Prevention of Periodontal Disease

Laura Taylor, CVT
From Arizona Adopt a Greyhound, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

When we adopt our greyhounds, their teeth have been freshly cleaned while they were under anesthesia for their spay or neuter. Now it is up to us to maintain the health of their mouths by providing home care and when needed again, cleaning by your veterinarian.

Working in a veterinary hospital, I sometimes talk to people who are so afraid of losing their pet under anesthesia that they won’t have their pet’s teeth cleaned or won’t have it done on a regular basis. I tell them that with the modern pre-anesthetic agents, gas anesthetics and monitoring equipment available today they are taking a greater chance on shortening the pets life by not cleaning his or her teeth. Left unchecked, periodontal disease can cause valvular heart disease, liver disease and kidney disease due to a constant stream of bacteria from the mouth going through the bloodstream.

So what can we, as conscientious greyhound owners, do to prevent the above mentioned problems as well as "doggy breath," unsightly tartar, gingivitis and eventually, tooth loss? The first thing is not feeding much, if any, canned or "semi-moist" food, as these stick to the teeth more readily than dry dog food. The use of US made rawhide "chewies", under supervision, can help. Do not use real bones, if for no other reason than they are hard enough that teeth can be broken on them. Chew hooves can be splintered, driving the pieces between the tooth and the gum with an abscess resulting if the situation goes undetected. Other chew toys specifically made for dental hygiene are safe.

As far as edible treats go, what I use for my dogs is a five pound bag of Hill’s Prescription Diet T/D. Designed to be fed as the primary food, the dogs have to work a little bit to crunch up the pieces and when they do, the pieces break in a way that produces a "toothbrush" effect on tooth surfaces. Probably the two most important things we can do at home to prevent periodontal disease in our greyhounds is to brush their teeth and use an oral hygiene spray. Always use a pet toothpaste and toothbrush, with a "finger" brush being my personal favorite. After being deposited on the teeth, plaque (food particles mixed with bacteria) will mineralize into tartar 48 hours later, so an every other day brushing schedule is ideal before that has a chance to happen. Once tartar has formed, brushing will not remove it, so the best time to initiate a brushing program is right after the teeth are freshly cleaned. It takes just a couple of minutes of your time and with the "yummy" flavors dog toothpaste comes in, your dog probably won’t mind it either.

Just remember to start slowly until your greyhound is used to having it done and brush the outer surfaces of the teeth in an up and down motion.

Any oral hygiene spray containing Chlorhexidine .1% can be used, check with your veterinarian for availability. Sprayed onto the outer surfaces of the teeth after each meal when food particles are freshly deposited, it knocks down the bacteria count that will start feeding on them, thus helping to control gingivitis, the reddening of the gums caused by bacterial irritation.

Let’s say you diligently do all of the things mentioned above. Will your dog still need to have it’s teeth cleaned professionally?  The answer is yes, but not as often, decreasing the number of times during his or her life it will go under anesthesia and costing you less money. In between cleanings, by doing home care, your dog’s body will be healthier and there will be less tartar to remove, less gingivitis, less chance of extractions and so your greyhound’s time under anesthesia will be shorter during his or her next dental.

The next time you take your greyhound in for a dental, ask for in-house preanesthetic blood tests that check kidney and liver function and for anemia, especially in dogs over eight years of age. While Isoflurane gas is the usual anesthesia choice, discuss with your vet the options available to you. By doing these things, you are ensuring that your dog’s dental is performed as safely as possible.

Between home dental care and professional cleanings, you will help to ensure many healthy years of companionship with your best canine friend.