dog teeth

10 Pet Dental Health Questions and Answers

  1. How many teeth does my kitten have? 26 deciduous teeth.
  2. How many teeth does my adult cat have? 30 teeth.
  3. How many teeth does my puppy have? 28 deciduous teeth.
  4. How many teeth does my adult dog have? 42 teeth.
  5. Why does my pet have bad breath (halitosis)? Bad breath usually comes from an overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth. Some bacteria can produce sulfur compounds as waste products, which produce an undesirable odor.
  6. How often should I brush my pet’s teeth? Once daily is ideal.
  7. Can I scale my pet’s teeth at home? No, there is no way to effectively scale your pet’s teeth at home. While it may look like you are making a difference for the teeth cosmetically, proper and thorough scaling must be performed with the pet under anesthesia.
  8. Why is anesthesia necessary to scale my pet’s teeth? Non-anesthetic cleaning only provides a cosmetic improvement for your pet’s teeth. A proper dental prophylaxis involves a thorough oral examination, scaling and polishing of the teeth. Scaling is the process of removing tartar above and below the gum line (using an ultrasonic scaling device and hand scaling tools). Polishing is the process of “smoothing” the tooth surfaces after scaling. This makes the teeth more resistant to future plaque and tartar formation. Proper polishing of the teeth is very important and should always be performed following scaling. An awake pet will not allow their teeth to be scaled and polished properly, which may lead to even more dental disease issues in the future.
  9. Why does my pet need to have teeth extracted? Teeth often need to be extracted because of severe periodontal disease, abscessed tooth roots, fractures, resorptive lesions, misalignment, and other problems that may cause discomfort or difficulty chewing.
  10. My pet has both deciduous teeth and adult teeth in place. What should I do? This is a very common problem, especially among small breed dogs. The deciduous teeth must be extracted (if they do not fall out on their own) once the adult teeth have fully erupted to avoid future orthodontic problems.

canine teeth models

 

Cat mouth model inside a dog mouth model. Showing off the “dirty” side. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cat mouth model insidecanine and feline mouth model good side a dog mouth model. Showing off the “clean” side.

Periodontal Disease Takes the Stage

STAGE 1

  • Plaque (a transparent film of bacteria, cells and food particles) forms and sticks on tooth surfaces
  • Plaque build up causes bad breath and redness or inflammation of the gum line (gingivitis)

STAGE 2

  • Plaque can begin to calcify within 72 hours and form tartar (a visible shell on the outer surface of the tooth)
  • Increased inflammation of the gums becomes evident and may cause bleeding at the gum line

STAGE 3

  • Tartar stuck on the tooth surfaces is covered with newly formed plaque
  • The bacteria in plaque secretes toxins and enzymes which cause further inflammation of surrounding periodontal tissues
  • With continued gingivitis, some loss of tissue attachment begins at the gum line and leads to the beginning stages of bone loss around tooth roots
  • The mouth can be quite painful and uncomfortable when eating

STAGE 4

  • Recession of the gums due to tartar buildup
  • Gingivitis may progress to infection of the tissues and bone around the tooth roots and the tooth (or often a few teeth!) may need to be extracted
  • A change in eating habits may be noticed – either not wanting to eat at all or swallowing food without chewing

Throughout all stages of periodontal disease, bacteria can be picked up and carried by the bloodstream to the liver, kidneys and heart. Brushing your pet’s teeth daily and feeding them an appropriate dental diet can help decrease oral bacteria and stop dental disease in its tracks.

ImageBefore dental cleaning – active bacteria and tartar glows pink under special fluorescent dental light.

 

ImageBefore dental cleaning – brownish tartar is visible on tooth surfaces, redness of gum line evident.

 

ImageAfter dental cleaning – teeth glow bright white under special dental fluorescent light, no more tartar or plaque on teeth.

 

ImageAfter dental cleaning – clean teeth with small amount of gingival bleeding.

**Thank you to our wonderful mouth model, Daisy, a 4 year old Maltipoo.

Keep Fit, Stay Lean, Keep Clean and Pet Often

The following are some tips to help lengthen your senior dog’s life:

Keep Fit

Regular exercise is great for the body and brain. Physical fitness can help keep your dog’s heart and lungs in good working order, help keep their joints and muscles in check, prevent boredom to help stop any destructive behavior and give them a sense of purpose.

Exercising your senior pet doesn’t mean that they have to tear up an agility course for hours on end or hike up the Squamish Chief in under an hour twice a day. Only exercise your dog at a level their aging body can handle. Swimming is always a great workout for weak joints and muscles. A couple moderately paced 20-minute walks every day can also work wonders for keeping your senior dog in shape.  Being outside is also great for your senior dog’s mind. There are many stimuli to keep their brains sharp and fresh air will always brighten spirits.

When indoors with your dog, play games such as hide-and-seek or practice tricks (yes, you really can teach an old dog new tricks!) for low calorie treats. Keeping busy with different activities and games throughout the day will give their senior brains a new lease on life.

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“Axl” and “Eli” thinking about practicing their skills on the agility course.

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“Molly” leaping and bounding in the snow at Callaghan Valley last winter.

Stay Lean

Keeping your senior dog’s body nice and lean will help prolong their life. Extra weight visible on the outside of their bodies also means there is extra fatty tissue around their organs, which could cause them to have a hard time working efficiently. Having to carry all that extra weight around means more strain and stress on their joints. Be careful not to feed your senior pet too many treats. It is always a great idea to meal feel them set amounts of food twice daily. Your veterinary team can help you to determine what their ideal weight should be and how much food you need to feed to reach the target weight goal.

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“Eli” demonstrating some self control.

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“Molly”, “Eli” and “Axl” patiently waiting for a treat.

Keep Clean

Brushing your dog’s teeth provides much more benefit than fresh breath. It helps eliminate plaque and tartar buildup, which help prevent gingivitis. Decreasing the amount of bacteria lurking in your dog’s mouth will help keep their internal organs working in tip-top shape. When their gums are swollen and irritated, the blood vessels become enlarged and are able to pick up bacteria to transfer around the entire body. Brushing your dog’s teeth once a day is ideal. Be sure to use a toothbrush with soft bristles and a toothpaste designed especially for dogs.

*Warning* Below are before dental prophylaxis and after dental prophylaxis photos of a dog’s mouth:

 

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Before.

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After.

Pet Often

Daily petting fests can often help you find lumps and bumps on your dog in their early stages of development. Your veterinarian can take a fine needle aspirate sample from the lump and determine what kind of cells it is made up of. Some lumps should be removed immediately; some lumps are ok to be left alone and just monitored. Hands-on attention to your dog could also help you find any skin irritations hiding under their hair or you may notice they have dry, flaky skin. A flinch or cry when petting in a certain area may alert you to take your senior dog to their veterinarian to have the cause of pain investigated further. Being petted and massaged makes your dog happy and helps lower their blood pressure and stress level, as well as yours.

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“Eli” cozy in his bed with his diaper on after being petted and massaged to sleep.

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