Your Dog's Dental Health

Filed Under: Dogs, General Care

More pet owners pay attention to dental health than ever before. Dog owners now commonly brush their canine companions’ teeth--and fret over bad breath. But this isn't just an aesthetic interest: all dog owners should be aware of the importance of dentistry to our pets' overall health.

Plaque is full of bacterial organisms. Gums are quite vascular and have a ready blood supply. The bacteria in plaque can actually break loose in the vascular gum area and travel to various parts of the body through a process called a septicemia (bacterial infection spreading through the body via the circulatory or blood system). If you've ever brushed too hard and notice a small amount of blood on your toothbrush, you can see how easy it is for this bacteria to end up in the bloodstream.

One of the areas colonized by a bacterial septicemia is your heart valves. This can develop into a syndrome called Congestive Heart Failure (CHF). The bacteria from the plaque on teeth will find a home in the heart valves. Once this bacterial infection is established, the infection will damage the delicate heart valves. The damage incurred includes scarring, erosion or thickening of the heart valve. The damaged valve will cause an alteration of the blood flow through the heart, resulting in pressure changes that can alter the heart chambers themselves.

When strict oral hygiene is not observed, one of the more common causes of poor health and premature death is CHF. Not only can a dog's heart be affected, but various organ systems can suffer damage. Bacteria can break off from the plaque on the teeth--or secondarily from the heart valves--causing infections in other body organs. Liver or kidney abscesses are often a direct result of the bacterial plaque on your dog's teeth.

Just as you would take care of your own teeth, pay close attention to your dog's dental health. Small dog breeds have the most problems with plaque and bad teeth. It is probably good practice for an owner to brush their pets’ teeth regularly, and to have them professionally cleaned two or more times yearly.

Topics: dental

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