A small dog’s bark is often bigger than his bite – but the little mouth it comes from can be the source of some giant problems. Small dogs in particular often end up down in the mouth due to dental detriment, but of course, every pet parent can benefit by brushing up on oral hygiene.
Little dogs start off their dental health lives with one strike against them: their anatomy. Proportionally, their teeth are larger than their bigger cousins’ teeth, which makes for a crowded mouth. If a small dog’s teeth all develop normally, they simply do not fit. Overcrowding not only leads to a crooked smile, it limits the amount of bone between the teeth, so periodontal disease starts early and progresses rapidly. Crooked teeth also provide more cracks and crevices for plaque to accumulate, mixing up a recipe for disaster.
Another source of trouble is retained baby teeth. Like our two-legged children, puppies lose their baby teeth as permanent teeth come in. When baby teeth fail to fall out, the permanent tooth may never come in, or may come in improperly. Retained baby teeth should be identified and removed by a veterinarian to avoid permanent damage.
Some small breeds, like Pekingese and Shih Tzus, are known for their underbites. Even though it is a breed standard, the underbite causes tooth-to-tooth or tooth-to-soft-tissue contact, which can wear down tooth enamel and lead to soft-tissue trauma and pain.
How can you help?
- Brush your pet’s teeth every day. Use a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically made for pets; for dogs with especially small mouths, consider a cat toothbrush or finger brush instead. If significant dental disease is already present, your pet’s teeth and gums may be too painful to brush. Ask your vet about using dental wipes or a rinse instead.
- Offer your pet dental treats and chew toys designed to help reduce plaque.
- Consider a dental diet. These prescription diets are formulated to reduce plaque buildup on teeth.
- Examine your pet’s mouth often. Tell your vet if you spot redness of the gums, increased tartar, loose teeth, bad breath or retained baby teeth.
Always follow your vet’s advice when it comes to professional teeth cleaning. Just as you have your teeth polished twice a year, your pet should have regular dental maintenance as well. A healthy mouth is key to maintaining wholebody health. The bacteria and inflammation associated with dental disease are increasingly becoming associated with diseases in other parts of the body, including serious forms of cardiac, kidney and liver disease. Good dental hygiene is important for all pets, but if you have a pint-sized pooch, pay extra
attention to his pearly whites.