How can I tell if my pet has a dental problem?

Any change in your pet’s eating behavior should be evaluated by your veterinarian. Oral pain can reveal itself as avoidance from chewing hard food, decreased grooming, or swallowing hard food without chewing. It is important to have a thorough physical and oral exam done immediately. Full mouth x-rays often reveal sources of pain such as cavities, gum disease, periodontal disease (disease of the bones around the teeth). For further information, refer to this periodontal disease article written by Dr. Hoffman. If your veterinarian does not offer these services, please contact us and we will work with your veterinarian to help provide these services.

What are appropriate chew toys for my dog that will not damage teeth?

A proper chew toy can help keep your puppy’s teeth clean and his gums healthy. The size of the chew toy is important – it should be big enough to avoid being swallowed or stuck in the throat. Hardness is also important – some chew toys are so hard they often break teeth. Chew items that are too hard and should be avoided include cattle hooves, nylon bones, pressed rawhides, antlers, and real bones (beef femurs, knucklebones, soup bones…)
Offer a variety of chew toys with different textures. Kong toys, rope toys, and some rawhides are good. Remember, proper chew toys are an adjunct to daily brushing.

My pet has broken a tooth. It doesn’t seem to bother him. Should I be concerned?

Absolutely. A fractured or broken tooth can cause great pain, although your pet doesn’t seem to be bothered. Read the article Fractured Teeth in Dogs and Cats for additional information, and contact your veterinarian or a specialist as soon as possible.

My pet has already had several teeth removed as part of previous treatments. What more can I do?

It is never too late to diagnose and treat oral disease or discomfort. Your pet should be seen by a veterinarian equipped to take x-rays of her remaining teeth, who is experienced with dental disease. Treatment options depend on a thorough physical and oral exam including blood tests to rule out any underlying problems. The x-rays give important information about treatment planning. Overall, treatment success depends on three things:

  • Your willingness to provide dental care daily at home
  • Your pet’s willingness to allow home dental care
  • Your veterinarian’s professional dental treatment

All three steps are an ongoing process and it is never too late to begin.

Isn‘t dentistry for an animal an extreme and unnatural measure? Wild animals don’t see dentists and they get along just fine.

It is true that wild animals don’t see a dentist. It is also true that these animals don’t rely on anyone for their food or care. When you assume the responsibility of owning a pet, that pet relies on you 100% for its food, medical, and dental care. Only you, with the help of your veterinarian, can provide care to relieve pain and prolong the life of your pet.

Because we are bonded to our pets, we do a lot of “unnatural” things. We let them sleep on our beds, feed them special food, take them on vacation, groom them, talk to them, let them live indoors…and the list goes on. Because we do these things for our pets, they live longer than wild animals and provide us with a better quality of life. The quality of your pet’s life is up to you.

When breeding dogs, is a scissor bite or an even bite preferred?

In some breeds of dogs, both a scissor bite and an even bite are acceptable for show. In these breeds, when selecting for breeding purposes, it is best to select for a scissor bite for the following reasons:

  • The scissor bite is more comfortable for the dog.
  • The incisors are less likely to wear unevenly.
  • An even bite is actually one step closer to a true underbite than a scissors occlusion. Selecting for an even bite may produce some puppies with an underbite.