Dental Disease & care – Some Veterinary info

One of our members of the JHB Beagle Club is a vet, and has kindly written some articles regarding dogs’ health for us for the website…

I will be posting a new article every once in a while – so please keep a look out for it, have a read, and circulate to your animal loving friends




Dental disease and care
For interest sake, puppies develop their deciduous teeth at 2 weeks of age, with their 42 permanent teeth starting to appear at 3 months.
With major advances in treating serious infectious and other pet diseases, oral disease – most importantly periodontal or gum disease caused by the build-up of plaque and tartar – has become the number-one health problem for dogs. It’s estimated that without proper dental care 70-80% of dogs will show signs of oral disease by age three. If left unattended these may cause irreversible damage to your dog’s teeth, gums and jaw bones.

Dental disease can be prevented by stopping the build-up of plaque, the same as in people. Plaque is a yellowish white deposit made up of bacteria and debris which forms around the surface of the teeth. In time it hardens to become yellowish brown tartar (sometimes called calculus) at the base of the tooth which gradually spreads until it may cover the whole of its surface. As well as the visible tartar there may be other indications of disease. Foul breath is very common and the pain resulting from advanced dental disease may cause difficulties in eating.

If your pet has advanced disease and is in obvious pain, your vet may need to take x-rays of your pet’s head to see whether there are any deep abscesses. Any loose teeth will have to be removed because the disease is too advanced to be treated. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics before doing dental work if there are signs of infection. Your vet will remove the tartar and clean the remaining teeth, usually with an ultrasonic scaling machine. Finally, your dog’s teeth will be polished to leave a smooth surface which will slow down the build-up of plaque in the future. However, it is inevitable that plaque will re-appear.

With your help, your pets can have healthy teeth and gums throughout their lives. You simply need to provide them with a few things:

•        A nutritious diet
•        Chew treats
•        Regular brushing at home
•        Yearly dental check-ups by a vet
Good dental health begins with the proper diet: The wrong kinds of food can cause dental disease in pets. Feeding your dog a dry food rather than a moist, canned one, will through its mild action on the teeth, help remove the bacterial plaque that can harden into tartar. Dry food also provides adequate chewing exercise and gum stimulation. Avoid giving your pet sweets and table scraps as they may also increase plaque and tartar formation. Your vet may recommend the use of special dry foods designed to reduce plaque and tartar build-up, especially if your pet is prone to dental problems due to breed or individual genetic history.

Brushing your pet’s teeth: Dogs need to have their teeth brushed in order to eliminate the dental plaque that can cause tooth decay and the formation of tartar, which can lead to gum disease. You should begin a regular, daily brushing routine when your puppy is between six and eight weeks of age. Even older dogs can be trained to accept having their teeth brushed. You simply need to introduce the activity gradually and make the experience a positive one for your pet. Reassure and praise them profusely throughout the process and reward him with a very special treat when it’s finished.

Here’s how it can be done:
Step 1
• Start by dipping a finger in beef paste.
• Rub this finger gently over your pet’s gums and one or two teeth.
• Repeat until your pet seems fairly comfortable with this activity.

Step 2
• Gradually, introduce a gauze-covered finger and gently scrub the teeth with a circular motion.


Step 3
• Then, you can begin to use a toothbrush, either an ultra-soft model designed for people or a special pet tooth-brush or finger brush, which is a rubber finger covering with a small brush built in at its tip.

Step 4
• Finally, once your pet is used to brushing, introduce the use of pet toothpaste in liquid or paste form. Most of these contain chlorhexidine or stannous fluoride – ask your veterinary surgeon for his/her recommendations. Don’t use human toothpaste, as it can upset your pet’s stomach. Your veterinary surgeon may also advise the use of an antiseptic spray or rinse after brushing.


(pictures courtesy of MSD Animal Health)

Don’t forget a yearly dental checkup: Doing your best to ensure that your dog receives the proper diet and regular brushing at home will help maintain teeth and gums in top condition. To provide optimum dental care at home, you need to start with a clean bill of dental health. That’s where your pet’s vet comes in.

He/she will give your pet a thorough examination of the entire oral cavity to determine whether there are any underlying problems and, especially important, tartar build-up. Brushing removes plaque but not tartar, so if your pet’s teeth do have tartar, your vet will have to remove it with a professional cleaning and polishing, usually accomplished under anaesthesia. After removing the tartar above and below the gum line, your veterinary surgeon will provide you with instructions for home care and follow-up.

A few tips:
•    Chew treats, including hard meat-protein biscuits and rawhide chews for dogs, can help remove plaque, and provide stimulation for the gums.
•    Watch out for wood – throwing sticks for dogs can result in splinters and gum damage.
•    Don’t let your pet chew on hard materials like bones or stones. They can wear down, even break teeth, damage gums and lead to infection.



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