From puppies to senior dogs, let’s take a quick look at dog teeth problems and dog dental care through every stage of your fur buddy’s life.
Dog teeth problems — they’re not something you want for your dog. So what can you do to prevent them?
Dogs can suffer from a variety of dental diseases and issues at different life stages. Keep an eye on your dog’s teeth and you can head some of these problems off and even prevent some from happening.
Let’s look at problems that could occur the various stages of your pup’s life:
Dog teeth problems in puppies
Puppies are all about their teeth. My puppy was a chewing machine when he was a baby.
When puppies start switching from baby to adult teeth, a few problems can occur:
Too many teeth.
Puppies are born with 28 deciduous (baby) teeth under the gum. They begin erupting at 2 weeks until they are all visible at 8 weeks. In most cases, at 8 to 12 weeks, baby teeth start to fall out and replaced by 48 adult teeth.
Sometimes baby teeth fail to fall out. Puppy then ends up with too many teeth in his mouth. These extra teeth are bad as they cause adult teeth to become crowded causing them to grow at weird angles. Food may get caught between the teeth and cause gum disease. Puppies who still have baby teeth by 6 months of age should see a veterinarian for possible removal. A good dental veterinarian will be able to provide a correct assessment of the situation.
Puppies like to chew on everything from socks to rocks and logs. If your puppy gnaws on something hard, he can break a tooth. This includes chews and dog toys that are too firm and don’t “give” when the puppy bites down on them. Rule of thumb: If you can’t bend it, it’s too hard for your puppy to chew.
If a tooth breaks far enough down, the root canal could become exposed. This provides a huge potential for infection.
If this happens, a veterinary dentist needs to fit your dog with a crown or perform a removal of the broken piece. Correct dentistry protects the pathway for the adult tooth to come down.
The best way to keep your puppy’s teeth healthy is to give him soft toys and chews to gnaw on. It is important that you examine his mouth regularly.
Contact your veterinarian right away if you see retained baby teeth or a broken tooth.
Dog teeth problems in adult dogs
By the time your dog is an adult, he will have all his teeth and a strong jaw for chewing. He’ll use his teeth for gnawing on toys, chomping down on food, and nibbling on his own skin when he’s itchy.
Adult dogs have their permanent teeth for the rest of their life. If their dentition and alignment is fine, they still have the potential for a few different dental problems. They can break a tooth just like a puppy or develop gum disease and worn-down teeth.
As with humans, dogs are prone to periodontal disease.
Plaque and tartar or calculus build up on their teeth over time.
If this is not cleaned, dogs can develop painful gum disease. Gum disease may result in tooth loss, chronic mouth pain and even organ damage. Bacteria growing under the gum line lead to periodontal disease. The dog’s immune system attacks the bacteria and releases enzymes that break down the gum tissue.
Prevention is key when it comes to gum disease and requires that dogs have their teeth cleaned. Fur buddy’s need regular visits to the vet, who will check their dental hygiene and decide if it’s time for a thorough cleaning.
Dogs who like to chew on toys can wear down their teeth. This is especially true of dogs obsessed with tennis balls. The tough material on the outside of tennis balls can blunt a dog’s teeth over time, especially when it becomes covered with grit and sand. The glue used on that tough material is also damaging to the outside enamel of your dog’s teeth. We recommend a safer chew toy such as a Kong.
A dog with flat-tipped canines may look odd, but it is not uncommon. Worn teeth are not harmful as long as the wear is only on the tip of the tooth and doesn’t go all the way down to expose the root. Such severe wear is rare and most dog owners don’t have to worry about it. Working dog owners, in particular, need to keep an eye out for worn teeth though.
Dog teeth problems in senior dogs
Senior dogs are prone to dental problems because their teeth have been around longer.
Problems such as advanced periodontal disease, abscessed teeth and tooth loss are more common among senior dogs.
Advanced periodontal disease.
Unchecked, periodontal disease can worsen where loss of bone and gum tissue is the result. The infection can also become systemic, affecting vital organs in the dog’s body.
Signs of more advanced periodontal disease include:
- bad dog breath
- red, swollen gums
- visible tartar buildup
- wounds on the face near the eye, on the lower jaws, or in the mouth
- rubbing the face on objects
- loss of appetite and
- dropping food.
The best way to prevent this stage of the disease is to provide regular dental care. Cleaning and regular veterinary visits are essential.
If a single tooth becomes infected, it can become abscessed. This usually happens to older dogs and affects the upper canines.
A fractured tooth, caused by chewing something hard or being struck in the mouth, can become infected.
Check your senior dog’s mouth often.
Keep an eye out for symptoms of a tooth abscess, including:
- bad breath
- chewing on one side of the mouth
- dropping food while chewing
- pawing at one side of the mouth and
- swelling around the eye.
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