Recent debate among Oxford University scientists centers on precisely when dogs were domesticated and whether they evolved from wolves at all. However, with different theories pointing to domestication at either 30,000 years ago or only a mere 15,000 years ago, experts can agree that dogs and wolves both rely on their physical traits to survive, specifically their sharp teeth.
While your dog probably doesn’t hunt for their meals, they still use their teeth to rip and chew, even if it's just a rawhide toy or a bowl of crunchy kibble. Their teeth perform an important function, but is it really necessary to have your dog's teeth checked out? After all, dogs have been around for thousands of years and managed to survive without a visit to the vet. Here's the truth about your dog and dental care.
What is Periodontal Disease?
By the age of three, most dogs already have some trace of periodontal disease. It is the biggest reason owners take their dog to visit the vet. Over time, bacteria in your dog's mouth forms sticky plaque. Plaque is continually forming on your dog's teeth but is mostly eliminated by the natural action of chewing and eating.
However, plaque is destructive when it is allowed to remain on your dog's teeth and descends below the gum line where it cannot be reached. Here, bacteria attacks your dog's teeth and can cause gingivitis and loss of soft tissue and bone around the teeth.
How Do You Know Your Dog Needs Dental Help?
Unless you know how to inspect your dog's teeth or decide to take them to the vet for an exam, it can be difficult to tell if your dog has periodontal disease. If the disease has advanced enough, you can tell your dog needs dental help if:
You visibly notice one or more missing teeth in their jaw or witness your dog losing a tooth while playing or eating.
Your dog has bad breath beyond what they just dined on.
They visit their food bowl frequently but end up not eating anything.
They gulp their food whole to avoid chewing or drop food from their mouth as if in pain.
Their gums are bleeding, especially after they chew on or carry a toy around.
You see them drooling more than normal.
They act more subdued, quiet or unresponsive.
If you notice any of these signs, your dog might have advanced periodontal disease and need dental treatment to prevent further damage and save their teeth.
How to Prevent Periodontal Disease
Fortunately, periodontal disease in dogs is preventable by using a variety of methods at home. To stop periodontal disease, you must first stop plaque from forming on their teeth. You can use special anti-plaque antiseptic gels or rinses, but the best way to remove plaque is by simply brushing your dog's teeth.
Dog toothbrushes have soft bristles and are angled so you can reach their teeth more easily, and toothpaste for dogs comes in flavors they love. Your dog may not like having their teeth brushed at first, but by persisting every day and starting small and gradually working up to the whole mouth, their teeth will be as free from plaque as possible.
You can also give your dog dental chews that clean their teeth or employ a chemical anti-tartar ingredient. Also, chew toys help keep your dog's teeth clean as long as they are used every day. Don't give them real bones, cow hooves or other materials that are extremely hard. These can end up breaking their teeth.
Dogs may have existed for thousands of years without toothbrushes and visits to the vet, but you can give your dog a long, comfortable life free from major dental problems simply by taking preventative measures at home.
If you are concerned about periodontal disease in your dog's mouth, the staff at Blue Cross Animal Hospital can help by examining and cleaning their teeth.