How to spot signs of Canine Dental Disease

Are my dog’s teeth hurting them?

Could your dog’s breath clear a room?   Are you grossed out when your dog gives you a kiss?  Well, this may be a more severe issue than just, bad breath and gross teeth.  Your dog may be in pain and have a significant infection in its mouth.  

Canine dental disease is one of the most under-diagnosed conditions in veterinary medicine.  It can also be one of the most debilitating. Some animal mouths are so painful and full of disease that it hurts them just to eat and drink.  Loose teeth, infection, destruction of the bone surrounding the teeth and even holes into the nasal sinus can cause pain and discomfort 24/7 for your pet.

Signs of canine Dental Disease:

  • Changes in eating habits
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drooling
  • Bad Breath
  • Obvious Loose Teeth
  • Missing Teeth
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Crying when eating/drinking
  • In severe cases, reluctance to move and lethargy
  • Swelling under the eye (root abscess)

What can I look for in the mouth:

  • Redness
  • Bleeding 
  • Swelling
  • Tartar on the teeth (yellow/brown)
  • Loose Teeth

What is that yellow/brown stuff on my dog’s teeth:

Tartar or dental calculus is formed by years of food, bacteria, and calcium build up on your dog’s teeth. In people, we often refer to it as plaque.  It is usually worse on the teeth covered by the cheeks and therefore hard for us to see unless we move the lip back. In general, smaller dogs such as Poodles, Shih Tzu, Bishon tend to develop tartar or calculus faster and at a younger age.

Do dogs get gingivitis:

Dogs get gingivitis just like people do.  This a pocketing of the gum line that allows for the food and bacteria to accumulate and cause inflammation or redness to the gum tissue.  This can lead to the early symptom of bad breath. In severe cases, the gums can even bleed when they are simply touched. This gingivitis can then lead to more severe periodontal disease and bone loss.  Periodontal disease is where the structures that support the teeth are broken down and the tooth is on its way to being lost.

What can I do to slow dental disease in my dog:

It all starts at home with you checking your dog’s mouth.  Look for the early signs of dental disease and ask your veterinarian what you need to do to prevent this.  Hard kibble will help manually break down the tartar on the teeth, but some at-home dental care may also be needed.  There are multiple products designed to slow the disease process that occurs in the mouth.

Routine annual vet checks are the most important to catch the dental disease before it progresses to the painful stage.  They can also recommend when routine cleaning will be needed. The goal of home care and routine dental cleanings and x-rays to prevent the disease from progressing to where extractions are now necessary.  The goal of the whole process is to have a pain-free and healthy mouth that you will allow you to enjoy those kisses again.

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