Consequences of Poor Canine Dental Health
We all know that if left untreated, periodontal disease in dogs can have some major consequences. Periodontal disease doesn't happen overnight. Plaque accumulates in your dog's mouth, and if not cleaned regularly, the plaque hardens, forming tartar. When this accumulation starts to build up around the gum line, your dog's immune system gets involved by having an inflammatory response in the area. In other words, gingivitis occurs. After gingivitis is in the picture, things can go downhill very quickly. Gingivitis is the body's response to killing the bad bacteria that has built up in your dog's mouth. The unfortunate consequence is that it can also destroy healthy tissue in the process. The worse gingivitis progresses, the more likely it is for bacteria to enter the bloodstream, a process known as bacteremia. This can lead to a whole host of problems, a few of which are outlined below:
Heart, Liver and Kidney Disease
Once bacteria enter the bloodstream, the chances of your pup developing a condition called endocarditis rises dramatically. Endocarditis is an inflammatory reaction the body goes through once bacteria attach to cardiac muscle. According to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WASA), "The risk of endocarditis is about six times higher in dogs with stage three (moderate to severe) periodontal disease than for dogs without it." Upon studying the bacteria in the infected heart muscle, veterinary dentists have found that the cultured bacteria match the bacteria found in the mouth of dogs with periodontal disease. If your pup is exhibiting signs of endocarditis, there is also the added risk of congestive heart failure. In addition to heart disease, bacteremia can also lead to liver and kidney disease from the bacteria-infected blood filtering through those organs.
Pathologic Jaw Fracture
Going back to gingivitis - when tissues are destroyed in the mouth, there is a lot less support for the teeth. The more time that passes, the weaker tooth sockets and jawbones can become without the aforementioned tissue to cushion the regular 'damage' that dogs do like gnawing on bones or even just chewing dry kibble. Although not a very common happening, the jaw can break due to deterioration of supporting tissue by playing too rough with another dog or jumping down from the porch. When this happens, it can also be difficult for the jaw bone to heal correctly, given the bone already being weak before it was broken, and the supporting tissue of the gums may no longer exist in areas.
Loss of Weight and Appetite
Seemingly less mild compared to the above issues but a lot more obvious, if your dog is experiencing severe dental issues, it may make it painful for her to eat, which may make her eat less or stop eating entirely. The infected areas of the mouth may cause your dog to chew her food improperly, drop food while eating, or not even want to open her mouth to consume food at all. In turn, this drastic change in eating habits may cause her to lose weight. Keeping an eye on your furry friend when she eats may be the simplest way to tell if something is wrong. Especially if the vet has told you there is tartar accumulation or if she's getting older.
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