Dental Health Tips for Senior Dogs
By Robert Mueller
It has been reported that dogs that get routine dental care live an average of two years longer than those that don’t. In a previous blog post, I reported earlier about the connection between oral health and heart disease in dogs. Health issues can worsen to the point of impacting the dog’s major organ systems, including the heart.
The explanation centers around the formation of bacterial infection from dogs that exhibit poor oral health. Plaque is a biofilm composed mainly of bacteria, and it attacks the tissue just under the gum line. The result is inflamed and infected gum tissue. Calculus (tartar) formation develops and causes bone loss, leading to gum recession - and now we have full-blown periodontal disease.
It is at this stage that the infection can spread throughout the body. Because it is located below the gum line, bacteria can easily transfer through the bloodstream to the internal body organs. Periodic dental exams are critical prevention stages for isolating periodontal disease before the senior life stage of your pet. Many years of plaque and tartar buildup will eventually result in diseased oral health and internal organ damage.
We also know that as a dog gets older, she will have diminished immune function and therefore will be less capable of fighting off the effects of the bacteria.
There are several very simple tests that can be done by the pet owner to really prevent and uncover the early development of the disease:
- The most obvious sign of possible dental problems is bad breath. Bad breath indicates that harmful bacteria are present and accumulating in the mouth.
- A simple upper lip lift will tell you quickly what is going on with the upper teeth. The upper teeth are likely to be the first teeth to be severely affected with periodontal disease.
- A visual check to see if your dog has an obvious problem when eating, or favoring the food on one side of the mouth or the other.
- A natural slowdown in activity may be a telltale sign of hidden pain.
- If it is not possible to inspect the upper teeth, then it must be pointed out to the vet to make this check when conducting other examinations. Since two-thirds of the tooth is below the gum line, it is prudent to ask for dental x-rays when you see signs of tartar and plaque buildup on the upper third.
Since we have many small breed dogs as customers, I find it important to point out that small breed dogs are more likely to be affected with periodontal problems than large breed dogs. Selective breeding (which produces smaller dogs) reduces the amount of bone around the teeth; therefore, the same amount of inflammation will have a proportionately more serious effect in toy breeds than for larger dogs.
Robert Mueller, BSc, Pharm. is a registered pharmacist, author of "Living Enzymes: The World's Best Kept Pet Food Secret", and co-developer of BARF World's BARF diets patties, nuggets and supplements - the first company to make the Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods (BARF) diet conveniently available to animals everywhere. He and his wife love to travel around the world with their dog, Moxie - a Yorkshire Terrier/Maltese mix. For more articles like these and to learn more about the benefits of raw food for your pets, sign up for "The Intelligent Pet" monthly e-zine at The Intelligent Pet.
Dental fractures also become more common because the jaw may not have enough strength to resist impact. It is important to pay attention to the dental condition of toy and small breed pets early on and to understand the value of disease prevention.
I have observed the eating habits of dogs and cats for the last 37 years and I have concluded that artificial diets (dry kibble) are the most prominent reason for poor dental health. I compare the cause of the formation of dental plaque to that of humans eating popcorn daily. Imagine the dental plaque formation that would result from packing popcorn shells between our teeth and then not brushing or flossing afterwards. The dental problems that would result would be similar to the dental problems of our pets.
By feeding your pooch a fresh, frozen raw food diet for dogs, you will find that plaque and tartar buildup is significantly reduced. The dog will gulp and slightly chew the meat before swallowing it, therefore reducing the possibility of packing food items between the teeth. The natural teeth-cleaning action from eating raw meaty bones is why we call bones “Nature’s toothbrush”. No need to put your dog through expensive anesthesia procedures to brush their teeth - Nature does it for you!
The fact that dental health is improved from feeding your dog or cat naturally healthy dog food (BARF World’s BARF Diet), and raw meaty bones is another reason why we see an extension of life from dogs. You’ll combine the advantages of proper nutrition, better utilization of ingredients, and the improvement of immune system health, and your pet’s dental problems will become insignificant in comparison to those dogs fed dry processed pet food.
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