Small dogs - Are they more at risk for dental disease?

Small dogs - Are they more at risk for dental disease?

From the time we're young, we're taught the importance of oral hygiene—brushing our teeth twice a day for two minutes each time. But while we diligently care for our own dental health, we might overlook the oral hygiene needs of our furry friends.

Neglecting our dogs' gums and teeth can lead to periodontal disease, a condition that can cause inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) or damage to the structures supporting the teeth (periodontitis). Left untreated, this disease can result in pain, tooth loss, and other serious health issues.

Recent Research Highlights Small Dogs' Vulnerability

A study conducted by experts at the Waltham Petcare Science Institute, published in The Veterinary Journal, shed light on the prevalence of periodontal disease among dogs in the US. Analyzing nearly three million medical records from Banfield Pet Hospital across 60 different breeds, the study found that about one fifth (18.2%) of dogs suffer from periodontal disease. Notably, smaller breeds are at a higher risk compared to larger ones.

This groundbreaking research emphasizes the importance of dental hygiene for dogs, particularly preventive measures. Periodontal disease in dogs typically stems from plaque buildup, containing millions of bacteria. Further exploration of the pet oral microbiome is crucial to comprehending its role in overall pet health.

Understanding the Risk Factors

The study revealed that dogs of extra-small breeds (under 14.3 lbs) faced the greatest risk, with up to five times higher chances of being diagnosed with periodontal disease compared to giant breeds (over 55 lbs). This aligns with previous research indicating a correlation between dog size and periodontal disease, such as studies on Miniature Schnauzers and Yorkshire Terriers.

Several factors contribute to smaller dogs' susceptibility to dental issues, including the proportionally larger size of their teeth relative to their mouths, leading to overcrowding and increased plaque buildup. However, there are exceptions, as seen with greyhounds, which exhibited the highest prevalence of periodontal disease across all breeds studied.

Beyond size, age, weight, and time since a dental cleaning were identified as additional risk factors. Further research is needed to validate these associations conclusively. For instance, factors like weight gain could be a result of existing oral pain rather than a direct cause of periodontal disease.

Taking Action to Prevent Periodontal Disease

Armed with insights from this research, pet owners can take proactive steps to safeguard their furry companions' oral health:

1. Educate owners of smaller dogs about the risks of periodontal disease.
2. Schedule regular veterinary check-ups, including dental evaluations and cleanings if necessary.
3. Establish a consistent home-care routine, including tooth brushing (with Wag & Bright's Puppy Polish toothpaste) and providing vet-recommended dental chews.

By understanding the prevalence and impact of periodontal disease in dogs, we can implement targeted preventive measures to ensure our furry friends enjoy a life free from dental discomfort and complications.