Gum disease in dogs occurs when bacteria in the mouth thrive and attack the gums. This results in shrinking of the gum that exposes the root of the tooth. Root exposure is very painful for your fur baby and a dog will often display this pain with a decreased appetite, grouchy attitude, and by withdrawing to a quiet place where he can be alone. He may lick obsessively at a paw or hindquarter, or whimper and growl when anyone attempts to examine his mouth.
Bacteria also lead to dental cavities which require tooth extraction and often creates long-term dental pain in dogs as well as eating problems. If you’ve ever had a cavity or a tooth pulled, you can relate.
Gum disease is so common in our dogs mainly because of the diet we feed them. All those carbohydrates, sugars, starches, and additives create a sticky paste in your dog’s mouth that clings to the teeth and provides an ideal environment for the bacteria that cause gum disease. Tartar and plaque buildup further complicates the problem and contribute to a favorable environment for bad bacteria.
Plus, not many pet parents are diligent about making regular oral hygiene a priority. They often cite a dog’s resistance to mouth care as the primary reason to skip brushing.
But dental hygiene is critical for your dog’s good health. Bacterial overgrowth is known to travel to other parts of the body beyond the mouth, resulting in serious medical conditions, infections, and even death.
Plus, that bacterial overgrowth can adversely affect your dog’s natural ability to digest his food properly because of enzyme imbalances in the stomach, tooth pain, tooth loss, and other illness that occur as a direct result of gum disease. Your dog may lose weight, have difficulty eating, or become a flatulence machine that no one wants to sit near when his digestion is impaired.
How to Treat Gum Disease
Often, dogs with gum disease visit the veterinarian and are recommended a course of antibiotics (like Clindamycin) and a dental cleaning and/or tooth extraction.
This can be problematic for several reasons:
Antibiotics are not tolerated well by many dogs and can create a storm of yeast overgrowth and digestive enzyme imbalances that result in diarrhea, poor digestion, chronic flatulence, indigestion, loss of appetite, and poor nutrient absorption. 1
The cost of dental procedures can
be very expensive for pet parents. 3
Damage from advanced gum disease cannot be “cured”. You can only treat the symptoms and prevent future infection. The damage caused by gum disease4is permanent.
Dental cleanings and procedures require a dog to be put under anesthesia, which can be problematic for some dogs due to common complications related to their breed. Dog breeds that are particularly prone to anesthesia-related problems are: pugs, bulldogs, boxers, Boston terriers, greyhound, whippet, Italian greyhound, borzoi, Irish wolfhound, saluki, border collie, collie, Australian shepherd, sheltie, Newfoundland, great pyrenees, doberman, and all toy breed dogs. And of course, senior dogs have special risks when undergoing anesthesia as well. 2
For these reasons, prevention truly is the best course of action.
How to Prevent Gum Disease in Dogs
Prevention can start at any age. Even though the damage from gum disease is permanent, treatment can limit and prevent further damage.
Ideally, it’s best to start with dental hygiene the day your puppy starts eating solid food. Starting a grooming routine early on will help your puppy learn that hygiene is a good thing and will limit the resistance you experience later on. But even adult and senior dogs can be trained to tolerate dental care if you help them create positive associations with the act of dental care. Lots of healthy treats, praise, and a positive attitude on your part will go a long way toward helping your dog learn to love his doggie dental care (or at least not hate it).
There are many doggie dental care products on the market from tooth wipes to sprays
and toothpastes. Just be sure you research how to care for your dog’s teeth and don’t use “people” products on your dog. Like a toddler, he will swallow the toothpaste if used. Using products designed specifically for dogs is usually best.
You can opt for self-serve products like Orapup’s Orabrush for pets. Simply squeeze a little flavored gel onto the brush and let your dog lick it clean. The ingredients in the gel help fight plaque and the brush cleans your dog’s tongue as he licks.
Brush, Brush, Brush!
Dog breath is normal and often overlooked, but if you have to hold your own breath when you get a whiff of your dog’s breath, then you’ve got a bad case of halitosis on your hands, which, according to Reeve, is “the first sign of disease in the mouth.”
Oral infections, disease, tooth decay and other dental concerns for dogs are more common than people realize, and many people will just let them happen because they assume it’s normal and just a part of aging, etc. But the truth is that your dog’s dental health can actually have a major impact on his overall health and can lead to you having to pay mounds of vet bills later on in order to get his health back on track.
However, if you start taking the proper steps now to keep your fur baby’s dental health in good shape, then a lot of the risk for dental disease and infection can be significantly decreased.
How Do You Brush Your Dog’s Teeth?
Interestingly enough, you don’t actually need a toothbrush and toothpaste to effectively clean your dog’s teeth, though this is definitely an option. If you do prefer to do a full brushing job, it’s advised that you start by treating the toothbrush like a game to get your pup used to it, then add the toothpaste later on. It’s best to brush their teeth 2-3 times a week, or daily for best results.
However, if you don’t feel you need to do the thorough brushing, Reeve says you can simply examine your fur baby’s teeth after every meal and carefully remove any leftover food that may be stuck in their mouth and teeth. He says you can use a basic face cleaner to do a more thorough job if needed.
If you can, it’s best to start practicing oral care on your fur baby when he’s young to help him get used to it from the start. This will make it a much easier and smoother process for you as he gets older. Frequently handling their mouths can also help them get used to being touched and reduce the chances of them developing any sensitivities when their mouths are touched by other dogs or people.
Symptoms Of Dental Disease
If your dog is showing any of the following signs, it’s likely that he has a dental disease.
• Visible plaque or tartar
• Bad breath or mouth odor
• Chewing with the head tilted to one side
• Food dropping from the mouth during meals
• Loose teeth or loss of teeth
• Unwilling to eat
• Crying out in pain
• Shying from your touch
• Unwilling to chew hard objects
I bet you didn’t see that one coming!
Just like regular grooming and exercise, you dog needs daily dental care. If brushing every day really isn’t an option, aim for 3 or 4 times a week at the least. Bacteria can build up pretty fast, and keeping it under control with a daily brushing is better than having to treat a severe infection or disease!
It is best to introduce dental care when your dog is still a puppy, but it’s never too late to start giving your adult dog’s teeth some attention. Just be sure to take it slowly and patiently as both you and your dog may need to warm up to the process. Lots of love and treats can go a long way!
Before you jump right into your dog’s mouth, however, make sure you have the correct supplies.
A doggie toothbrush.
Canine toothbrushes are angled in such a way that can make tooth brushing a lot easier. Others are made to slip over your finger which is a great option as well. Human tooth brushes also work well as long as they are soft and match your dog’s mouth size.
Unless you have somehow trained your dog to spit you’ll need a toothpaste that’s safe to swallow. For this reason it’s very important that you don’t use a human formula, which shouldn’t be ingested. Your dog will probably prefer the meat-flavored toothpaste options anyway!
Let The Brushing Begin!
Here are some simple steps for how to successfully clean those pearly whites.
1. Before beginning, let your dog sniff and lick the toothpaste and toothbrush. This is especially important if you’re using a new product or if you haven’t brushed in a while. Let your dog become comfortable with your supplies before sticking them in his mouth.
2. Move your dog’s lips aside and rub the visible teeth with the toothbrush and paste. Circular motions are best. Don’t forget to brush along the gum line! Once your dog is comfortable with you brushing the visible teeth, try gently opening his jaw to brush the back teeth as well.
3. Finish by rewarding him with praise like with one of Wag Wins handmade sweet fresh breath biscuits https://wagwins.co.uk/product/sweet-breath-biscuits/. This step is very important, even if the process didn’t go well. You want to make sure that your dog has positive feelings associated with teeth brushing so the process will run smoothly the next time.