Periodontal disease is the most common disease of the oral cavity in dogs. Every dog is affected during its life to some degree. Curiously, compared with other diseases it’s often neglected, although it can be treated or even prevented with care. In oral hygiene, the benefit of any therapeutic intervention is of short duration if it isn’t prolonged with daily care by the owner. The aim of this care is to fight dental plaque. While brushing is accepted as the most effective means of protection, there are alternatives -both physical and chemical -to help control plaque.
What causes this disease?
The cause of periodontal disease is dental plaque defined as a natural bacterial film, or biofilm that develops on the surface of the teeth. This can lead to inflammation, gingivitis, and eventual tooth decay and tooth loss which is just the start of future problems. Several things contribute to plaque buildup and eventually periodontal disease. Dogs less than 18 lbs suffer more than any other dog due to jaw structure and the number of teeth. Age also plays a major role in plaque buildup. A study has shown that 80% of dogs older than 6 years of age show moderate to severe plaque buildup.
How can we prevent this problem?
Let’s first remember that dogs in the wild have a variety of chewing mediums from bones, sticks, antlers and heavy meats. In addition to this, dogs in the wild consume different digestive enzymes from their food sources that help keep their teeth clean, which is why we have this problem with domesticated dogs; not having the same opportunity as a wild dog. As pet owners, we have to figure out how to mimic this situation in our home environment.
What can we do?
Brushing is the gold standard in terms of controlling plaque buildup and gingivitis. As we all know, brushing is not an easy task for owners to accomplish. Brushing can be complimented with the use of active chemical substances of which chlorhexidine is still the most affective. This can be found in dental rinses. Products that contain enzymes, probyotics, and minerals seem to be affective not only in keeping plaque at bay but in plaque removal as well.
Does food help with oral hygiene?
After selling food for over 20 years, I do feel that some but not all foods do help prevent the buildup of plaque and tarter. The active ingredients against plaque buildup can be incorporated into the kibble or chewing bar and are released into the saliva during chewing. Kibble size can also play an important role. On the other hand, soft, canned, or small kibbled foods would not help the function of the teeth and chewing action. In addition to a loss of chewing, a soft food can provoke a reduction in the flow of saliva which then reduces the enzyme secretions. A multi-center study of 1350 dogs concluded that dogs that had a number of things to chew on had less calcium or tarter buildup when compared to dogs that had fewer or nothing to chew on. They also found that dogs that were given dental chews or chewing bars and bones showed a significant reduction in plaque buildup.
Besides offering a good nutritional balance, dry kibble can also play an important role in preventing medical problems. Food with added values pertaining to oral hygiene, along with chewing bars and water additives that contain chlorhexidine seem to help tremendously. In addition to these helpful tips, encouraging your dogs to chew on several chewing products from bones to toys also seems to help with plaque buildup and gingivitis.
Your dog thanks you for reading this.
If you have any further questions on this topic or any other topics presented in my blog, call Ken at 715-421-4112