Who enjoys a trip to the dentist? The sound of the drill, the smell, and the fear of cavities and work to be done. But at least we know why we're there, and prevention is much better than the agony of toothache.
It's much worse for dogs because they don't know what's going on. Toothache will make your dog unhappy and upset. Even so, most dogs are uncomplaining and hide the fact that they are having to cope with pain. So, if your dog can't tell you about a painful tooth, what can you do to spot when he's in agony, and then keep Fido's teeth in good health?
Look out for these signs of tooth problems
- Bad breath. This tends to happen when food gets stuck in your dog's teeth or if there is an infection. This can be dealt with by regular brushing but, if it persists, you need to get your dog to the vet. You can find teeth cleaning items from VioVet.
- Lumps in your dog's mouth might be cysts or tumours. Consult your vet, just to make sure there's nothing serious to worry about.
- Inflamed gums. Heavy plaque can cause this, and the swelling should clear up with regular cleaning. Teeth cleaning items are available from your vet or online from VioVet. If the gums don't clear up, you may spot bleeding and changes in gum colour. If this happens, it's off to the vet.
- Check regularly that your dog does not have yellow or brown teeth, red or swollen gums and difficulty chewing. If these symptoms occur, it could mean that your dog has periodontal disease, an infection between the gums and teeth which can cause swelling, loose teeth, pain, difficulty in eating or even nasal discharge. An immediate visit to the vet is needed to check for infection and, if necessary, putting your dog on a course of treatment.
- Sometimes a dog's gum line starts to grow over its teeth. This could cause infection which your vet will treat with antibiotics.
So these are things to look out for, but hopefully they won't arise. Here are some of the things that you can do to help your dog stay tooth-healthy:
- Brush your dog's teeth with a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste (definitely NOT human toothpaste). Teeth cleaning items are available from your vet or online from VioVet. The American Kennel Club has some useful advice. Don't forget to take it easy so as not to alarm your dog and work on your technique.
- You can buy toys and treats which are formulated to reduce bacteria in your dog's mouth. There's plenty of toys and treats to be found from VioVet. Also, make sure that any toys your dog particularly loves are kept as clean as possible to reduce bacteria.
- A clean at your vet may be a good idea. This will be done under anaesthetic, not just to make sure your dog doesn't bite the vet, but to allow the vet to get into those hard to reach spaces. The vet will also x-ray your dog's teeth to make sure there are no hidden issues.
- Nutrition. There are dog foods which are formulated to reduce plaque and tartar as well as improve freshness of breath. I give my dog Toby fresh bones from the butcher to keep his teeth white and gleaming. Online stores like VioVet stock a range of synthetic solutions that are easier to manage.
Taking these simple steps will help to ensure that your dog's teeth and mouth are in the best shape possible. Ideally, what you should see when you open your dog's mouth are:
- Teeth that are clean and free of plaque and tartar.
- Teeth that are intact and not broken.
- A moist tongue with no lumps or cuts.
- Salmon pink gums for most dogs. Other dogs may have black or black and pink gums.
Do make sure that you know what your dog's mouth normally looks like so you can recognise a tooth problem easily.