As part of Murphy’s annual exam last year, his veterinarian examined the little dog’s mouth and teeth. A discussion followed on the best ways to clean a dog’s teeth, why oral hygiene is so important for dogs, and how it can help prevent canine heart disease.
In all my life, this was the first time a vet discussed with me the dangers that poor oral hygiene causes in dogs. We all know that poor dental care in humans can lead to periodontal disease, and dogs are just as susceptible to this as we are. But other serious health issues, such as canine heart disease, appear to be linked to periodontal disease in our pets.
Dental Problems May Increase the Risk for Canine Heart Disease
A major side effect of ignoring a dog’s dental issues is periodontal disease. This condition causes bleeding gums, bad breath and often results in tooth loss. Periodontal disease begins under the gum line with plaque. Plaque is full of bacteria, thus introducing said bacteria to the animal’s body.
The Connection Between Canine Dental Disease & Heart Valve Inflammation
Dr. Karen Becker writes about a Purdue University study that showed a clear connection between gum disease and endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart valves. While it isn’t known exactly how the gum disease leads to a heart problem, they suspect that bacteria in the gums enters the bloodstream when periodontal disease is present because it tends to soften and break down the gums, making it easier for the bacteria to move.
Here’s How You Can Help Prevent Canine Heart Disease in Your Dog
When Rover greets you at the front door and you bend down to pet and hug him, does his breath nearly knock you out? While his breath may not smell of peppermint, it shouldn’t scream dead animal at you. Improve his breath and his overall health as you care for his teeth.
You can purchase a brush specifically made for dogs and special tooth paste for cleaning but if you don’t begin this daily ritual with your pet when he’s young, it may be difficult to get him to accept the brush later.
I use a gauze wipe soaked in a vet-approved cleaning solution on Murphy. He doesn’t mind it at all and because he was almost 3 years old when we rescued him, I chose this method instead of brushing. It may not get between teeth the way a brush would but at least he doesn’t fight me over the gauze.
Your Pet’s Diet May Affect His Dental Health
What you feed your dog may adversely affect his teeth and gums. A low-quality dog food containing sweeteners like sugar, corn syrup or fructose won’t be good for dental health. We all know that humans should avoid sugars and eat a diet low in carbohydrates to keep our own teeth and gums healthy. The same goes for dogs. Choose a good quality, dry pet food that is high in protein, low in carbs. The kibble will help scrape excess food off his teeth. Dental chews available in pet stores may also help clean his teeth.
It may not be possible to prevent all cases of heart disease but as a pet owner, you can do your part to help lower your dog’s chances of being affected. Make sure your dog sees the vet regularly for examinations and professional dental cleanings, if necessary. Provide regular dental care and cleaning at home using brushing and/or wiping your dog’s teeth using gauze and a vet-approved dental cleaning solution. Whatever method you use, try to do so regularly to keep your dog’s pearly whites shiny and clean and help prevent potential canine heart disease in his future.