Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our February/March issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.
Dogs might not need the perfect smile to set off their good looks, but they do need it to keep up their health!
More than 80 percent of dogs over the age of 3 suffer from periodontal disease. And while we might all laugh about doggie breath or funny teeth, these issues can lead to more serious disease in your dog’s vital organs.
Find out how your dog’s teeth measure up!
Each week, take a good look inside your dog’s mouth, looking at his teeth and gums. This will help you determine if your dog is affected by periodontal disease.
1. What color are your dog’s teeth?
a. Pearly white
b. Mostly white but with a little yellow
c. Dingy and yellow
d. Yellow and browned
As bacterial infection of the gums advances, gums might change color and become inflamed. Over time, the gums can pull away from the tooth, creating a groove between tooth and gum. These periodontal pockets allow bacteria to become trapped in your dog’s mouth.
2. Lift your dog’s lips to examine his gums. What do you see?
a. Pink and perfect
b. Pink but puffy
c. Reddish pink and swollen
d. Red, white, and swollen
3. As gum disease progresses or teeth decay, your dog’s teeth may begin to break or fall out. Does your dog have any loose or missing teeth?
a. They’re all there!
b. He’s lost one or two over the years.
c. We have the tooth fairy on speed dial.
d. He may be missing more teeth than he has, and the ones that remain don’t look too hot.
4. How often do you brush your dog’s teeth at home?
a. At least once or twice a week
b. Once or twice a month
c. Once or twice a year
d. Is that something I’m supposed to do?
A common reason owners have for not checking or brushing their dog’s teeth more frequently is because their dog doesn’t like having his mouth touched. It could be that your dog is stubborn or that his mouth and teeth are sensitive, which can signal an underlying problem.
5. How does your dog respond when having his mouth/teeth touched?
a. Doesn’t even notice
b. Is slightly annoyed
c. Locks his jaw shut
d. Gets aggressive
While dogs can manage to eat kibble even without teeth, another sign of dental trouble is their ability to keep the food in their mouths or difficulty eating. A loss of interest in eating is often a result of dental trouble.
6. When my dog eats, he:
a. Has no difficulties
b. Eats slowly and deliberately but gets it done
c. Chews food only on one side
d. Can’t keep everything in his mouth and often stops for breaks
Bad breath in dogs can often be caused by bacteria created from food decaying in your dog’s mouth, but it can also be a sign of serious infection and disease. Your ￼￼￼￼￼dog’s breath doesn’t have to smell like flowers, but sour or acidic smells are cause for concern and a visit to the vet.
7. When you kiss your dog, you think:
a. Aww — the sweet, sweet smell of puppy kisses.
b. What did you eat?
c. Eww — dog breath!
d. What died in here?!
Mostly As: All smiles
You’ve either won the doggie-tooth lottery or you are working to keep your dog’s pearly whites in tip-top shape. Keep up the brushing and regular checkups, and your dog’s teeth just might be in it for the long haul!
Mostly Bs: Keep brushing
You and your dog can still smile about the condition of his teeth, but it’s important to stay on top of it! Brushing may not be a favorite activity for either you or your dog, but you can find ways to keep it fun. Make sure you are checking in with a vet, as a good professional dental cleaning can really make a difference. You’ll be smiling in no time.
Mostly Cs: Need some help
You’re living on the edge and are about one loose tooth away from being a hot mess. You may brush your dog’s teeth on holidays or special occasions, but it’s likely not an easy feat, and you and your dog have simply agreed to disagree on the matter. Don’t get complacent — it’s a slippery slope to tooth disaster. Call your vet, and schedule a teeth cleaning, stat.
Mostly Ds: Hot mess
Let’s be honest: You probably saw this coming. Your dog may or may not have many (or any) teeth, but you can’t really tell because you haven’t seen the inside of his mouth in years. His doggie kisses leave you gasping for air, and brushing his teeth is a hazard to your health and his. Your dog is overdue for a teeth cleaning and will possibly need teeth pulled. Your dog could very much be at risk for serious health issues. Seek professional help!
Read more on your dog’s teeth:
- Caring for Your Dog’s Mouth: Tongue, Teeth, and All
- 8 Tips for Maintaining Your Dog’s Dental Health
- A Dog Dental Care Guide for Lazy Pet Owners
About the author: For the past four years, Sam has spent day and night covering everything dog, all the while wishing she was, in fact, actually covered in dogs. When she is not writing, Sam bakes animal-shaped cookies, throws guinea pig parties, and collects tiny replicas of French Bulldogs. Sam lives with her husband Sam (also Sam — yes, that is correct), Huggs the dog, three rescued guinea pigs — Potter, James, and Griffin — and a robot named Douglas.