When is the last time you had a good look in your working dogs mouth?
Teeth are an essential piece of equipment for chewing food, however, they are not very visible, especially the back teeth, so problems are often hidden.
Signs of problems can be quite subtle and can include abnormal chewing behaviour or chewing on one side of the mouth, increased odour (halitosis) from the mouth, pawing or rubbing at the side of the mouth and wanting to eat but then suddenly backing off from food. When the problem becomes quite severe they may avoid hard foods or stop eating altogether.
One common problem in working dogs is excessive wear of the teeth due to chewing a lot of bones, which exposes the sensitive parts (pulp cavity) of the teeth. Bacteria then track into the teeth causing tooth root abscesses. This can cause pain and discomfort when eating.
We also see a lot of slab fractures mainly on the larger teeth at the back of the mouth (premolars and molars). A slab fracture happens when a thin slice of tooth breaks off the side of the tooth and often remains attached to the gums. Not only is this painful, but it also creates a good surface for tartar to grow on and food and bacteria to become lodged in the damaged area.
When tartar buildup goes unnoticed for a while, tartar starts to irritate the gum margins, causing gingivitis (gum inflammation) and sensitivity. If this continues bacterial infection causes the gums to start retracting, tooth roots can become exposed, and teeth start decaying and become unstable.
The tarter build up can hide much more serious underlying problems. Infected gums and tooth roots (peri-dontal disease) are a great entranceway for bacteria into the body. These bacteria can then spread through the body via the bloodstream and cause havoc in organs like the kidneys, liver, and heart, causing much more generalised illness.
To prevent these major complications from dental disease, a dental procedure needs to be performed under general anaesthetic to clean the tartar from the teeth, enabling us to examine the teeth for underlying problems and perform extractions of teeth if needed.
There are options to prevent the development of dental disease. One option is feeding them dental biscuits which are specially formulated to help keep the teeth clean and prevent tartar buildup. Also feeding dental treats or using chew rope helps to keep teeth clean. Of course, the judicious use of bones to chew on is helpful as well.
Next time you have a moment, have a look in your dog’s mouth. Be sure to check both sides and all the way at the back of the mouth, as sometimes issues are very localised.
June is our Dental Health Awareness Month. This is a great opportunity to get a free dental check done on your dog. The check will give you a better idea of the state of your dog’s teeth and see if they need any special attention.