3. Know the Signs of Advanced Dental Problems in Dogs
However, once an oral health problem is advanced, you may see certain symptoms, including:
- Red or bleeding gums
- Blood on a chew toy
- Vocalizing when they yawn or eat
- Loose teeth
- Bad breath
- Lumps or bumps in the mouth
- Ropey or bloody saliva
- Head shyness (your pet not wanting you to touch their head)
- Difficulty picking up food
- Chewing on one side of their mouth
- Nasal discharge and sneezing (advanced gum disease in the upper canine teeth can lead to bone loss between the nasal and oral cavity)
Also, keep an eye out for discolored teeth, broken teeth, loose teeth, or rotated teeth. All are signs of teeth gone bad. Too often, pet owners blame these symptoms on aging, Beckman says.
There's a lot that can happen in your dog's mouth -- and almost all of it can easily go undetected. So what can you do?
4. Take Care of Your Dog’s Oral Health
Taking care of your dog's oral health is similar to taking care of your own. To maintain a healthy mouth, many vets recommend:
- Annual oral examinations, dental X-rays, and cleanings done under general anesthesia. A full oral exam and X-rays are the only way your vet can look below the gum line, where gum disease hides. General anesthesia is necessary so that your vet can check for pockets around your dog's teeth, remove calculus and tartar above and below the gum line, and take out dead tissue. Exams and cleanings done without X-rays and anesthesia are of very little use.
- Daily tooth brushing. Cleaning your dog's teeth every day is a great way to prevent or slow the progression of oral diseases. All you need is some pet toothpaste (which comes in lots of pooch-pleasing flavors, like seafood, vanilla-mint, malt, peanut, poultry, and beef), and a pet toothbrush (brushes made for humans are too big for most dog's mouths), along with a bit of patience and guidance, and you can go far toward keeping your pet's mouth healthy and pain-free.
- Daily chew time. Another way to keep your dog's mouth in top form is to give them safe toys to chew every day. Go for hard, rubbery toys, or thinner rawhide bones that easily bend. (Rawhide can cause gastrointestinal problems if the dog swallows a large piece.) Vets also recommend staying away from all hard treats and toys like nylon bones, rawhide that doesn't bend, cow or pig hooves, and animal bones of any kind, raw or cooked. And steer clear of fuzzy tennis balls, whose abrasive surface can wear a dog's teeth down as they chew.
- Good-quality dog food. You may want to talk to your vet to see if a "dental diet" is right for your dog's needs. This may mean feeding your pooch foods with additives that help keep plaque from hardening, or dried foods that help scrub your dog's teeth as he chews.