Dog Teeth Cleaning: Who Should Do It?

Caring for your dog’s teeth is critical to his overall health and wellness. Dogs can develop many different dental diseases that are often undiagnosed, painful and can impact your dog’s wellbeing. Dogs commonly hide their dental pain.

It is important to care for your dog’s teeth, just as it is important for you to care for your own teeth. Similar recommendations exist between humans and dogs. Our dentists recommend that for basic care, in addition to flossing, that we brush at least daily and have dental cleanings every 6 months.

Learning to care for your dog’s teeth can help keep your dog comfortable but also help to prevent costly dental cleanings. Below we will give you some great tips on how to clean your dog’s teeth, how to know if you are doing a good job, provide symptoms of dental disease in dogs, and discuss how to get your dog’s teeth cleaned professionally.

How Often Should You Clean Your Dog’s Teeth?

The best recommendation to clean your dog’s teeth is to brush the teeth daily. This is why. Dental plaque builds up on the teeth daily. This occurs on the surface of the tooth and gum line. Dental plaque is a sticky substance that contains bacteria, food particles, and saliva. If the plaque is left untouched, it will mineralize and form into hard tartar, also referred to as calculus, in approximately 48 hours. By brushing daily, you minimize the chance of the plaque mineralizing!

Why is this important? It is critical to remove dental plaque because once the tartar mineralizes; it attracts more plaque, then more tartar. This build-up of tartar can occur both above and below the gum line. Dangerous types of bacteria are attracted to this environment that leads to the destruction of periodontal tissues. This causes disease.

How to Clean Your Dog’s Teeth

It can be pretty easy, especially if you start early. Learn tips on How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth.
When brushing your dog’s teeth, it is critical to have the right tools. There are many styles of toothbrushes and many different types and flavors of toothpaste. It is also important to pick out the toothbrush and toothpaste combination that will work best for your dog. For example, a finger brush generally works best for large breed dogs such as Labrador retrievers. Some small brushes with a handle may work best for small and miniature breed dogs. You may need to experiment to find out what works best for you and your dog. Learn more about picking the right Dental Products for Dogs.

How to Know You Did A Good Enough Job

You can generally tell if you did a good job brushing your dog’s teeth by looking carefully at your dog’s teeth. It is important to have good lighting and to look at all the teeth. You can use natural light but it may be easier to use a small flashlight to see the teeth in the very back of the mouth. The teeth should look white and have minimal pigmentation or build up of discoloration and tartar (Figure 1).

dog teeth cleaning

Figure 1. Model of a dog’s teeth with severe tartar build up (black arrow).

Places to Get Your Dog’s Teeth Cleaned

In addition to daily brushing, a deeper clean is also recommended periodically. The frequency of a deeper clean will depend on your ability to brush your dog’s teeth and your dog’s individual dental situation which is often a result of genetics.

Some dogs just won’t permit daily brushing. And even with great dental care, every dog can be different. Just as there are people who have beautiful teeth with very little work or dental care, the same is true for dogs. On the opposite side, some dogs have terrible dental disease even with great care. Many of the dental problems are related to the dog’s breed and genetics.

If you notice your dog has bad breath or you notice a build-up of tartar or other signs of dental disease, please see your veterinarian. Most veterinarians routinely perform dental cleanings. If they do not perform dental cleanings or your dog requires advanced dental procedures, they can recommend a veterinarian that does dental cleaning and recommend that you see a veterinary dentist if that is needed. You can contact your local specialty veterinary clinic or local university of veterinary medicine for recommendations.

What’s Involved in Professional Dog Teeth Cleaning

The professional dental cleaning procedure generally consists of sedation followed by an anesthetic. It is important for your dog to be still and comfortable. Your dog will be monitored closely during this procedure. A dental cleaning may consist of the following (and may vary from vet to vet):

  • Basic blood work to confirm good organ function
  • Thorough oral examination of the gums, tongue, and teeth
  • Dental x-rays
  • Manual removal of tartar
  • Extraction of any diseased teeth
  • Ultrasonic cleaning of teeth
  • Polishing
  • Fluoride treatment
  • Documentation of dental care in the medical record

Professional dental cleaning is commonly referred to as a “dental” or “dental prophy.” Learn more here: What is a Dental Cleaning or Prophy in Dogs?

Can Dogs Eat Peanuts?

Dog owners commonly ponder about the toxicity of foods. The questions about the safety of different foods increased after learning that certain foods were toxic which led to a lot of press coverage. The most important foods are Chocolate, Grapes and Raisins, and Peanut Butter. Exposure to the dangers of these foods has encouraged pet owners to ask about other human foods such as can dogs eat bananas. Learn more about what dogs can and can’t eat in this article: The Ultimate Guide to What Dogs Can’t Eat.

Can Dogs Eat Peanuts?

A peanut is an oval seed grown from a plant that is commonly eaten. They generally develop in pods or shells and are roasted then eaten as a snack either seasoned, salted, or unsalted. They are most commonly grown in the Southern United States and South America. Peanuts can also be used to make feed, flour and cooking oil.

Dogs can eat peanuts and many love the taste. However, many dogs do not digest them well which can lead to nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea in some dogs. The fat content in nuts can lead to pancreatitis. Other nuts that dogs can eat but have the same potential health issues include almonds and cashews. Nuts that should NOT be fed do dogs are macadamia nuts and black walnuts.

When researching the safety of peanuts for dogs, there are two considerations that impact the danger. First is the danger of pancreatitis or gastrointestinal upset and second is the risk of choking. Choking hazards are more common in small dogs but can occur in any dog.

The answer to the question, “can dogs eat peanuts” …the answer is yes. Dogs can eat small amounts of peanuts and some dogs enjoy peanuts as a healthy snack. However, ingestion of peanuts can lead to gastrointestinal issues in some dogs.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Any food can cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs. What may not cause illness in one dog may create sickness in another dog. The same can happen in people. Some foods that bother some people may not affect others.

The Dangers of Peanuts to Dogs

Ingestion of large amounts of peanuts can cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs. If your dog ingested peanuts and is showing symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, not eating or lethargy, please call your veterinarian or closest emergency clinic.

Do Dogs Need Peanuts?

There is nothing in peanuts that dogs require. What dogs do need is a high-quality AAFCO approved dog food. Learn more about Nutrition for Dogs.

The Safest Way to Give Peanuts to Dogs

The safest way to give peanuts to your dog is to offer a small amount of a cut up nut. The peanut should be shelled and your dog should be monitored to ensure he/she does not choke.

Can you Give Peanut Butter to Dogs?

Peanut butter is an extraction from peanuts. In its natural state it is safe to give to the dog and is commonly given to as a treat or to hide oral medications such as pills. However, peanut butter can be sweetened with xylitol, a sweetener used in many foods, which can be safe for humans but toxic to dogs. If your dog ingests peanut butter, carefully look at the label to determine if it has sweeteners such as xylitol. If you determine your dog has ingested xylitol, please call your veterinarian immediately. Learn more about Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs.

Is Peanut Flour, Peanut Extract, Peanut Oil Toxic to Dogs?

Peanut oil is commonly used in cooking and considered high in monounsaturated “good” fat, and low in saturated “bad” fat. Although it is not toxic, ingestions of large amounts is not good for your dog. If you determine your dog has ingested peanut oil and is showing abnormal symptoms, please call your veterinarian immediately.

Additional Articles that May be of Interest About Can Dogs Eat Peanuts?

Can Dogs Eat Watermelon?

Dog owners commonly ponder about the toxicity of foods. The questions about the safety of different foods increased after learning that certain foods were toxic which led to a lot of press coverage. The most important foods are Chocolate, Grapes and Raisins, and Peanut Butter. Exposure to the dangers of these foods has encouraged pet owners to ask about other human foods such as can dogs eat bananas. Learn more about what dogs can and can’t eat in this article: The Ultimate Guide to What Dogs Can’t Eat.

Can Dogs Eat Watermelon?

Watermelon is a large fruit of a plant from the gourd family that grows on the ground on a vine. It has green striped skin, red pulp with high water content, and seeds. There are new “seedless” varieties of watermelon. The flowing watermelon plant is cultivated from West Africa.

When researching the safety and danger of watermelons for dogs, there are a couple of considerations. First is the potential for blockage from the stems, seeds, rind, and leaves. Dogs that have exposure to gardens and eat the leaves can develop gastrointestinal upset and potential blockage. The same is true for dogs that eat the rind or large amounts of seeds. The second is the risk of choking when eating large pieces or in some cases whole large pieces of watermelons.

The answer to the question, can dogs eat watermelons…the answer is yes. Dogs can eat watermelon. Dogs often love the crunchy soft texture and enjoy it as a healthy snack. Watermelon is a good source of water (watermelon is about 92% water), nitric oxide, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium.

Although watermelon is considered safe, any food can cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs. What does not bother some dogs does bother others. The same can happen in people. Some foods can bother one person but not another.

The Dangers of Watermelons to Dogs

Ingestion of large amounts of stems, seeds, rind, and leaves of watermelons can cause a gastrointestinal blockage. A few watermelon seeds are not likely to be harmful but it is best to cut out the seeds before giving to your dog. The watermelon rind is not very digestible and can cause gastrointestinal upset and intestinal blockage.

Do Dogs Need Watermelons?

There is nothing in watermelons that dogs require. What dogs do need is a high-quality AAFCO approved dog food. Learn more about Nutrition for Dogs.

The Safest Way to Give Watermelons to Dogs

The safest way to give watermelon to your dog is to offer small pieces or sliced watermelon without the rind and seeds. You can purchase the unseeded watermelon varieties which are great options.

Additional Articles Related to Can Dogs Eat Watermelons

Can Dogs Eat Bananas?

Dog owners commonly ponder about the toxicity of foods. The questions about the safety of different foods increased after learning that certain foods were toxic which led to a lot of press coverage. The most important foods are Chocolate, Grapes and Raisins, and Peanut Butter. Exposure to the dangers of these foods has encouraged pet owners to ask about other human foods such as can dogs eat bananas. Learn more about what dogs can and can’t eat in this article: The Ultimate Guide to What Dogs Can’t Eat.

Can Dogs Eat Bananas?

A banana is a long curved fruit with a soft pulpy flesh covered by a green skin (when not ripe) or yellow skin (when ripe). They grow in clusters on a banana tree. The banana tree has very large palm type leaves that grow in subtropical and tropical climates. There are over 1000 types of bananas. The most common type that we eat is the Cavendish banana.

The answer to can dogs eat bananas? — is yes. Dogs can eat bananas but in moderation. Dogs often love the soft texture and many enjoy this as a healthy snack. Bananas are high in potassium and a good source of Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, fiber, protein, biotin, manganese, and copper.

However, any food can cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs. What may not bother one dog may cause problems in a different dog. The same can happen in people. Some foods can bother one person but not another.

The Dangers of Bananas to Dogs

Ingestion of large amounts of bananas can cause gastrointestinal upset and ingestion of excessive amounts of bananas can cause constipation.

Ingestion of banana peels can cause a gastrointestinal obstruction. The peels are very difficult to ingest. Signs of problems include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, abdominal pain, straining to defecate, and/or a decreased appetite.

The other danger of bananas to dogs is the danger of choking – especially when eating the peel. Some dogs are not good at “chewing” their food and the danger of choking can occur.

Please be careful if your dog eats anything banana flavored that contains the sweeter xylitol. Learn more about Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs here.

Do Dogs Need Bananas?

There is nothing in bananas that dogs require. What dogs do need is a high-quality AAFCO approved dog food. Learn more about Nutrition for Dogs here.

The Safest Way to Give Bananas to Dogs

The safest way to give a banana to your dog is to give small pieces of sliced peeled Banana. Dogs should never be fed the banana peel.

Try a Dog Treat Recipe Featuring Bananas

Check out this recipe for a treat made with bananas. Go to Homemade Dog Treat Recipes: Cheese Cookies and Banana Pupcakes.

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The Ultimate Guide to What Dogs Can’t Eat

There are human foods that are completely safe for dogs and also foods that are dangerous and even potentially fatal. Many pet owners learn about toxic foods only after their dog has ingested something and started having abnormal symptoms.

Dogs are naturally curious and have an amazing sense of smell. This combination often leads to them to get into purses, get food off counters, steal food from grills, get into trash cans, and sneak food from plates. Other times, well-intentioned pet owners offer table scraps or human foods without understanding that they are toxic.

Below, we will review what can’t dogs eat as well as list what is safe. It is important to have healthy alternatives once you know what is not safe.

Safe Food for Dogs

There are many human foods that are “safe” for dogs. However, there are no human foods that dogs need. What dogs need is a good quality food formulated for the size, age, and activity of your dog. Learn more about Nutrition for Dogs.

Safe Treats for Dogs

The ideal dog treat is one made of good quality ingredients, moderate to low in calories, consistent in ingredients (thus unlikely to cause stomach upset from bag to bag), very appealing to your dog, and safe. Higher-quality treats tend to be more consistently produced, so it is best to avoid discount and supermarket brands if possible.

There are many human foods you can feed your dog safely. By safely, I mean these foods below are not toxic to dogs. However, large quantities of any food or food given to dogs with sensitive gastrointestinal tracts can lead to problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, and/or pancreatitis.

Safe foods and treats for dogs:

  • Almonds
  • Apples – small amounts without the seeds
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Bananas
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli – cooked or raw clean/washed
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots – cooked or raw clean/washed
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery – cooked or raw clean/washed
  • Cheese
  • Chicken – cooked
  • Cooked fish such as salmon
  • Cooked green beans. In fact, some pet owners give green beans to aid in weight loss. Learn more about the Green Bean Diet for Dogs
  • Cooked ground beef or steak
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Cranberries
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Freshly cooked lunch meat
  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • Kiwis
  • Oatmeal
  • Oranges
  • Papaya
  • Pasta
  • Peanuts
  • Popcorn
  • Pork – cooked
  • Potato – raw or cooked plain or sweet
  • Pumpkin – cooked
  • Rice or rice cake
  • Shrimp
  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Turkey – cooked
  • Yogurt
  • Watermelon

Tips for giving treats:

  • Treats are never a replacement for a good quality core dog food.
  • Consider low-calorie treats for dogs with weight control problems.
  • Give only fresh foods. Moldy or rotten food can cause gastrointestinal upset.

What Dogs Can’t Eat: Foods Not Safe for Dogs

Any food in large pieces or chunks can cause difficulty chewing or swallowing and can be a choking hazard.

Specific foods that veterinarians commonly recommend NOT to give to dogs include the following:

  • Apples, Apricots, Cherries, Peaches, and Plums. Ingestion of large amounts of stems, seeds, and leaves of these fruits can be toxic. They contain a cyanide type compound and signs of toxicity include anxiety, dilated pupils, labored breathing, fast breathing, and shock. Small pieces of cleaned apple without the seeds can be safe.
  • Avocados. The leaves, fruit, bark, and seeds of avocados have previously all been reported to be toxic due to “persin” found in the fuit. However, recent studies have shown that the affect on pets isn’t great. Learn about the safety of avocados here.
  • Baked Goods. These products made with Xylitol which is highly toxic to dogs. Xylitol is a sweeter used in place of sugar primarily because it is lower in calories. Xylitol is also an ingredient in many different gums and even baked goods. It is in many products designed for people with Diabetes due to its low glycemic index. Xylitol can cause low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs. Learn more with this article on Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs.
  • Baking Powder and Baking Soda. Baking soda and baking powder are both leavening agents. A leavening agent is a common ingredient in baked goods that produces a gas causing batter and dough to rise. Baking soda is simply sodium bicarbonate. Baking powder consists of baking soda and an acid, usually cream of tartar, calcium acid phosphate, sodium aluminum sulfate or a mixture of the three. Ingestion of large amounts of baking soda or baking powder can lead to electrolyte abnormalities (low potassium, low calcium and/or high sodium), congestive heart failure or muscle spasms.
  • Bones. There are many bones that aren’t safe for dogs. This can be due to the danger of them getting stuck or caught in the mouth, sharp splinters injuring the intestines, risk of constipation when passing relatively indigestible bone fragments, as well as possible bacterial contamination on the bone that can lead to illness. Learn more about The Danger of Bones.
  • Bread Dough. Dough containing yeast which rises in the moist, warm environments such as in the stomach. After ingestion, the rising dough can expand the stomach and decrease blood flow. Fermentation of the yeast can be reduced to alcohol causing signs of intoxication.
  • Chewing Gum. Gums that are made with Xylitol can be toxic. Learn more with this article on Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs.
  • Chocolate. Chocolate, in addition to having a high-fat content, contains caffeine and theobromine. These two compounds are nervous system stimulants and can be toxic to your dog in high amounts. Learn more about the specific amount of each toxin that is toxic based on body weight in this article: Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs.
  • Coffee (grounds and beans). Dogs that eat coffee grounds or beans can get “caffeine” toxicity. The symptoms are very similar to those of chocolate toxicity and can be just as or even more serious.
  • Dairy Products. Human dairy products are not highly dangerous but can pose problems for two reasons. One is their high-fat content and like other foods with high-fat content, there is a risk of pancreatitis. The second reason is that dogs poorly digest dairy products since they lack the enzyme required to digest lactose. This affects some dogs more than others and can cause gas to diarrhea. Small amounts of plain yogurt or cheese are tolerated by most dogs but it is probably safest to avoid dairy products altogether.
  • Diet Foods. Foods made for weight loss or diabetes may have the ingredient xylitol.
  • Fatty Foods. Rich and fatty foods are favorites of dogs. They often get them as treats, leftovers, or from getting into the trash. These fatty foods can cause pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can affect any dog but miniature or toy poodles, cocker spaniels, and miniature schnauzers are particularly prone. Signs of pancreatitis generally include an acute onset of vomiting, sometimes diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is often evidenced by hunched posture or “splinting” of the abdomen when picked up. The dog may become very sick quickly and often needs intensive fluid and antibiotic therapy.
  • Grapes and Raisins. Ingestion of grapes and/or raisins can cause kidney failure in some dogs. Some pet owners feed grapes thinking they are a healthy treat or give a piece of a cookie with raisins. Aggressive, and sometimes prolonged, treatment may be necessary to give the affected dog a chance at survival. Despite testing, the reason for the kidney failure and the amount necessary for toxicity remains unknown. Learn more about Grape and Raisin Toxicity.
  • Onions and Garlic. Dogs and cats lack the enzyme necessary to properly digest onions and this could result in gas, vomiting, diarrhea or severe gastrointestinal distress. If large amounts of onion or garlic are ingested or onions are a daily part of your dog’s diet, the red blood cells may become fragile and break apart. This is due to the toxic ingredient in onions and garlic, thiosulphate. Learn more at Why You Shouldn’t Feed Your Dog Garlic.
  • Peanut Butter. Some peanut butter manufacturers add xylitol to peanut butter, which is toxic to dogs. Learn more about Peanut Butter Toxicity in Dogs.
  • Rawhides. Like bones, rawhides can also get stuck in the esophagus or stomach of dogs, causing problems. Although this is not human food, it is worth a mention with the goal to prevent your dog from getting sick. There is also a risk of bacterial contamination. Learn more about The Good and Bad of Rawhides.
  • Table Scraps. Scraps, especially those that are fatty can cause gastrointestinal upset or pancreatitis in dogs. Some dogs tolerate table scraps well but others can become very ill.

Best Treats for Dogs

The best treats for dogs are either kibble from their regular dog food or treats made for dogs that meet the AAFCO requirements.

How Many Teeth Do Dogs Have?

Pet parents may wonder about their dog’s normal anatomy, physiology, and function. This may include questions about their teeth if they get baby teeth, when they may lose them, and about their adult teeth. A particular interest “how many teeth do dogs have” is a common question.

First, what are teeth? Teeth are hard calcified tissue (dentine) covered by enamel that develops inside the mouth and are anchored to the upper and lower jaw bones. The upper jaw bone is called the maxilla and the lower jaw bone is the mandible. There is a row of teeth on each the upper and lower jaw bones.

Each tooth consists of a crown and root (or roots). The crown is the part that can be seen in the mouth and the root or roots are located under the gum line and are covered with gums and bone (figure 1). Learn more about the structure and function of the teeth, gums, and tongue.

how many teeth do dogs have

Figure 1. Plastic model of a dogs mouth. The crown of the tooth is the part that can be seen in the mouth below the gums and the roots, or in some cases roots, is located under the gum line.

The function of dog teeth is to acquire food and to break it down into small pieces once it enters the mouth. The different type of teeth (figure 2) provide different functions. For example, the sharp fang teeth (the canine teeth) allow a dog to tear food. The front teeth (the incisors) generally bite food, and the rear teeth (premolars and molars) help grind, break down or mash the food.

how many teeth do dogs have

Figure 2. Plastic model of a dogs mouth indicating the location of the incisors, canines, premolars, and molars.

Dog Tooth Development

Dogs are born without teeth. At approximately 21 to 30 days of age, puppies will begin to get their baby teeth, also known as the deciduous or temporary teeth. When these teeth begin to break through the gums, it is referred to as the teeth erupting or teething phase. This can be painful or uncomfortable. The exact age may differ amongst breeds and can even vary within puppies of the same litter. Learn more about this and when the individual teeth come in this article: Do Dogs Have Baby Teeth.

Just like with people, eventually, the baby teeth fall out and are replaced with the permanent teeth. Dogs’ exact dentition may vary with the breed and even differ between dogs within the breed. Most dogs will end up with 42 adult or permanent teeth.

How Many Teeth Do Dogs Have?

Dogs will develop teeth in the front, sides, and back of the mouth. The types of teeth include:

Incisors – The teeth that develop in the front are called the incisors. There are 6 incisors on the upper and lower jaw.
Canines – Just behind the incisor teeth are the canine teeth. These are the sharp “fang” teeth. There is one canine tooth on each side of the set of incisors. There are two upper canines and two lower canine teeth.
Premolars – The premolar teeth sit behind the canine teeth and generally consist of 4 teeth on each side.
Molars – The last set of teeth in the mouth are the molars. They sit just behind the premolars and generally consist of 2 teeth on the upper jaw and 3 teeth on each side on the lower jaw.

how many teeth do dogs have

Figure 3. Dental exam label commonly used in veterinary practices. The Upper is for the upper jaw and lower for the lower jaw. R = right, LL = left. I = incisions, C = canine, P = premolars, M = molars.

Do Dogs Have Wisdom Teeth?

Humans have wisdom teeth, but dogs do not have wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth are an extra set of molar teeth that come in sometime between the ages of 17 and 22. They can aid chewing, however if there isn’t enough space in the mouth or if they are in the wrong position, they can become impacted.

When Do Dogs Get their Permanent (Adult) Teeth?

The eruption of the permanent teeth in dogs is as follows:

Incisors

  • Central: 2-5 months
  • Intermediate: 2-5 months
  • Corner: 4-5 months

Canine

  • 5 months

Premolars

  • First: 4-5 months
  • Second: 6 months
  • Third: 6 months
  • Fourth: 4-5 months

Molars

  • First: 5-6 months
  • Second: 6-7 months
  • Third: 6-7 months

3 Common Diseases of the Teeth in Dogs

There are a number of diseases that affect the teeth of dogs with the most common being the following:

  • Tooth root abscesses – A tooth root abscess is an infection that occurs around the tooth root. They most commonly develop in the upper fourth premolar. A classic sign on physical examination is an accumulation of pus around the root of the tooth. Tooth root abscesses can create a draining tract beneath the eye or on the cheek that can break open and drain. A common presentation of a tooth root abscess is a painful facial swelling that develops on the check and breaks open draining pus. Learn more about Tooth Root Abscess in Dogs.
  • Gingivitis – Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gum surrounding the tooth. Learn more about Gingivitis in Dogs.
  • Periodontal disease – This is an inflammation of the tooth’s support structures, including the associated gum ligament and bone. Learn more about Periodontal Disease in Dogs.

Additional Articles on How Many Teeth Dogs Have

Tooth Root Abscesses in Dogs

Tooth root abscesses are infections that occur around the tooth root. They most commonly develop in the upper fourth premolar tooth, also known as the carnassial tooth. Once the infection develops around the root and between the skull bone, it is difficult for the body to fight infection in this location. As the infection builds, it often creates a draining tract through the skin on the cheek or below the eye. The skin is the weakest on this portion of the body in this area.

A classic sign of a tooth root abscess on physical examination is a swelling or draining wound beneath the eye that can break open and drain. The swelling can often be the size of a golf ball. When left alone, the opening can sometimes close and reopen as the pocket of infection reaccumulates.

Tooth root abscesses can occur in dogs of any age or sex. Most dogs improve in 48 to 72 hours with appropriate early treatment of the condition.

What to Watch For

  • Signs of tooth root abscessation usually occur suddenly and include:
  • Swelling of tissues below the eye or on the cheek
  • Pain upon opening the mouth
  • Not eating (due to pain) or reluctance to chew hard food
  • Crying when chewing
  • Lymph node enlargement
  • Lethargy
  • Fever

Diagnosis of Tooth Root Abscesses in Dogs

A thorough exam is performed including the evaluation of the face including the eyes, nose, and mouth. Attempts may be made to examine the mouth, but this may be too painful for your pet and may have to be performed under sedation. Often, a physical examination is all that is needed to diagnose tooth root abscessation. In some cases, additional diagnostics may be required and may include:

  • Complete blood count
  • Biochemical profile
  • Urinalysis
  • X-rays of the mouth and teeth

Treatment of Tooth Root Abscesses in Dogs

Treatment is aimed at eliminating the infection and treating the underlying dental problem. In mild cases, antibiotics and pain medications are usually started both orally, however definitive treatment includes a dental cleaning and care of the infected tooth which may include extraction or endodontic treatment (total pulpectomy and root canal filling). Endodontic treatment is generally treated in multiple appointments. Most dogs respond to treatment and improve in 48 to 72 hours.

If the signs are severe or worsen, dental cleaning and care may be treated as an emergency and performed within 24 to 72 hours following diagnosis. General anesthesia is needed for this procedure.

Common prescriptions may include:

  • Carprofen is commonly given for relief of pain and inflammation. This is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Do not administer this medication with steroids. This medication may have gastrointestinal side effects so please do not administer this medication if your dog is vomiting, having diarrhea, or refusing food.
  • A variety of antibiotics may be prescribed. One commonly prescribed antibiotic for oral infections is Clindamycin which is generally given twice daily.
  • Do not give human pain medications to animals at any time without the approval of your veterinarian.

Home Care and Prevention for Canine Tooth Root Abscess

  • If your dog is painful and has a draining wound from the face, a veterinary examination is recommended immediately. Once a dental abscess is diagnosed and treatment has been started, all medications must be continued at home exactly as prescribed. Such medications may include topical antibiotics or local wound care, oral antibiotics, and oral pain medications.
  • Your veterinarian may also ask you to apply warm, wet compresses to wound three to four times per day for several days to reduce swelling and encourage drainage. Offer soft foods to help your pet eat until the swelling and pain have diminished.
  • To reduce the risk of tooth root abscessation discuss the best dental care plan for your dog with your veterinarian. Daily tooth brushing and periodic dental cleaning may be the best prevention strategy.

Additional Articles About Tooth Root Abscesses in Dogs

Is Your Dog’s Gum Color Bad?

What Healthy Dog Gums Look Like

The gum tissue, also known as the oral mucosa or mucous membranes, is the soft tissue lining in the mouth that covers the roof of the mouth and is between the teeth and lips. The gums are connected to the underlying bone tissue.

Gum color will often provide insight into the health or wellbeing of a dog. The pink color in gum color, similar to the pink in skin color, is a result of blood flow to pale or almost colorless tissues. Blood flow can be altered by conditions that result from shock, blood loss, anemia, or other bleeding abnormalities. Dental issues can result in a deeper red inflamed appearance to the gums that are most commonly around the teeth.

In normal healthy dogs, the gum color can be either pink or pigmented, depending on the breed and pigmentation of your dog. It is easier to assess for gum color abnormalities in dogs that are not pigmented. Breeds that are known for normal black pigmented gums include the Chow and the Chinese Shar-Pei.

In a dog with unpigmented gums, the normal gum color is a normal healthy pink, sometimes referred to as “bubblegum pink”. The gums should be smooth, moist, and shiny with no evidence of excessive redness, discharge, or odor. They should not be painful.

In a pigmented dog, his normal pigmentation color is that color of pigment. Having pigmented gums is not a bad or dangerous thing. The pigmentation blocks some of the ability to evaluate for signs of shock or anemia (low red blood cell counts). To evaluate mucous membrane color, you can look at the conjunctiva of the eye as an alternative.

Some dogs will have both unpigmented and pigmented gums. In these cases, to assess the gum color, please look at the unpigmented sections (Figure 1).

dog gum color

Figure 1. Dog with both areas of gum pigmentation and normal unpigmented gum tissue.

It is ideal to look in your dog’s mouth periodically providing that you can do so safely. Daily monitoring is best when you brush your dog’s teeth. Many pet owners wonder about their dogs teeth such as when they came in and how many teeth they have. These articles may be of interest to you:

What Unhealthy Dog Gums Look Like

As mentioned above, unhealthy gums can vary depending on your dog’s natural pigmentation. Unhealthy gums can look like any of the following:

  • Pale – Pale gums or mucous membranes can indicate blood loss or “shock”. The possible causes for either blood loss or shock are life-threatening and should be evaluated immediately.
  • Bleeding – Bleeding gums can be caused by local problems or systemic problems. Local problems may include trauma to the mouth, infections, foreign material such as a bone, stick, or plastic being lodged in the tissue. Bleeding can also occur from systemic diseases such as bleeding abnormalities from immune-mediated problems or toxins. Bleeding can appear as fresh blood or as small pinpoint hemorrhages, also known as petechiae. All signs of bleeding are abnormal. Learn more about bleeding disorders in dogs.
  • Inflammation – Inflamed gums are a common sign of dental disease, most commonly periodontal disease which is also frequently referred to as the silent killer. Infected gum tissue is often red, swollen, and inflamed. Other causes of inflammation can be from local infections, chemical burns, trauma, infectious diseases, and more.
  • Infections – Gum infections can occur and results from underlying systemic disease or from local infections from bad teeth.
  • Ulcers – Some dogs will have ulcers on the gums due to chemical burns, trauma, and/or infections. One common cause of oral ulcerations is from exposure to liquid potpourri. Learn more about Potpourri Exposure and Toxicity. Some infections can also be caused by underlying infectious diseases. An ulcer will look like a raw open abrasion that is often irregular with an uneven red surface. It may also have an odor.
  • Odor – Smelling gums or an odor from the mouth can be a sign of dental disease or infections. Foreign objects such as stick or bones can also become lodged in the mouth resulting in a foul odor. Bad breath can also be caused by systemic disease such as diabetes or kidney disease.

How To Keep Them Healthy

The best way to keep your dog’s gum tissue healthy is to feed a high-quality dog food formulated to meet the AAFCO standards. Provide good dental care that consists of daily brushing and periodical dental cleanings by your veterinarian. Learn more about dental cleaning in this article: Dog Teeth Cleaning: Who Should Do It?

Dog Teeth: What You Need to Know

Dog teeth perform the functions of tearing food, sometimes biting prey, and breaking or grinding food into smaller pieces. Dogs, like people and many other species, are born without teeth and develop two sets of teeth during their lifetime. The baby teeth, also known as the deciduous teeth, begin to develop at about three weeks of age.

The baby teeth serve during puppyhood and are replaced by the adult or permanent teeth. Dogs generally have 28 baby teeth that are gradually replaced by 42 adult teeth. When the teeth come in and how they develop will depend on the breed but can even vary within the breed or within the same litter. Learn more about the tooth development schedule in this article: Do Dogs Have Baby Teeth?

As the body and bones grow and reach maturity, the adult teeth develop, pushing out the baby teeth. The adult teeth are larger than the baby teeth and will be the teeth that will remain with the dog for the rest of its life.

The teeth are located in the upper and lower jaw bones. There are different types of teeth and they have different functions. Learn more about that in this article: How Many Teeth Do Dogs Have?

How Do You Care for Your Dog’s Teeth?

It is important to care for your dog’s teeth, just as it is important for you to care for your own teeth. Similar recommendations exist between humans and dogs. Our dentists recommend that for basic care, in addition to flossing, that we brush at least daily and have dental cleanings every 6 months.

For dogs, daily brushing is recommended and a deeper professional clean periodically. The frequency of a deeper clean will depend on your ability to brush your dog’s teeth and his innate dental situation. Deeper dental cleaning, commonly referred to as a “dental”, “dental prophylaxis” or dental “prophy”, is done by a veterinarian. Learn more about Dog Teeth Cleaning: Who Should Do It?

Just as some people have beautiful teeth with very little work or dental care, the same is true for dogs. On the opposite side, some dogs have terrible dental disease even with great care. Some dogs benefit from a dental cleaning twice a year, yearly or every other year depending on the individual patient’s situation.

How Can You Tell if Your Dog Teeth are Diseased?

There are several signs of dental disease in dogs that can vary depending on the underlying cause. They may include:

  • Tartar accumulation on the teeth
  • Bad breath (also known as halitosis)
  • Red or inflamed gums – learn more here: Is Your Dog’s Gum Color Bad?
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Dropping food from the mouth
  • Tooth loss
  • Picking eating – some dogs may prefer softer food
  • Pawing or rubbing at the face or mouth
  • Infection in the skin below the eye (tooth root abscess)
  • Drooling (increased salivation)
  • Decreased appetite

In general, dogs are very good at hiding symptoms of pain, just by their nature of survival. By instinct, they don’t want to appear vulnerable to predators. Some dogs with significant problems may show very few symptoms. In fact, it is common for dental problems to be diagnosed during a routine physical examination by your veterinarian. After problems are treated, pet owners frequently notice that their pet feels much better, has a better appetite, and is more playful. One of my favorite quotes from dog owners after treating dental problems is “Doc, I didn’t know how much he hurt until he didn’t hurt”.

Common Dog Teeth Problems

Dogs and cats get most of the common dental problems that we humans get that includes dental plaque, tartar, periodontal disease, gingivitis, and more. Below is more information about some common dog dental problems.

  • Plaque – Dental plaque is a sticky substance that covers the teeth consisting of bacteria, saliva, food particles, and epithelial cells. Plaque builds up on the tooth surface and gum line every day. Left undisturbed the plaque can mineralize, or harden, in less than 2 days, forming calculus or tartar.
  • Tartar– Dental tartar is a film that covers teeth consisting of calcium phosphate and carbonate, food particles and other organic matter, or is basically ”mineralized plaque”. The tartar will stick to the tooth surface forming a scaffold for more plaque accumulation. The continued build-up of tartar both above and below the gum line can eventually produce an environment that is a haven for certain types of bacteria that may be more destructive to the periodontal tissues and also produce a more noticeable odor. This can lead to periodontal disease. Learn more about Dental Tartar.
  • Periodontal Disease – Periodontal disease is a very common infectious disease caused by bacteria that make up plaque. This results in inflammation of the structures that support teeth, the gum tissue, periodontal ligament, alveolus (small cavity) and cementum (bonelike connective tissue covering the root of a tooth and assisting in tooth support). Learn more about Periodontal Disease in Dogs.
  • Gingivitis in Dogs – Gingivitis is inflammation of the gum tissue resulting in redness and swelling, most commonly caused by dental plaque in dogs. Bacteria mixes with the proteins and starches in the saliva that adheres to the teeth. Gingivitis can lead to periodontitis or inflammation around the tooth root, which in turn can lead to tooth loss.
  • Tooth Root Abscess – An abscess can form around the tooth root that can cause pain and tooth loss. Sometimes the infection will migrate up to the cheek and appear as a wound on the face.
  • Teeth Chattering – Some pet owners may notice that their dog’s teeth may chatter. There are many causes for this that can range from pain to a seizure.
  • Attrition (Worn Teeth) in Dogs – As dogs age, the teeth can show signs of wear. This is particularly common in the incisors (front teeth) of older dogs. Attrition is the word used to describe an abnormally rapid loss of the top of the tooth (crown).

When to See Your Vet About Dog Teeth

If you have concern for your dog’s teeth, please see your veterinarian. Dental disease can be painful and dogs are excellent at hiding their dental issues. If your dog has bad breath, is pawing at his face, has a decreased appetite, increased drooling, or you have any other concerns, please see your veterinarian.

Is the Dental Vaccine Recommended for Dogs?

In 2006 a vaccine called the Porphyromonas Vaccine was introduced to help prevent periodontal disease. The bacteria that cause most periodontitis are Porphyromonas gulae, Porphyromonas salivosa, and Porphyromonas denticani. Studies document these bacteria have long-term effects on bone loss.

What Is the Average Greyhound Lifespan?

Pet owners love greyhounds because of their quiet, even-tempered demeanor. These wonderful dogs have a very long lifespan, considering their size, and they tend to enjoy good health for most of their lives.

If you’re wondering about the greyhound lifespan, you’ll be glad to know that they live fairly long lives. The average greyhound lifespan is about 10 to 13 years. That makes the greyhound one of the longest-lived big dogs. Some greyhounds have lived as long as 15 years, but this is not the norm.

To help you better understand why the greyhound lifespan is as long as it is, read on to learn more about the history of the greyhound breed and to find out how you can help your dog live as long as possible.

History of the Greyhound Breed

With cave drawings and Egyptian artifacts portraying the greyhound as far back as 8.000 years ago, the greyhound is among the oldest of all dog breeds. In England, greyhounds have long been associated with royalty. You’ll find this noble dog is the subject of many paintings and you’ll find him in English literature throughout the centuries.

This ancient breed probably originated in Egypt, and greyhounds have been prized dogs throughout history. Greyhound-like drawings appear on the walls of Egyptian tombs dating from 2200 BC. The Egyptians treasured these hounds, and their birth and death were recorded as if they were members of the family. Here’s an interesting fact – greyhounds were often mummified and buried with their owners for the trip to the afterlife.

This breed was greatly admired by many different cultures, and greyhounds are the only dog breed to be mentioned in the Bible.

Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth I of England, President Rutherford B. Hayes and General Custer were all greyhound owners.

The origin of the name “greyhound” is a subject of much debate. Some believe that greyhounds used to be only gray in color. Others believe the name is Old English. That’s because “grei” means “dog” and “hundr” means “hunter.” This argument is strengthened by the fact that greyhounds did originate as hunting dogs. Another possibility is that the name is derived from “gre” or “gradus”, which would mean “first rank among dogs.” Finally, some believe that the name greyhound originated from “Greekhound” since the breed first arrived in England from the Greeks.

The greyhound is the quintessential hunter. Greyhounds were bred to hunt prey for thousands of years and they are the fastest of all dog breeds. Greyhounds can sprint at speeds of up to 40 or 45 miles an hour.

Today, greyhounds are bred for racing but they are becoming increasingly popular as family pets. They are not territorial and they seldom bark. Greyhounds are graceful and quiet dogs that are incredibly loving. Greyhounds love to be petted and rubbed and they enjoy the loving company of their human families. They make excellent house dogs because they are quiet, clean and very low key.

About the Greyhound Lifespan

Why does the greyhound have an average lifespan of about 10 to 13 years? Many factors contribute to the long greyhound lifespan. Even though these dogs are racers, they are known to be quite lazy. This is a low maintenance dog with low exercise demands, which means they have minimal stress in their lives. Combine that low stress with a hereditary lack of major genetic health problems that are often found in other breeds and you’ll get a dog that is quite healthy.

While the greyhound is a generally healthy dog, there are a number of medical conditions that can affect him. These conditions include:

  • An abnormal response to anesthesia
  • Bloat
  • Bone cancer (osteosarcoma)
  • Minor heart murmurs

As long as they live in a calm, happy home where they are fed a healthy diet and given the daily exercise they require, they should live long, happy lives. Even the retired race dogs have the same long life expectancy.

To make sure that your greyhound lives a long, healthy life, feed him a healthy diet and make sure that he gets enough exercise. A greyhound doesn’t require much daily exercise – a nice long daily walk should be all he needs to stay healthy and happy.

The retired racing greyhound also lives a long life and makes a great pet for adoption. According to the New Jersey Greyhound Adoption Program, Inc., most greyhounds are retired from their athletic activities by the time they are 2 to 5 years of age. To learn more about retired racing greyhounds go to our article Greyhounds Get a Second Chance.