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Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Preventing Gum Disease in Dogs and Maintaining Good Oral Care

Good oral hygiene for dogs is best achieved by implementing a multi-directional approach. This type of approach ensures that you are protecting your dog’s teeth, gums, ligaments and jaw - directly and indirectly. 

  • When we protect directly we ensure that the dog’s teeth are kept as clean as possible;
  •  When we protect indirectly we are ensuring that the dog’s natural system of protection -his/her immune system is optimally supported.
There are many preventative and ongoing maintenance measures that you can choose from to establish and maintain your dog’s oral health. Some of the measures are obvious - some may surprise you.

There are other issues to consider as well. For instance…If you do brush your dog’s teeth do you know how to choose truly good dog toothpaste or do you just think you know? Are you feeding your dog food or treats that contain ingredients that are bad for your dog’s teeth? Do you know which ingredients are bad?

First, let’s take a quick look at the list the ways that you can ensure your dog’s good oral hygiene. Then we can go over each one in detail…

At a glance…
  1. No food or treats that contain sweeteners;
  2. Boost your dog’s immune system;
  3. Brush your dog’s teeth or use an oral rinse, but make sure the product you are using is truly safe and beneficial;
  4. Give your dog safe, teeth-cleaning items to chew.
So...

  1. Step one - know what items are available and understanding the products benefits;
  2. Step two - inform yourself about how to choose a good product;
  3. Step three - make an informed decision and purchase the product that is most suitable.
Now, let’s look at each oral health measure in a little detail…

Do Not Feed Your Dog any Food or Treats that Contains Sweeteners


If a product is really wholesome why does it require sweeteners to be appealing to your dog? Sweeteners are not required in your dog’s diet! In fact they are not good for your dog. They are added to many pet foods (kibble, treats) to make the food more attractive - think about it, some of these products have a lot of fillers - no taste…so the sweeteners give the food some taste. If the product you are going to buy has any of the following ingredients in it, you know what to do - re-shelve it!
  • Cane molasses;
  • Corn syrup;
  • Fructose;
  • Sorbitol;
  • Sugar;
  • Di-alpha tocopherol acetate.
Remember daily intake of sweeteners is just as bad for dogs as it is for humans. Not only does sugar cause tooth decay, sugar also suppresses the immune system - making it easier for cancer to take hold. Sweeteners also cause allergies, arthritis, cataracts, hypoglycaemia, heart ailments, nervous energy, obesity and so on. The more your dog’s health is compromised the harder it is for your dog’s body to fight against gum disease and other diseases.

Boost Your Dog’s Immune System


Making sure that your dog’s diet supports his/her immune system really does assist your dog’s body to fend-off periodontal disease. A healthy immune system also fights off parasites, illnesses and other diseases.

Step One
Don’t assume…just because a product is labelled ‘immune boosting’ does not mean that it actually is! Legislation controlling the labeling of pet food is not stringent - manufacturers can say ‘all natural’, ‘immune boosting’ etc. when in-fact the product is anything but all natural or healthy! So step one in boosting your dog’s immune system is knowing how to really identify good dog kibble and treats.


Step Two
Expand your dog’s daily diet to include a canine specific supplement or by adding whole fresh foods that are high in bone and teeth healthy minerals and vitamins…calcium, iron and phosphorus, vitamin C and B complex. Supplementing your dog’s daily diet with fresh, whole foods (including some dairy, fruit and vegetables) that are good for your not only supports good oral health but also boosts your dog’s immune system.  If you are thinking that feeding your dog fruits and veggies will cause diarrhea you should read this article.

If you would like to know about specific fresh whole foods you can feed your dog to support their oral health you can read this article.

As an added bonus, fresh crunchy food such as whole carrots, parsnips and sliced pieces of apple (no seeds as the seeds are poisonous to dogs) help scrub your dog’s teeth clean.

Brush Your Dog’s Teeth or use an Oral Rinse

Commercially Made Products


You can brush your dog’s teeth on a daily basis, or at least several times a week; and or use an oral rinse on your dog’s mouth. If you have one or several dogs this is a practical measure to take…if you have ten dogs like I do brushing teeth may not be a practical option for you.

You can use a toothbrush or a finger brush or even gauze. The best way to introduce your dog to having their gums and teeth touched is to gently rub the length of your index finger along your dog’s teeth and gums. This is nice for teething puppies as it helps to ease the itchiness of incoming teeth. Once your dog is accustomed to the sensation of having their gums and teeth touched you can start to use a finger brush and then if you like a toothbrush. 

If you tend to have a tough time grooming your dog the techniques described in this article are also applicable to brushing your dog’s teeth.

Once again it is very important to inform yourself so before you choose specific products to purchase make sure you know what ingredients to avoid. Remember, if the preventative you are using is full of additives and toxins - you are inadvertently creating another health hazard. The drastic increase in cancer found in dogs is a direct result of all of the carcinogenic additives and toxins in a dog’s daily environment - including food ingested and topical treatments used on the dog. Many oral care products manufactured and sold in pet stores or on-line are not safe for your dog despite what the label may say. Remember that pet care products are not subject to stringent guidelines for health and safety.To protect your dog's health you really need to know what ingredients to avoid.

You can also scale your dog’s teeth using a scaler - but you must be very careful not to damage the tooth enamel or gums (cause scratches, chips, abrasions, cuts, etc.). I have been scaling my dogs’ teeth for many years, but if you do not scale properly you can cause more damage! This is something that may be best left to professionals.

Natural, Herbal and Homeopathic Products including DIY

If you are interested in learning about natural, herbal and homeopathic approach including how to make your own products (toothpastes, oral rinses, treating bleeding of the gums, killing bacteria, etc.) for your dog’s oral health you can read this article.

You will learn about the use of …
Baking Soda;
Cinnamon;
Calendula;
Echinacea;
Fragaria Vesca (strawberry);
Goldenseal;
Kefir;
Manuka Honey;
Myrrh;
Oregon Grape;
Vitamin C
Foods and herbs that fight oral bacteria and reduce plaque.

Give Your Dog Safe Teeth-Cleaning Items to Chew


Having something safe to chew can fulfill multiple requirements for your dog…
  • Provides enjoyment;
  • Exercises teeth gums and jaw;
  • Helps remove plaque;
  • Satisfies a dog’s natural need to chew;
  • Provides an outlet to expend energy;
  • Helps prevent boredom;
  • And for puppies, helps sooth itchy gums during teething.
There are many different types of chews that you can select. You can purchase the following items at most pet stores and on-line.
  • Raw Bones
  • Smoked or Natural Bones
  • Natural Chews
  • Dental Chew Toys
  • Dental Chews

So before you decide what type of chew you want to provide for your dog make 100% sure you really know the pros and cons of each product are and what makes an individual manufacturer’s product good, bad or dangerous for your dog. As with all products manufactured and sold for consumption by dogs there are many dental chew products that contain allergens, toxins and carcinogens.


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Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms


One of the most common health problems in dogs over two years of age, is gingivitis and periodontal disease - 85% of dogs two years of age or older suffer from periodontal disease. 


The first stage of periodontal disease is called ‘gingivitis’. Gingivitis causes inflammation of the gums however this is a completely reversible condition, that when caught in a timely fashion will not cause permanent damage. 

The second stage of periodontal disease is called periodontitis. This stage of the disease can cause irreparable damage to teeth and inflammation, abbesses and infection that degrade the structure that hold teeth in place (ligaments and jaw bone.

Gingivitis occurs when over-time bacteria mix with saliva, blood cell and other bacterial components and form plaque. You won’t see the plaque as it is colourless but what you will likely see is a thin line of red just where the dog’s gum meets its teeth.

Plaque (a clear, sticky substance made up of bacteria and saliva) attaches to the soft gum tissue of the mouth and causes inflammation. When a dog’s gums are healthy the gums sit firmly against teeth. Once plaque starts to form it creates an irregular, rough surface that forces the gums away from the teeth. If not removed the plaque starts to build from the gum-line up onto the tooth where it adheres to the surface of the tooth and calcifies forming tartar (also called calculus). Once calcified on to the teeth tartar starts to erode the gingival tissue. Build-up can occur quickly or may take time - it just depends on the dog’s diet, the strength of the dog’s immune system, the amount of saliva the dog’s saliva glands regularly produce, etc. If the dog tends to salivate very little they may have more tartar build-up as saliva contains bacteria-killing enzymes. A dog’s premolars and molars tend to collect the largest build-up of tartar.

Once tartar forms rough surfaces on the tooth a perfect terrain is established for the formation and adherence of more tartar. Once inflammation is present, swelling of the gums begins, and with it soreness. If left untreated infection sets-in, this causes gums to begin to recede, and eventually ligaments that secure the tooth against the jaw bone and the bone itself may become seriously damaged. Infection that goes this deep causes abscess, bleeding and a lot of pain as well as tooth loss.

The damage does not stop there…tartar also affects the entire body. Bacteria from the inflamed gum and tartar can enter the bloodstream and cause damage to major body organs, such as the liver, kidneys, heart and lungs.

Failure to take proper care of your dog’s teeth can result in a drastic decrease in quality of life and a shortened life-span.

Feeding your dog the wrong food and treats can make the problem worse!

Signs/Progression of Periodontal Disease

Stage One - Early signs of gingivitis:
Redness of the gums where gum and teeth meet…see picture below.

  
As Gingivitis Progresses:
  • Sensitive gum tissue, bleeding gums (i.e. after a dog eats);
  • Yellow or brown tartar on teeth;
  • Bad breath.
See picture below…


Stage Two - Periodontitus:
  • Abscesses in the gum and jaw bone;
  • Avoids having his/her face and/or head touched;
  • Bad breath;
  • Deep pockets of infection;
  • Drops Food;
  • Eating/chewing only on one side of mouth;
  • Trouble chewing - eating;
  • Red, swollen gums that bleed easily when touched, pressing on gums may cause pus to ooze from gum-line;
  • Refusing to play with toys;
  • Sneezing - nose bleeds;
  • Not wanting to eat due to sore or lose teeth;
  • Pawing at mouth;
  • Unhappiness - irritability; 
  • Weight loss.
At stage one gingivitis can be fully reversed - no permanent damage resulting.  Once gingivitis has progressed to stage two a veterinarian surgeon specializing in periodontal disease may have to assess the damage to the jaw bone - the dog may lose some or all of its teeth.


Holistic Support

Additional Assistance - Holistic Health and Wellness Service
If you require additional support, and guidance - contact me to discuss your requirements. I will determine the appropriate course of action for your situation and I will let you know the applicable fees. I offer consultative services to clients around the world...
Diet, Nutrition Wellness Services
  • Unbiased Diet, Nutrition, Product Advice - information and payment here >>. 
  • Holistic Diet, Nutrition Wellness Plans - information and payment here >>.
Dog Obedience Training and Behavior Modification Services
  • In-Person sessions - information and payment here >>.
  • On-Line consultation and sessions - information and payment here >>.


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