Eli is 10 years old and has only one tooth. This little guy was recently adopted by a Regina family, and he obviously had bad teeth. Periodontal (gum disease) is one of the most common dog diseases, and is often preventable.
Tartar and plaque build up, then the gums recede, and infection starts. It’s nasty. Serious dental issues seem to be more common in small dogs than large. It’s often diet related – created by a soft food diet . . . think Cesar supplemented with lots of soft treats. Although they like the taste, the dog’s teeth get coated with food without ever getting a good scrubbing. Soft food is ok, but dogs need crunchy stuff too. (I know they get this stuff because their people love them, but loving them through food can hurt them.)
Unfortunately we see a lot of dogs with dental issues.
What you’ll notice with gum disease is nasty mouth odour when things get infected, and the cost of dental cleanings and extractions. A lot of people pay hundreds and thousands of dollars to fix the problem. However, some people chose not to fix it – that’s mean. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had dental infections, and they hurt – a lot. I can’t imagine the pain that some of these dogs live with. (Dr. Paddy Khuly, a veterinarian blogger, suggests that people who chose not to fix their dog’s mouth infections otherwise known as medical neglect should be charged with animal cruelty. Think about that.) Unfortunately, if the problem isn’t treated early, older dogs may have to suffer in pain for the reminder of their lives because using anesthetic on older dogs can be deadly.
Unless it’s genetic or caused by accident, so many dental problems are preventable. While tooth brushing is an option, I don’t know of many who make the effort to do it. Good on you if you do. Providing your dog with crunchy stuff is a good alternative. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) awards a registered seal of approval for products that are clinically proven to control plaque and tartar. Frankly, everyone trying to sell you something claims their product helps, but products on this list are tested and scored using established protocols – so they're scientifically proven, not just a marketing claim. There is one caution here – VOHC tests for plaque and tarter control, they don’t test products to determine if they're otherwise healthy or safe.
For many dogs, chewing raw (never cooked) bones or elk antlers works well too. Keep in mind that anything designed to be chewed may break and cause intestinal problems or injury. Most dogs enjoy chewing, and typically spend a few minutes chewing rather than bolting it down whole or in large pieces. However, you know your dog – if they don’t chew thoroughly, don’t give it to them. And, if you notice sharp edges or small pieces, take it away.
Talk with your veterinarian about what’s best for your dog. And, check your dog’s mouth regularly for signs of tartar or plaque build-up or infection. When it comes to your dog’s dental health, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.