Signs of Poor Dental Health in Your Dog
Nobody likes cavities, especially your dog. Think about it: they can’t directly communicate to you that their teeth are hurting. It’s something that you have to notice if they seem to be in pain.
There are several signs to look out for when caring for your dog’s teeth and gums. Initially, a professional should do a checkup so you can learn the basics of inspecting your dog’s mouth for abnormalities.
But once you know the signs of poor dental health in your dog, you’ll be able to catch red flags early on. So what should you look for when checking up on your furbaby’s teeth and gums?
If you smell what we typically think of as “stinky dog breath” from your dog’s mouth, this could mean the beginning of poor dental health. Although bad breath is common and easily treated, you should brush your dog’s teeth at least three times a week. Without brushing, this causes bacteria and plaque buildup in their mouth. If left untreated, the plaque continues to build and hardens into tartar which can later cause oral disease.
Another sign of poor dental health is swelling of the gums, which can be a sign of gingivitis or gingival recession. While gingivitis is primarily the result of swelling gums and is reversible, gingival recession is permanent and causes the loss of average gum height in your dog’s mouth. This recession of gums can result in more plaque buildup, tooth root exposure, and tooth loss.
If your dog suddenly prefers softer toys over harder ones or is chewing much more carefully and slowly, this could be a sign of tooth decay. Your dog could be favoring chewing on one side of their mouth over the other, suggesting that they have a sore tooth. In the case of a toothache, they could also be drooling more than usual and pawing at their face or mouth.
It’s crucial to prevent these dental issues as much as possible to ensure the best health for your dog. Of course, sometimes infection and disease happen, but taking good care of your dog’s teeth and gums is still essential. As a dog owner, you are responsible for their overall health, and no one wants to see their furbaby in pain.
Complications of poor dental hygiene include kidney, liver, or heart disease, which occurs when the infection from a tooth enters your dog’s bloodstream. Some of these health risks include:
- Gum Inflammation: Also known as gingivitis, gum inflammation happens when bacteria in the mouth that causes plaque releases toxins that damage the gum line. When white blood cells try to remedy those toxins, this causes inflammation.
- Pathologic Jaw Fracture: Common symptoms include one or more loose teeth, an infection of the jaw, and structural weakening of the tooth sockets. Inflammation of the gum tissue can cause a jaw fracture, so it's crucial to take your dog to the vet if they develop these symptoms.
- Kidney and Liver Disease: Oral infection can lead to organ failure due to the bacteria in the mouth traveling through the dog’s bloodstream. This kind of organ infection can cause kidney and liver disease.
- Heart Disease: These oral infections can also lead to chronic inflammation and heart disease. The bacteria from the dog’s mouth can lead to endocarditis, an inflammatory condition that causes the heart's lining to become inflamed. Endocarditis can also lead to an infection in the heart valves, which can cause heart failure.
- Unhealthy Weight Loss: Much like when you have a toothache, your dog won’t be able to thoroughly chew their food if their tooth is bothering them. Therefore, this tooth pain can cause them to avoid eating, which leads to unhealthy weight loss.
The best preventative measure to protect your dog’s dental health is practicing good hygiene habits and knowing the early signs of these issues to keep an eye on. Just like the symptoms mentioned earlier, you’ll want to inspect your dog’s teeth and gums for any abnormalities. These can include discoloration, swelling, lumps, or your dog showing noticeable discomfort when chewing.
To start taking care of your dog’s dental health, start by learning the importance of maintaining their dental hygiene.
When you can take all the preventative measures possible, it greatly reduces the risk of infection in your dog’s teeth and gums. So take the time to inspect their mouth and brush their teeth up to three times a week. You won’t regret it when your dog is healthy and thriving.