Disease of the oral cavity is the most common health problem treated in small animal clinics today. At least 85 percent of all dogs and cats over two years old have gum disease. Left untreated, this is now known to be a leading cause of heart disease in pets and in people. Bacterial from the mouth are reabsorbed into the blood. They travel to the heart, settle in the heart valves and cause heart disease. Bacteria from the mouth also increase the risk of liver and kidney disease.
* Bad breath.
* Red swollen gums.
* Dark, discolored teeth.
SIGNS OF DENTAL PROBLEMS
* Breed, genetics, age, diet, and general health all contribute to the prevalence and severity of gum disease. If your dog is having trouble eating, chews differently than normal, is reluctant to eat, or paws at his face, he might have a dental problem. Dental problems often also cause depression and lethargy.
Certified dental specialists now offer state-of-the-art dental care similar to that available for people. Root canals, caps, crowns, dental implants and even braces are available for dogs.
Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) promotes gums to heal. Add a teaspoonful of the resin to one pint (500 ml) of boiling water. Let the solution cool, then spritz the mouth. Rubbing oil from a vitamin E capsule on the gums once daily helps reduce redness and swelling.
WHAT YOU AND YOUR VET CAN DO
* Good dental care is important. Bacteria combine with saliva and food particles to form plaque. Plaque accumulates in the spaces between the teeth and gums, and combines with calcium salts to from tartar (which is also called calculus). The bacteria, plaque, and tartar irritate and inflame the gums, causing gum disease. Gingivitis is the medical term used for this condition.
* Small breeds are more prone to dental disease than larger breeds because their teeth are often too large for the size of their mouth. This causes crowding, which lead to a rapid accumulation of bacteria and plaque.
* To help prevent dental problems, have your pets teeth checked at least once a year by your vet; and brush your dog’s teeth regularly. The goal is to brush the outer surfaces of the upper and lower teeth for 30 seconds each.
* Try to brush at least three times per week, brushing once daily is optimal.
* Use a toothpaste made for dogs. For fussy dogs, try using beef broth or chicken soup on the brush. For best results, start brushing as a puppy.
* A professional dental cleaning involves the use of an ultrasonic machine that vibrates the debris and calculus off the surface of the teeth. Calculus from under the gum tissue is carefully removed using a hand scaler. Then the teeth are polished and a fluoride treatment, which helps prevent cavities, is the final step.
* Commercially available diets are available that help reduce tartar formation and help prevent bad breath. A homemade diet using 20 percent meat and eggs, 60 percent fresh cooked vegetables, and 20 percent fresh chopped greens also promotes dental hygiene.
One of the genes for hairlessness present in breeds like the Mexican hairless, American hairless terrier and Chinese crested is also linked to teeth. These breeds often lose 90 percent of their teeth by the time they are two to three years old.
Special canine brushing kits are available that consist of a toothbrush and an oil-based sage toothpaste.
The tough tendonous sections of raw meat with gristle act as a natural toothbrush and most dogs love them as a treat.
After your dog has had dental work, an oral rinse made out of goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis) speeds healing. To make the rinse, add one teaspoonful of the powdered goldenseal rootstock to one pint of water. Bring to a boil and let it cool. Siphon off the clear part of the solution and use a syringe or a turkey baster to flush this into your dog’s mouth. Keep the dog’s head down so he doesn’t swallow the solution. Use the rinse twice daily for two to three days as needed.
Fragaria 6c given three times a month can decrease the rate at which bacteria accumulate in the mouth.
(NOTE: Raw carrots help prevent plaque build-up.)