February is Dental Month at Aldie Veterinary Hospital! Did you know that our dogs and cats need dental care too? Daily teeth-brushing is the best way to cut down on the plaque and tartar build up. While your puppy is young, practice brushing his teeth a few times a week to get him used to the process. Start by just rubbing your finger across his teeth on each side, and then graduate to using a finger brush or toothbrush for dogs, adding flavored toothpaste makes this activity way more fun. While it sounds absolutely repulsive to us, there are chicken, beef, and even peanut butter flavored toothpastes for dogs!
Now, I know some of you are thinking, “Yeah right, I’m never doing that.” I encourage you to try because some dogs LOVE this activity and it only takes 1-2 minutes of your day! And, it can save you hundreds to thousands in dental costs later. Remember, you and I brush our teeth twice a day, and still go to the dentist twice a year. Imagine years of plaque buildup without a single brushing or dentist visit, and how gunky those teeth would feel.
Personally, I don’t remember canine oral health being a concern for our family dogs as a child. It just wasn’t a popular topic in veterinary medicine even 10-15 years ago. Many of those pets were silently suffering from dental disease, rotten/wiggly teeth, tooth root abscesses, broken teeth with exposed pulp cavities, or undetected oral masses. If you’ve ever experienced tooth sensitivity, had a loose/diseased tooth, or felt the sting of an exposed dental nerve, I’m sure you can sympathize with those dogs and cats. The difference is, most of our cats and dogs continue eating without showing any signs of discomfort. They just don’t know any better, and can’t say, “Hey Mom, lately that cold water and hard food really hurts!”
So why is all this “old dog” information on Skipper’s puppy blog? Because oral healthcare starts now! Work on getting your pup used to teeth brushing so that we can delay the timing of his first dental cleaning, and increase the intervals between them. If you have a toy breed dog, like a fluffy little Maltese or sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, this becomes even more important; those guys LOVE to build nasty tartar on their teeth even at a young age.
There are also some dental concerns for young puppies. Skipper is still in the process of losing his teeth, and he’s apparently not read the book on a “typical puppy,” yet again! Most puppies will lose their baby teeth as their adult teeth come in. Well, as you read this, Skipper has 7 canine teeth. 4 adult canines (the big pointy teeth) have come in, but 3 of his baby canines refuse to be evicted. He’s a little too young to get too worried just yet, and these teeth are wiggly, so I’m keeping an eye on them. If these “persistent deciduous teeth,” aka stubborn baby teeth, are still around at the time we decide to neuter him (or maybe even before!), I’ll need to extract them.
Persistent deciduous teeth can cause numerous problems for that adult tooth which needs to last him for the next decade or so. Abnormal tartar accumulation and food bits can get stuck between the two teeth sharing the same slot, and damage that adult tooth. They can also detour the normal path for the adult tooth to come in and can change the way the upper and lower teeth meet when he takes a bite/chews. If you notice your dog looks like they have two sets of teeth after about 5-6 months of age, ask your veterinarian if they are a concern. Often times we find extra teeth at the time of a young dog’s spay/neuter surgery and can easily remove them to prevent problems from developing later on.
Much love from Skipper, Dr. Conroy, and the Tooth Fairy