While dental care is an essential part of your dog’s healthcare routine throughout his life, oral care becomes even more important as dogs age. Older dogs may have other health concerns that affect their teeth, such as diabetes, and will need to visit a pet dentist. They may be less active, as well, which can slow their circulation and affect the health of their teeth and gums. Older pets can also be more at risk for infections as their immune systems age.
Why animal teeth cleaning matters
Clean teeth do more than give your dog a bright smile and sweet-smelling breath. A comprehensive veterinary dental cleaning removes plague and stains below the gum line. Preformed under anesthesia, this procedure removes the bacteria that causes dental plague. Left unchecked, this bacteria can damage your dog’s teeth, inflame his gums and lead to serious infections. These infections are not only painful, they can affect your dog’s overall health, as well. The pain of infected teeth can be stressful and hamper your dog’s ability to eat. Bacteria from gum disease can also enter your dog’s bloodstream and affect his heart and other organs. This is particularly hard on older dogs who might not be able to fight off such an infection.
Signs that it’s time for your dog to see the pet dentist
When you take your older dog to the animal hospital for his annual wellness exam, your veterinarian will check his teeth and gums. If there are signs of tartar build up or gingivitis, your veterinarian will most likely recommend a comprehensive dental cleaning. In between checkups, however, there are signs you can watch for that may indicate a problem with your dog’s teeth and gums. According to the American Veterinary Dental College, these signs include:
- Teeth that look brown or stained
- Teeth that appear to be loose
- Bad breath that doesn’t clear up after a bath (sometimes doggy bad breath is caused by a dirty muzzle)
- Tenderness in and around the mouth
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Shying away when you try to touch his mouth
- Blood that shows up on pull toys or chew toys after your dog has played with them
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained loss of weight
Concerns about anesthesia
Anesthesia is not without risks, especially for older dogs. For a comprehensive dental cleaning, however, anesthesia must be used. There are two ways that the risk to your pet can be kept at a minimum. At the pet hospital, your veterinarian will most likely recommend a blood panel before your dog’s dental procedure. This will tell the doctor whether or not your pet has underlying medical conditions that might adversely affect how well he tolerates anesthesia. Your pet’s doctor will also use the least amount of anesthesia needed to ensure the safety of his staff and the comfort of your pet.