Original article by Elizabeth Gigis, DVM, West Chester Veterinary Center , August, 2012
The adult canine mouth has forty-two teeth, ten more their human caretakers. Proper dental care has been shown to extend, on average, the life of dogs studied by two years. Most people are not aware that their pets’ teeth have basically the same structure as ours. The outside of the tooth is called the enamel. This is a hard substance that protects the inner structures of the tooth. Under the enamel is the dentin, which is more porous, sensitive, and contains dental tubules, structures susceptible to carrying bacteria to the pulp cavity if the enamel is breached. The center of the tooth is the pulp cavity, which contains nerves and vascular structures. The tooth is anchored into the bone of mouth by a ligament that is very strong and tough, called the periodontal ligament.
When dogs chew food, they saliva in the mouth mixes with bacteria and forms a film on the surface of the tooth. After about twenty four hours, if not brushed off, this film will form a more permanent layer, and these layers build over time and form what is commonly called tartar or calculus. This calculus contains bacteria which then will irritate the sensitive pink tissue next to the crown of the tooth, called gingiva. This leads to a condition called “gingivitis”, where you may notice a thin line of dark pink next to the yellowing or tartar on the tooth. This is the beginning of dental disease. At this point, the best option is to have a dental prophylaxis performed by your veterinarian. Dental prophylaxis removes the tartar and bacteria from the tooth and polishes the enamel. Future brushing after a dental will help prevent more tartar build up. However, if you do not brush daily, then eventually the build-up will lead to more tartar on the enamel of the tooth. Certain breeds of dogs are more prone to tartar build up. Dental disease is noticed more often in small breeds because of several factors. One of these is many smaller breeds and short-nosed breeds (brachycephalic) have a malocclusion, where the teeth do not line up properly as they should. This unfortunately leads to faster tartar build-up because the top teeth do not cover the bottom.
Many dogs will develop serious dental problems from a variety of factors. Dogs that chew on hard substances, which many do, are prone to fracturing the side of the tooth, called a “slab fracture”. This is very painful for the pet, because is usually extends into the root of the tooth. Slab fractures may also lead to an abscess at the root of the tooth if not treated properly. Many dogs do not show any symptoms of a fracture other than chewing on the opposite side of the mouth, slower chewing, and possible salivating slightly more than normal.
Calculus and tartar left untreated will lead to infections of the tooth roots and supporting structures, called periodontal disease. You may notice exposed tooth roots, because of loosening of the periodontal ligament. Teeth that are loose, that have exposed roots, deep pockets or abscesses should be extracted. These teeth are very painful to your pet, are a source of infection, and are not useful for chewing. In fact, once extracted and healed, dogs are much more comfortable.
Optimum preventative care for your pet is to have their mouth examined at minimum yearly by your veterinarian and to brush with doggie-safe toothpaste as often as possible. Many products are available to aid in dental care, such a greenies, CET chews and even dental dog food (Hill’s t/d), but brushing is best for your best friend.
Elizabeth Gigis, DVM
West Chester Veterinary Center
7330 Liberty Way, West Chester, OH 45069
Education is the first step in pet poison prevention.
Pet owners should take the time to educate themselves on the various, sometimes unexpected, pet poisons in their environments. The Pet Poison Helpline provides an extensive list of poisonous items for pet owners to be aware of, but here are a few of the most common items seen by veterinarians:
Many people believe certain dog breed, such as huskies and malamutes, are capable of living outside all of the time because of their thick coats. However, no dog breed should be consistently left unprotected outside. According to the City of Cincinnati, when the temperature is below 20 degrees Fahrenheit or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, a pet owner should not leave their dog outside for longer than sixty minutes without adequate shelter. For outside dogs, owners should provide a warm, dry, draft free shelter with fresh, unfrozen water. Heated water bowls are a great option to ensure consistent access to unfrozen water. Owners should also feed their outdoor dogs more during the winter because their bodies use more energy trying to keep warm. In 2016, the City of Cincinnati passed an ordinance with further restrictions and shelter guidelines for dog tethering and weather conditions, which can be found by clicking here
A common winter hazard that vets encounter consistently with cats is engine belt injuries. Cats will climb into cars to keep warm, and without knowing they’re there, people will start their cars and harm the cats. Before starting your car in the winter, it’s advised to give the car hood a few raps to make sure there are no cats cozied up inside.
Pets start an estimated 1,000 fires per year. While this isn’t a huge number, it’s easily preventable. Pet owners should identify the risks in their home and make sure they’re contained from pets. Risks to consider include, open flames such as candles, space heaters, stovetops, fireplaces, and frayed wires chewed by puppies.
Even if all fire hazards are contained from pets, there’s still always a chance of a house fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) , there’s a home fire reported every 86 seconds in the United States. So while the hope is that you and your pets never have to face a fire, it’s important to have a plan.
In case of a fire, pet owners should hang window clings that let firefighters know there’s a pet in the home. The ASPCA offers a free Pet Fire Safety Pack that includes a window decal. When leaving home, pet owners should know where their pets are and keep them close to exits if possible. Pet owners should also consider investing in monitored smoke detectors that alert homeowners of a fire when they’re not home and automatically dispatch firefighters.
Getting your dog microchipped is an easy and relatively inexpensive procedure that drastically increases the odds that your pet will find its way home if it’s ever lost. A microchip is a tiny chip that’s about the size of a grain of rice and contains a unique identification number. It’s injected into a pet’s skin between the shoulder blades on their back. When scanned with an electric scanner, the chip will show the unique identification number and manufacturer of the microchip. This unique identification number will be linked to the pet owner’s contact information in the microchip manufacturer’s database.
If a stranger ever finds your dog, a shelter or veterinarian can scan your pet for a microchip. Once they have the identification number and manufacturer from the chip reading, they will call the manufacturer in search of the pet owner’s contact information. Therefore, if a dog owner moves or changes their contact information, it’s extremely important for them to update the contact information associated with their pet’s microchip identification number.