removal is necessary.

How does the vet clean my dog’s teeth?

In order to clean your dog’s teeth properly, he will need to be anesthetized. This is not as scary as it sounds. There are new anesthetics that are not as risky as some of the older methods. While there are always risks with anesthetics, the risks of not treating dental disease are much greater. Your dog may have a blood test to make sure that there are no health risks to using the anesthesia.

There are four steps in the cleaning process.
  • Scaling removes the tartar above and below the gum line. Hand instruments and ultrasonic devices will be used to remove all of the tartar.
  • Polishing smoothes the surface of your dog’s teeth. This step helps to reduce future tartar buildup.
  • Flushing will remove specks of dislodged tartar and bacteria from the teeth.
The bottom line

Proper dental care is essential for your dog’s good health. Many clients will be the most conscientious owners in other areas, but neglect their dog’s dental health. You need to maintain your dogs dental health at home by trying to clean the teeth with a special brush or gel, feed your dog crunchy food, and bring your dog in to the clinic for regular dental cleanings.

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