Focusing on canine oral health - Veterinary Practice
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Focusing on canine oral health

Dr MARIE-LOUISE BAILLON recommends an oral healthcare programme for dogs

PERIODONTAL disease is the
most frequently occurring clinical
condition in dogs, with four out of
five of those over the age of three
showing signs of the disease.

The condition ranges from simple
gum inflammation to serious disease
that results in major damage to the soft
tissue and bone that supports the teeth.
This can lead to
tooth loss.

The initial
inflammation is
caused by the
accumulation of
plaque on the
surface of the tooth.
Plaque consists of
micro-organisms and
extra-cellular matrix.
A film of proteins
and glycoproteins is
absorbed by the
clean tooth surface,
and plaque is formed
when the bacterial
colonisers interact
with the film. Calculus is a form of
hardened dental plaque.

When the plaque, containing
pathogenic bacteria, builds up on the
teeth, the resulting toxins attack the
gums, leading to reddening and
inflammation of the gingival tissue –
gingivitis. This is reversible if the
plaque is regularly removed, but if left
untreated can lead to periodontitis and soft tissue and bone loss. Periodontitis
is not simply the result of bacteria; the
dog’s own immune defences are also

Advanced periodontal disease can
cause a variety of more serious
conditions when the bacteria make their
way into the bloodstream. These
include heart, liver, kidney and respiratory problems.
Periodontitis can also
complicate the
management of diseases
such as diabetes mellitus.
Locally, the condition
can result in oronasal
fistula formation, pain
and spontaneous jaw
fractures as a result of
bone loss.

Clinical signs

Owners should be urged
to check their dogs’
mouths daily for signs of
periodontal disease.

These include bad breath
(contrary to popular belief, it is not normal in dogs and is usually a sign of
an underlying oral problem), gradual
changes in behaviour, such as becoming
less sociable, less lively or enthusiastic
during play, and bleeding gums.

It is also good practice to look for
other problems at the same time.
Fractured or discoloured teeth and
other abnormalities with the soft tissues
will be spotted more quickly by an
owner familiar with the oral landscape.
Given the stoical nature of most dogs,
this will allow timely treatment rather than waiting until the
pet is in distress.

Encouraging good
oral hygiene

The importance of
good oral hygiene
and appropriate diets
should be
communicated to
clients at the earliest
opportunity, ideally
from primary
vaccinations and
prior to the
permanent teeth
erupting at
approximately six
months of age. Oral
care regimes in older
pets, particularly ones
that have experienced
mouth pain, can be
difficult to

For maximum
protection, daily
brushing is the most
effective means of
removing plaque and
periodontal disease,
although owner
compliance may be
an issue. Clients
should be shown how
to brush their pets’
teeth to prevent the
accumulation of
plaque and they
should be encouraged to demonstrate
their technique in front of the vet or
vet nurse in the consultation room.

A dog owner will need canine
toothpaste (without fluoride), a pet
toothbrush and water, and brushing
should ideally be initiated in stages to
enable an animal to get used to the
taste of toothpaste and having
something put in its mouth.

Chews or toys with scientific
evidence of efficacy may
help prevent
gingivitis and
The ideal routine
includes offering
a dog a high
quality oral care
chew every day.

DentaStix and DentaStix dental chews are scientifically proven to
reduce plaque accumulation by as
much as 60% and calculus
accumulation by as much as 80% and
are a convenient, low fat addition to a
pet’s oral care routine.

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