Dental Focus

The Port Kennedy Veterinary Hospital is focussing on dental health for your pet. It’s time to have your pet’s gums, teeth and general mouth area checked and if necessary, cleaned and attended to. A clean set of teeth is extremely important for your pet’s health and well being.

Oral Hygiene & Your Dog’s Health

It’s a fact. Most dog owners never take a good look inside their dog’s mouth. And that’s unfortunate because it is estimated that over 80 percent have signifcant oral pathology. Every day veterinarians are presented with patients for routine vaccinations or other minor afflictions whose oral health status is truly cause for alarm. Upon displaying the dog’s loose teeth, sore and infected gums, and rotting tooth sockets to the dog’s owner, the response usually is one of surprise and shock.

“Well, she does seem to have bad breath, Doctor” is the usual reply. “But I’m sure at her age she can’t have anything done now.”

Yet the continual presence of bacteria and their associated toxins have a daily impact on the dog’s health; anything we can do to change that for the better is appropriate. Partly because the mouth is warm, moist and has significant nutrients present for organisms to grow on, the oral cavity of dogs is a perfect incubator for all kinds of bacteria. Most are normal and natural but once plaque and calculus form on the teeth the normal microbial flora gets out of balance and if pathogenic organisms proliferate, trouble ensues. Far too often veterinarians discover during the physical exam that their canine subject has a foul odor to the breath as a result of generalized periodontitis. But foul breath is a mere shadow of a much more insidious disease process. Far better than extracting teeth, performing gingival flaps, filling erosions or doing root canal procedures, would be to prevent the health damaging periodontal disease in the first place.

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One of the best ways to insure optimum oral health is to provide the dog with a well-balanced, meat-based dog food (such as premium quality kibble foods). Meat assists in keeping the mouth environment healthy. Actively encouraging the dog to utilise chew treats that require some “exercising” of the teeth, such as is provided by compressed rawhide chewies, hard rubber or nylon chew toys, can assist in keeping the mouth structures vital.

Brushing the dog’s teeth can be a big help, too, but needs to be done almost daily. One study in the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry, December, 1996, reported “Tooth-brushing every other day did not maintain clinically healthy gingiva in dogs. The daily addition of a dental hygiene chew to a regimen of tooth brushing every other day reduced the gingivitis scores and reduced the accumulation of dental deposits (plaque, calculus and stain).

Daily tooth-brushing should be the recommendation to the dog owner irrespective of dietary regimen.”

Newer dental care products that include antiseptic impregnated chewies, canine appropriate tooth brushes, and even flavored tooth pastes to “reward” the dog for allowing the brushing are available. Also important are routine oral hygiene visits where under general anesthesia the patient can undergo ultrasonic teeth cleaning, close inspection of teeth and gingiva, and assessment of overall oral health. Addressing problems when they are minor and preventing the health damaging effects of bacterial contamination and systemic toxin release are immeasurably beneficial to the dog’s long-term health status.

We dog owners need to pay closer attention to our dog’s oral health status. And that begins with the simple task of looking closely at the dog’s mouth.