Dental care is needed for dogs at every age, but it becomes even more apparent as a dog ages. As puppies, dogs are losing baby teeth and growing into their gleaming white adult teeth, chewing on toys and gnawing through bones.
At that age, it’s easy to keep thoughts about senior dog dental care in the distance. But, practicing healthy dental hygiene habits at a young age, and instilling them as a routine, can be helpful in the long run — once dental issues start to become more apparent.
Oftentimes it becomes an issue sooner than owners might think. Statistics indicate that up to 80% of dogs will show signs of periodontal disease by the age of 3, which isn’t that far down the road from puppyhood. And for the most part, it’s a battle of biology as a dog’s white blood cells fight the bacteria that is present in plaque — eventually leading to a breakdown of soft tissues and bones.
Since periodontal disease takes time to progress, it’s not uncommon to see it in older dogs. In fact, it is five times as common in dogs as it is in humans. What begins as mildly inflamed gums gradually spreads to cause damage to connective tissue in the gums and initiate attachment loss — which means roots become exposed and teeth can potentially fall out.
When it comes to older dogs and the dental care they need, here are three more things every dog owner needs to know.
Periodontal disease may be affecting a dog’s health. Just as in humans, dental disease can act as a gateway to other, serious health problems. For starters, the pain associated with diseased gums can prompt a dog to avoid food, which could lead to unhealthy weight loss. Difficulty chewing may also lead to weight loss, which is a sign that something may be wrong. In addition, untreated periodontal disease exposes a dog to a greater risk of developing liver problems, kidney disease or heart disease. At Dr. Kelly’s Vet, we encourage dog owners to seek veterinary care at the first sign of periodontal disease — from inflamed gums to yellowing teeth to bad breath or blood in the dog’s water bowl or on toys.
Anesthesia comes with risks. It is estimated that senior dogs represent about 40% of the total dog population. And as those dogs age, diseases and underlying conditions create challenges when anesthesia is needed for treatment — which is almost always the case when it comes to dental procedures. Older dogs that undergo anesthesia have the potential to experience certain complications, and veterinarians — like the experienced team at Dr. Kelly’s — take those risks into account on an individual basis.
Practice good dental habits with senior dogs. Older dogs can still learn a few new tricks, even when it comes to dental care. Dog owners should try to introduce regular tooth brushing, even if it’s later in life, and offer dental chews that help rid the teeth of plaque before it becomes more harmful to the gums.
If you have specific questions about dental care for your senior dog, reach out to our team!
Dr. Kelly’s Surgical Unit is a trusted veterinary team serving the Phoenix, Peoria and Tucson metro areas, with accessible locations in each market, offering highly specialized surgery, quality spay and neuter procedures, and accessible dental care for pets. Contact us to learn more about our specialized services or to schedule an appointment.