You already know that not taking care of your dog’s teeth can lead to periodontal disease, a condition that results in bleeding gums, bad breath, and ultimately tooth loss. Poor oral hygiene is also linked to other health issues, but because dogs are experts at hiding pain, you may not even realize there’s a problem. Here are five ways neglecting your dog’s oral hygiene can negatively impact not only her teeth and gums, but also her overall health and well-being
1. Dental Disease Promotes Inflammation
Bacteria that originates from dental infections triggers the immune system, which results in inflammation. The inflammatory response kills bacteria but also destroys tissue in the process. In fact, the majority of tissue destruction associated with dental infections is caused by products of the immune system and not by degradation products from the bacteria themselves. This can lead to local tissue loss, pain, and infection of the surrounding tissues.
The more severe the dental disease and the more inflammation present, the increased likelihood that bacteria may enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body, who is board-certified in veterinary dentistry. Infections in and around the teeth do cause increases in inflammatory mediators and can cause bacteremia (a state in which bacteria appears in the blood), which likely does cause damage to distant parts of the body or distant infections. Reducing inflammation by treating periodontal disease can have profound impact on a dog’s health because it decreases the amount of work the body has to do to fight this infection.
2. Dental Disease Increases The Risk For Heart Disease
There is evidence that periodontal disease is linked to cardiopulmonary diseases like endocarditis. The risk of endocarditis is about six times higher in dogs with stage three periodontal disease than for dogs without it. A large number of canine patients present with both periodontal disease and heart disease concurrently.
While it can be tough to determine cause and effect, there’s an association because they so often occur together. One key piece of evidence of a connection is that the cultured bacteria from infected heart valves are identical to those also identified in the mouth.
3. Dental Disease Complicates Diabetes
Diabetic dogs tend to have higher levels of periodontal disease. In fact, the two conditions feed on each other in a vicious cycle. The more severe the periodontal disease is, the more serious the diabetes gets, which, in turn, worsens the periodontal disease.
It’s not always possible to determine which came first—the periodontal disease or the diabetes—but inflammation and infection associated with periodontal disease can affect blood sugar metabolism. This is especially important in terms of complicating the control and regulation of diabetic animals. Inflammation and infection decrease the body’s sensitivity to insulin, a primary hormone involved in blood sugar regulation. It’s difficult to balance a dog’s diabetes until the periodontal disease is treated. Once that tooth is addressed, their diabetes is much easier to stabilize.
4. Dental Disease Causes Pain and Sensitivity
Dogs rarely show signs that they’re in pain, and if they’re behaving and eating as usual, it may appear as nothing is wrong. That’s an incorrect assumption. Appetite is a strong drive. It is easy to avoid biting on a painful tooth. We all have seen dogs ‘inhaling’ hard food without chewing. But it is obvious that they can suffer from oral pathology because owners frequently remark that ‘he/she is just like a puppy again’ after treatment, adding that they regret postponing care.
Dogs may display signs of dental trouble such as drooling, a lack of appetite, swelling, or bleeding, but these do not show up in every case. Usually by the time the signs come up, it is too late to the save the tooth, and there is a high likelihood the pet has been living quietly in pain for quite some time. Most pets continue with their daily routine and it is not until we have the opportunity to address the fractured canine or wiggly molar that families will notice a difference in their pet
5. Dental Disease Can Lead To A Broken Jaw
Poor oral hygiene can lead to a broken jaw in dogs, especially smaller breeds with disproportionately large teeth, such as Chihuahuas, Lhasa Apsos, Maltese, and Shih Tzus, Hansen says. Infection to these dogs’ mouths can weaken their relatively small jaws and something as simple as jumping off the couch can lead to jaw fracture.
It’s fortunately not a common occurrence. But when it does, it is serious and very painful—it can be very difficult to get the fracture to heal appropriately— because the bone is not healthy bone.
Faith Courtney is a dog lover who can’t get enough of K9 love. She’s had dogs around her home since she was 8 years old. Many years on, she still keeps dogs around her home. Her family likes nothing more than to take the dogs out to the a dog park where they all can stretch their legs.
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