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Dental diseases in dogs

In older age (and sometimes, unfortunately, in the prime of life), hard deposits appear on our dogs’ teeth. It first spreads on the lateral surfaces of the canines and incisors, on the inner and outer surfaces of the molars close to the gums, and then spreads to the crown of the tooth and may even cover it completely. When we look into our pet’s mouth, we find foul-smelling, dirty growths around the teeth. They range in colour from greyish-yellow to greenish-brown.

Tartar is not just an aesthetic nuisance. They cause inflammatory processes in the gums and caries. But even without caries, uncared-for teeth start to stick together and can fall out.

In addition to tartar, caries is caused by rickets – a reduction in the hardness of tooth enamel and dentin – as well as fractures and any damage to the crown of the tooth. Several factors (in fact, they all work together!) have the honourable title of being the culprits of caries: insufficient levels of macro – and microelements in the body (phosphorus, cobalt, zinc, copper, molybdenum, manganese(e.g. the deficiency of iron and especially fluoride and iodine); insufficient digestive proteins, carotene and vitamins; impaired iron in saliva and a change in the composition of the saliva; and malignant acids affecting the enamel (which have the habit of destroying the teeth from morning to night, as soon as the teeth have taken a bite of anything).
If you examine a tooth affected by caries, you will see the traditional defects of the cavity and enamel. The affected part of the tooth takes on a dark brown or black colour.

Many owners do not even realise that dogs can suffer from what seems to us to be such a purely human disease. Therefore, they discover them at a stage when it becomes difficult to save the teeth. Removing tartar turns into a tedious operation under general anaesthesia, and it is too late to fill the decayed teeth, so they are removed as quickly as possible before the decay reaches the bone. But it is so easy to seal the surface, and if the doctor removes tartar regularly (once or twice a year), the oral cavity care will not take much time or cause suffering.

Many companies now make special toothpaste for animals (it is not advisable to use toothpaste made for humans for pets). Veterinary dentists recommend brushing your pet’s teeth once or twice a week with this toothpaste and a special toothbrush. Alternatively, you can take the easy way out by wrapping your fingers in damp gauze and wiping the plaque off (pay particular attention to the areas near the gums). Moisten the gauze with warm boiled water or a mild solution of baking soda.
Remember to exercise your teeth. Gnawing on hard food or toys just a couple of times a week reminds nature that teeth are not yet a thing of the past.

Dental calculus and dog food

The cause of bacterial growth and the resulting dental plaque is excessive sugar in the food. So: the fewer sweets the better. The best thing to remember is that preventive dental care requires taking steps to discourage the formation of dental plaqueand hardening.

The animal uses its teeth to catch and kill prey (canines), to separate small pieces of meat (incisors), and to crush and chew them (molars). The periodic grinding of solid food against the teeth leads to mechanical cleaning. If the food is swallowed immediately or not chewed for a long enough time, dental plaque is not removed. This is the case, for example, in the case of certain defects in the position of the teeth, jaw diseases, pulpitis, and when swallowing very soft food that does not need to be chewed for a long time. Dry dog food cannot be directly classed as a hard food that prevents tartar build-up because it softens too quickly when exposed to saliva and only partially cleans the teeth, so it is advisable to add coarse food to the meal, which takes longer to chew. Hard biscuits are ideal for this, bearing in mind of course the overall calorie content of the daily diet (teeth are teeth, but the possibility of obesity should not be forgotten either), and beefos bones, but only bones that are strong and large enough to prevent breakage and ingestion, which can cause intestinal inflammation.

For some dog breeds, in particular small breeds, the preventive measures described above are not sufficient, and it is necessary to treat the teeth with a special, extra-fine toothbrush or simply to brush regularly with a toothpaste and brush that are adapted for dogs. If you get your dog used to this procedure at an early age, there will be no problems with it.

If the animal’s teeth become tartarised very quickly, mechanical cleaning should be combined with the fight against the spread of bacteria and other micro-organisms. A number of toothpastes currently available contain antiseptics and enzymes. Special sticky tablets have also been developed for animals that refuse to brush their teeth. In the case of acute inflammation of the pulp, treatment with antibiotics is prescribed.

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