Your phone rings, you check your call display, and see that it is your dentist’s office calling you. What could they want? Do you owe them money? No, it’s probably just a friendly reminder that you are due for a cleaning or a checkup. After all, you know that to maintain good oral health, you should see your dentist twice a year. So you book an appointment, because you know that it is what you have to do in order to remain cavity-free.
Now, what about your dog? How important is dental care for your best buddy?
Once Upon a Time…
Your parents or grandparents may never have thought of taking their dog to the vet to have his teeth checked out. It just wasn’t done in decades gone by. Once in a while they might have thrown Buster a bone to chew on in the belief that it would keep his teeth clean, and it probably worked fairly well. Of course the down side to that was that bone slivers could end up in Buster’s intestinal tract.
Then, over the course of time, you’d hear comments like “Poor old Buster, he’s getting up there. Losing his teeth. Off his food a bit.” Dog owners accepted things like tooth loss as a natural part of a dog’s aging, and likely didn’t even think about things like tooth decay.
…But Not Any More
We know better now, or at least we should. If you love your dog (and I know you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading my blogs), you want to make sure that he enjoys the same level of health care that you do.
You might think, though, that dogs don’t have the same issues we have when it comes to dental health, or that they don’t feel pain in the same way. The fact is, though, your dog could be experiencing serious dental pain – he just can’t tell you.
Your dog can have the same dental issues that you have. If you have never had a toothache, that’s wonderful – with modern dental treatments, many of us will never know dental pain. But if you have had a toothache, then you know that it is the worst sort of pain you will ever experience. Perhaps you had a cavity, or broke a tooth, and were in agony before you got treatment.
It is the same for your dog. Dogs can also break teeth, develop cavities or infections, and even incur gum disease. And if they do, they feel pain.
What Should You Do?
Make regular dental checkups a part of your dog’s veterinary care. You have your teeth and gums checked out every six months, so do the same for your dog. If tooth decay has occurred, it needs to be treated, because in addition to serious discomfort, it can also lead to other health problems. You may have been told that if you have bad teeth, you are at risk for other problems like heart disease, kidney disease, and an increased risk of stroke. It is no different with your dog.
The purpose of a dental checkup is also the same for your dog as it is for you – to prevent and reduce pain, and to encourage good oral health.
Again, there is very little difference between what your dentist does for you, and what your vet does to ensure your dog’s oral health. If your dog needs a filling, a root canal, or an extraction, your vet can do it. The vet, or a veterinary technician, can also offer regular cleanings to prevent plaque and tartar from building up under the gum line. In the absence of regular cleaning, these harmful substances can build up, and more aggressive treatments, like root planing and scaling, may be needed.
Now, how do you know if your dog is having dental problems? Look for the same things that you would identify in yourself – teeth that are discolored or broken, bad breath, or swelling in the mouth. A dog that is experiencing dental discomfort may also be irritable, and not want to eat.
But I Don’t Have Doggie Dental Insurance!
Relax, you are not going to go bankrupt looking after your dog’s dental care. Now, you can buy dental insurance for your dog from any number of pet insurance companies, but even if you don’t go that route, you can take comfort in knowing that although dogs can develop dental issues, they are less frequent than they are in humans. And if your dog does have an issue with his teeth, your vet can treat it the same way your dentist looks after you – with a local anesthetic to numb pain during treatment, or even with a general anesthetic if your dog is very anxious and dislikes having his mouth handled. It doesn’t have to be a stressful experience.
Of course, prevention is always better than a cure. You can brush your dog’s teeth regularly, and also provide things for him to chew (not bones, though!). Nylabones are great for keeping your dog entertained and cleaning teeth, or you can offer special treats that are formulated to reduce plaque and tartar. Checkups offers Dental Dog Treats for dogs 20 pounds and up, in flavors dogs love. They are gluten free, and will freshen your dog’s breath while reducing tartar by 62% and plaque by 25%. The list price is $36.99, but you can buy them at Amazon for $18.83. And if your order totals $49.00 or more, you’ll get free shipping, so it makes sense to stock up.
The Final Word
Fortunately, dogs do not typically experience tooth decay at the same rate as humans – probably because they don’t consume all the sugary treats that we do. They can still develop dental issues, though, and when that happens, you need to seek treatment. Your dog can’t tell you when his teeth hurt, so see your vet for regular dental checkups along with your dog’s other routine care.