Canine Dental Care: Look at Those Snappers, Will You?

A vast majority of dogs suffer from some level of periodontal disease by the time they become three years old.

Dental disease doesn’t affect only the mouth; it can have negative impact on the entire body.

You can read more about that here: Bad Breath in Dogs: When Bad Breath Can Kill!

There are ways to prevent or delay periodontal disease but it is my observation that most dogs require full dental examination and cleaning at least every two years. At least that’s what I observed and experienced.

Canine Dental Care: Look at Those Snappers, Will You?

Cookie’s story

Shortly, Cookie is going to be eight years old. She came to us at the age of one-and-a-half. Yes, it’s going to be her adoptoversary soon.

Cookie has never had a dental cleaning yet.

I care a great deal about her dental health, and I cannot stress enough its importance. Poor oral health not only affects the quality of life but can negatively impact systemic health. I’d be the first one to advocate for Cookie to get dental if it looked like it was needed even just a little bit.

The official recommendation is for every dog to get annual dental cleanings starting at the age of two. Given the widespread epidemic of periodontal disease in dogs, from a very young age, I can see the rationale.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Cookie gets a wellness exam twice a year. Every time, the state of her mouth is assessed as well. It is true that you can’t always see every problem in the mouth with plain eyes.

Cookie’s mouth looks perfect, though. There is no visible gum issue, and there is no apparent issue with any of the teeth. Her breath doesn’t smell, and she has no problems chewing. I would be hard-pressed to rationalize putting her through anesthesia with no evidence whatsoever that she needs any dental work. Would you?

A number of people asked what we’re doing to keep Cookie’s breath to smell so good–they should take a whiff after Cookie munched on some deer poop. There are tricks and products to fend off bad breath. But we don’t do any of those things. Cookie’s mouth just smells–or rather doesn’t smell–like that all on its own.

Cookie is on a raw diet. We brush her teeth daily, and she chews on raw meaty bones daily. Whether it’s any of those things, their combination, or something else together, I don’t know. But it ain’t broke so I’m not going to try to fix it.

Note: Jasmine and JD got their teeth brushed daily as well but did need dental cleaning about every two years. So the assumption that either raw diet or raw meaty bones do play a role.

One way or another, Cookie’s mouth looks happy and doesn’t smell. She gets her mouth checked every six months. I do not see any convincing argument to put her through anesthesia to fix something that isn’t broken.

Latest examination

Recently, we had a bit of a concern because several times, Cookie yelped for no discernible reason. For the lack of any explanation, her mouth became the top suspect.

Firstly, given her age and the fact she never had a full dental, it was possible that something was brewing under the surface. And secondly, one of Cookie’s teeth has the tip chipped off. Could it be it became problematic?

We made an appointment with the dental specialist at our veterinary hospital. She was going to do a thorough physical assessment and go from there.

Prior the exam, I reported the unexplained yelps, the chipped tooth and Cookie’s chewing habits.

The veterinarian examined Cookie really thoroughly and didn’t find any indication there would be a problem with her dental health. I know that short of dental x-rays we cannot know for sure but there doesn’t seem to be a reason to have Cookie undergo that.

The report

There was no inflammation or swelling anywhere and the veterinarian found no masses. She found two chipped teeth but neither of them had pulp exposed. There were no lesions and no pain response anywhere.

There was nothing to even warrant the dental x-rays.

It could be that the cause of Cookie’s random yelps had nothing to do with her mouth. Or it is possible that the chipped tooth might have hurt her tongue a bit.

In conclusion

It appears that the combination of the things we’re doing is just the right recipe–for Cookie anyway. There is good hope that Cookie might never need dental work done if we manage to keep her mouth in this shape.

Related articles:
Judging A Mouth By Its Cover: There Is More To Dental Health Than Meets The Eye

Further reading:
Essential Tips to Care for Your Pet’s Teeth

Categories: Dental careDog careDog health advocacyReal-life StoriesWellness exams

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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