Common Dental Problems in Dogs

One of the most frequently seen issues affecting dogs of all ages and breeds is dental concerns. Our vets in Madison talk about the most common dental problems among dogs and how they can be prevented.

Dental Disease in Dogs & Other Dog Teeth Problems

Every day the bacteria from the food your dog eats will build up on their teeth as plaque. Plaque is a whitish substance made up primarily of bacteria, that if left on the tooth, will harden and turn a more yellowish color (also called calculus). Unlike plaque, tartar will need to be professionally cleaned away by your dentist using special tools.

Plaque and tartar buildup lead to serious conditions such as dental disease and eventual tooth loss. The most common signs for a dog owner to look out for are gingivitis (very red and swollen gum line), discolored deposits on the teeth, and increasingly bad breath. As the dental disease gets worse, dogs may experience even worse breath as well as bleeding of the gums.

Periodontal Disease

If your dog suffers from periodontal disease, the gum and bone that surrounds the tooth will begin to break down and deteriorate. This most commonly occurs when untreated plaque and tartar stick to the tooth and make their way beneath the gum line. 

The early and most mild form of this disease is commonly known as gingivitis. As this occurs, pockets around the tooth can develop, allowing food and bacteria to collect below the tooth. If left unattended, dangerous infections can arise and the teeth will begin to fall out.

Some of the typical symptoms of periodontitis are:

  • Discolored teeth (brown or yellow)
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Weight loss
  • Inflamed or bleeding gums
  • Irritability
  • Excessive drooling
  • Blood on chew toys or in the water bowl
  • Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
  • “Ropey” or bloody saliva
  • Reduced appetite
  • Problems keeping food in the mouth

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, please contact a veterinarian.

Tooth Fractures

Dogs like to play using their teeth and chew on nearly everything they find, which is great until your dog accidentally breaks a tooth. Even everyday items that dogs use can be the cause of a tooth fracture such as bones or hard plastic used to make toys.

Dog chew toys should be small enough that the dog doesn't have to open its mouth entirely, but large enough that there won't be a concern of accidentally swallowing or choking on the toy.

Oral Infections

An oral infection is an outcome of a pocket (usually around the root of the tooth) that has been filled with bacteria. Infections are primarily caused by periodontitis but can also be initiated due to trauma-induced chewing on hard or sharp objects. Some infections can be fatal as the bacteria enter the bloodstream and cause organ disease/failure in the heart, liver, kidneys, or brain.

How to Prevent Dental Problems

Creating a dental care routine for your pup, including professional dental care and at-home oral hygiene, is the best way to help prevent dental problems from happening.

Introducing food or water additives is an easy way to improve and maintain the health and strength of their teeth and bones. Adjusting your dog's diet can also increase oral hygiene, even with small exchanges like providing dental chews instead of less healthy treats.

Brushing your dog's teeth on a regular basis can help to keep plaque from building up, in turn preventing other more serious conditions. Although it is not very realistic, brushing their teeth every day would be best if your dog will tolerate the process.

Be sure to bring your dog in for an oral hygiene cleaning and examination at least once every year. Some smaller breeds of dogs should go two or more times a year due to their teeth's shallow roots.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your canine companion in need of a routine dental exam and cleaning? Please contact our Madison vets today to book a visit for your pup.