Dental Care for Dogs

By adopting prophylactic measures, owners may prevent any predisposition to dental troubles and may keep the dog’s gums free from germs that might otherwise cause decay of the teeth or result in the onset of pyorrhea.

It is generally acknowledged that the health of a dog is influenced to a great extent by the condition of the teeth, but many owners fail to recognize that the life of a dog may be prolonged by the care and attention given by the master to its teeth.

Dogs with good sound teeth are able to crunch hard biscuits and bones, and enjoy the kind of food to which their digestive organs are most suited. Only in rare cases do toothless dogs live for any great length of time on soft, sloppy foods. Unlike many animals which are provided by nature with sharp claws or tusks with which to defend themselves the dog depends almost entirely on his teeth. They are the dog’s first line of attack and defense.

The attention of a preventive nature should be carried out by the owner without waiting until diseased conditions have developed. Some owners attend to the routine cleaning of their dog’s teeth two or three times a week using a toothbrush and some unflavoured toothpaste or milk of magnesia. This preparation acts as a mild antiseptic on the gums and prevents the accumulation of tartar. If this tartar is allowed to remain on the teeth the gums become spongy and sore and the condition is one receptive of the germs of pyorrhea.

If teeth should become loose through the forming of tartar, the dog’s breath may become offensive. Loose teeth will sometimes tighten up if the gums are swabbed once or twice a day with a weak solution of permanganate of potash. It is necessary to have teeth extracted if they fail to tighten and the gums may then be treated with an antiseptic paste.

The less active dogs such as the toy breeds which may spend much of their life inside, are more prone to dental troubles than the terriers and large dogs that are allowed more exercise. Correct feeding usually ensures a clean healthy mouth in a dog. An occasional bone and hard biscuits help greatly to strengthen the gums and to stimulate the action of the salivary glands.

What is described as a canker of the teeth is a diseased condition of the enamel, which gives the teeth a speckled appearance. In most cases, this state of the teeth is found in dogs that have suffered from an attack of distemper in early life, even before the permanent teeth are cut. The high temperature that accompanies this malady seems to eat away the enamel. For this reason, it is necessary for owners to pay special attention to a puppy’s teeth during an attack of distemper—daily sponging with peroxide of hydrogen while the dog is ill should prevent the teeth from becoming discolored. Faulty teeth not only affect the general health of the dog but they spoil its chances in the show ring.

Scaling instruments may be obtained from dog requisite stores. Alternatively, the point of a penknife or ordinary steel nail file may be used to scrape the tartar from teeth coated with it, but care must be taken to ensure that the gums are not injured. Following the operation of scraping the teeth, the gums may be swabbed with a mixture of one teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda in a cup of warm water, or painted with a weak solution of iodine.

If pyorrhea is treated early the complaint may be permanently checked by sponging the gums and mouth with a weak boracic solution. If the condition is allowed to develop until the gums become ulcerated and the dog finds difficulty in eating, a stronger antiseptic solution—preferably a solution of permanganate of potash and water to the color of port wine—will be required. If a dog is given ample exercise, correct diet with an occasional examination and cleansing of the gums, its teeth should be well preserved to the end of its life.

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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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