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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Caring For Your Senior Dog’s Teeth – Importance of Dental Care

As my dog. Ashley, gets older I have begun more and more to research issues that commonly occur in senior dogs. Ashley,  my Australian Shepherd,  is now 10 years old. So, I've decided to start a series of posts on issues that focus on the health issues that are common to most dogs as they age.

Recently, I made a trip to the veterinarian because Ashley was having an issue with excessive licking and drooling. The behavior was very evident after she finished one of her raw hide chews. She would lick as if she had peanut butter on the roof of her mouth. I also noticed that she was licking her paws more and a few times I found a puddle of drool after  It wasn't difficult to conclude that there was something dental in nature going on. Fortunately, I left with some dental salve and directions for some extra brushing. This experience inspired me to look into dental issues more.

The majority of dog owners are well aware that their beloved dog’s teeth will eventually start to wear down as the aging process kicks in. Most owners don’t realize that good dental care can extend the life of your dog by up to two years. Given the average lifespan of canines, two extra years can be a nice chunk of time that you and your family with get to spend with your furry friend.  

Although dental problems can show up in younger dogs, generally it's the older ones that commonly have the most issues. So, what are signs that your pooch may have teeth issues that have to be taken care of? Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not supposed to have bad breath, and if they do, that is the number one indicator that all is not well with their teeth. Failure to remove tartar will make it turn into plaque, which hardens and cannot simply be brushed away. A simple inspection of the teeth will show whether or not your dog has tartar because it will show up as redness in the gum line and teeth discoloration.

A symptom of dental problems, at first, may not seem in any way related in a change in behavior. A lack of energy and a general malaise in your dog can be related to tooth pain. If you notice this in your dog and they show no other signs of sickness, then watch them when they eat; if they favor one side of their mouth over the other, gulps down their  food without chewing, drools excessively, or has a complete loss of appetite, then they may be suffering from dental problems. These are subtle signs and can easily be mistaken as a sign that your dog is slowing down with age.

Even with the proper care, such as regular brushing, giving your dog vet recommended dental bones, and regular vet trips, dental problems may still arise.  Surgery might become the only option available if the condition is very serious. Surgery can be a dangerous prospect for an older dog as there are definite risks when it comes to administering an anesthetic, but your vet will most likely do a series of x-rays and tests beforehand to ensure that your dog is healthy enough to be able to get through the surgery safely.

Sadly, you may be faced with a difficult decision when it comes to surgery. The risk of problems in giving an older dog an anesthetic is almost balanced out by the fact that dental issues in older dogs, when left untreated, can lead to more serious health problems. These issues can lead to serious problems with major organs like the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, and can even do damage to the bladder. You know your dog best, and with assistance from your vet, you will be able to make the choice that you both believe will give your dog the best shot at having a happy outcome.

For more information on dogs, dog care behavior visit my website, Loving Family Pets, at

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