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Frequently asked questions

Why should I brush my dog's teeth?

Removing plaque from your dog's teeth on a daily basis is the key to maintaining a proper oral hygiene program for your pet. Unless your dog's teeth are brushed daily, plaque will build up at the gum line. If left untreated plaque progresses to form calculus, which irritates the gums and infection takes over. Eventually teeth begin to loosen and infection from the gumline can go on to spread to your pet's major organs - brain, liver, kidneys, heart and lings.

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Do dogs wear braces?

If needed, yes! Actually braces for dogs are not all that common but poorly aligned teeth are. The main goal of veterinary orthodontic therapy is to provide functional and comfortable occlusions (bites) for their patients. There are many causes for dogs to have mal-aligned teeth - some of these include:

  • Retained baby teeth.
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Tug-of-war play - this point is agreed by breeders and disputed by dog othodontists!
  • Poor nutrition.
  • Tooth or jaw trauma.

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How common is dental disease in dogs?

Dental disease is one of the most common and serious ailments suffered by dogs! Eighty-five percent of all adult dogs have some degree of periodontal disease. The severity and incidence of dental disease increases as pets age. In fact, the vast majority of dogs 3 years of age or older have dental disease and are in need of professional dental care.

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Is dental disease painful for dogs?

Yes, dental disease is very painful for dogs. There are many studies in place which show dogs experience pain just like humans, but intentionally hide their pain from us. It is called Mother Nature at work, because in the wild, instinct dictates to animals to hide their pain to protect themselves from predators.

This makes our job of helping our dogs that much harder and therefore we should always be on the look out for subtle signs of pain:

  • Lack of appetite.
  • Crankiness.
  • Lethargy.
  • Pawing at their cheeks.
  • Bad breath

Protecting our pets from the agony of decaying and infected teeth and gums is one of the most kindest and important things we can do to keep our dogs happy, healthy, comfortable and above all pain free.

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Can dental health affect my dog's behaviour?

My word yes! Many dog owners report significant improvements in their dog's behaviour after they have been treated for dental disease, such as, more playfulness and in particular reduced crankiness - no doubt the result of the relief of long standing chronic pain.

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How much does a dental cleaning procedure cost?

It's impossible to quote over the Internet how much a cleaning procedure will cost. It depends on the condition of your dog's teeth and gums. The fee range is based on:

  • The preoperative tests done.
  • An anesthesia fee.
  • How many procedures are required.
  • Medications & intravenous fluids given,
  • Hospitalisation time required for recovery.

Each dog's needs are different. Many veterinarians offer free oral examination appointments and estimates, so don't delay, call your vet for an appointment today.

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Should I be feeding my dog a special diet to protect its teeth?

There are special diets specifically manufactured to help keep dogs teeth clean. We offer a huge range of treats, chews, biscuits and bones in out Dog Dental Care Products page. Diet alone will not control plaque and calculus, but it will help. Feeding dogs dry/hard diets in conjunction with daily brushing is the best way to keep the their teeth clean.

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Can toys and /or chew-treats play a part in protecting my dog's teeth?

You need to be discerning when selecting toys and chew-treats for your dog. Chewing on toys that are harder than the enamel on their teeth can and does lead to dogs having dental fractures. This is particular relevant to any products made of animal hooves, which frequently cause fractures of upper premolars.

And lastly, to be on the safe side of this subject, don't play "tug-of-war" games with young dogs.

Most breeders are of the opinion that prolonged tug-of-war games can cause growing teeth to move out of alignment and disrupt dogs' natural bites.

Normal Dog Occlusion

This is often disputed by dog orthodontists, however, who say genetics is the only reason dogs teeth erupt out of alignment.

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What type of tests are done to diagnose dental disease?

Vets can tell simply by looking if periodontal diseaseis present. An oral examination under anesthesia to include using a periodontal probe is used to evaluate bone loss around each tooth and the grade of the periodontal disease present. Vets use x-rays to evaluate and determine if teeth can be saved or should be extracted.

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At what age should I start worrying about dental problems with my dog?

As soon as you adopted your puppy is the correct time to start worrying about its dental care and to introduce a daily brushing routine. Although their baby teeth are replaced by permanent teeth it is important for dogs to accept having their teeth cleaned as part of their daily grooming routine. In the case of dogs and brushing their teeth it is far easier to teach young dogs new tricks than old dogs.

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What can be done for my dog if it has periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease happens when the structures supporting teeth are affected by bacterial infection. In the beginning stages, cleaning below and above the gum line as well as removal of calculus attached to the teeth will help restore periodontal health. In advanced cases, either extractions or periodontal surgery are performed together with a course of antibiotics. In some cases vets may advise that antibiotics be given monthly, to help control the progression of periodontal disease.

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What are contributing factors for periodontal disease?

  • Breed - periodontal disease is more common in smaller breeds of dogs.
  • Age - periodontal disease is more common as pets grow older.
  • Poor oral hygiene at home - owners who fail to brush their dogs teeth, and ignore the onset of signs and symptoms of periodontal disease along with loss of teeth and other health problems.
  • Diet - owners who feed their dogs refined carbohydrates and soft sticky foods.

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What are some of the signs and symptoms of periodontal disease in dogs?

Common warning signs and symptoms are:

  • Bad or foul breath.
  • Dogs pawing at their face or mouth - indicating severe pain.
  • Depression and lethargy.
  • A change in chewing or eating habits.
  • Discoloured teeth indicating the presence of plaque or calculus.

Photos and descriptions of the 4 stages of periodontial disease

Photos and descriptions with courtesy of Prairie View Animal Hospital.

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What can I do to reduce the risk of my dog getting periodontal disease.

You can reduce the risk of oral disease in your dog by treating your dog's mouth in the same way as you treat your own mouth. The first step is to book your dog in to your family vet for an oral health check and heed all the advice given. Thereafter you should:

  • Brush your dogs teeth daily preferably after it has eaten.
  • Diet - feed your dog good quality dog food, to include hard/dry foods as these help reduce the formation of plaque and calculus.
  • Have your dogs teeth checked at least once or twice a year with your vet.

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Is it ever too late for dental care for my Dog?

No, its never too late for you to save your pet from pain and suffering. As we have discussed many times throughout this site, with proper oral care, dental disease is both preventable and treatable.

Occasionally pet owners think their dog is too old or too sick for anesthesia and dentistry, but most times the benefits of relieving the pain and treating the infections of oral disease far outweigh the risks of the procedure. Owners are very often pleasantly surprised by how young and sprightly their older dog can behave after treatment for periodontal disease.

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What is a "Naso Oral Fistula"

A "Naso Oral Fistula is an advanced form of periodontal disease. It happens when the bacteria in plaque destroy the periodontal attachment and bone of an upper tooth until it reaches the nasal cavity.

This condition is most common in small breed dogs (Daschunds, Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Poodles). It is usually due to loss on the palatal (or inside of the mouth) aspect of the canine teeth. The reason for this is the root of the tooth runs up alongside the nasal cavity, and is separated from it by only a thin sheet of bone. If you suspect your dog may be suffering from a naso oral fistula, for more detailed information, treatment options and an image please go to the website of the American Veterinary Dental Society.

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What causes dogs teeth to chip or fracture

Chipped or fractured teeth happen when dogs are chewing something which is harder than the enamel on their own teeth, e.g. toys or bones or some other object they decide to chew on. Since dogs like to hide their pain, owners may not pick up on their pets' discomfort immediately. Signs which indicate dogs are experiencing mouth pain include:

  • Obvious signs of chipped or fractured teeth.
  • Excessive drooling.
  • Avoidance of hard foods and showing a preference for soft foods.
  • Constant pawing at their face.
  • Behavioral changes, e.g. crankiness, lethargy.
  • Loss of interest in chewing toys and bones.

If you pick up on any of these signs and or symptoms, please seek veterinary advice immediately.

What should I do if my dog breaks or shatters a tooth?

If your dog breaks its tooth, take it to your vet immediately - time is of essence, please don't delay because your dog will be in excruciating pain. There are two treatment options:

  • Root canal therapy with a crown.
  • Extraction.

You can not and must not leave your dog with an untreated broken tooth. The pain of a broken tooth is unbearable, this is because the pulp canal which houses the nerve and blood supply is exposed. Apart from the horrendous pain factor, if left untreated, bacterial infection can and will enter the pulp canal and travel to and infect other major organs.

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What causes dogs teeth to chip or fracture

Chipped or fractured teeth happen when dogs are chewing something which is harder than the enamel on their own teeth besides resulting from a major accident or serious trauma to their face. Since dogs like to hide their pain, owners may not pick up on their pets' discomfort immediately. Sign which indicate your dog is having mouth pain include:

  • Obvious signs of chipped or fractured teeth.
  • Excessive drooling.
  • Avoidance of hard foods and showing a preference for soft foods.
  • Constant pawing at its face.
  • Behavioral changes, e.g. crankiness, lethargy.
  • Loss of interest in chewing toys and bones.

If you notice any of these signs and or symptoms, please seek veterinary advice immediately.

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