In honor of National Pet Dental Health Month (every February), we are going to be looking at Greyhounds and their teeth. Dental issues are the prevailing health problem facing pet Greyhounds. According to the University of Bristol, in collaboration with the Royal Veterinary College RVC, 39% of Greyhounds suffer from dental problems. This percentage is alarmingly higher than for any other dog breed.
As a pup, your Greyhound will have 28 teeth. By six months, these teeth will have fallen out and been replaced by 42 adult teeth. Without good oral hygiene, there is a great chance your dog will show signs of dental issues. Dental problems begin with the build-up of plaque and tartar, followed by gingivitis and inflamed gums. These lead to yellowing teeth and bad breath. Dental diseases can cause life-threatening conditions, including liver, heart, and kidney disease.
Greyhounds, like people, can suffer from tooth decay and even lose a few without proper care. Former racing Greyhounds are used to a soft, sticky diet that promotes plaque build-up and dental issues. They may also come with advanced gingivitis. If not removed, the plaque further pushes the gum lining uncovering the root. Some studies have shown that 80% of dogs over the age of two or three have dental disease. One of the hallmarks most of us are familiar with is doggie breath (halitosis). Periodontal disease is progressive, usually starting as gingivitis, an infection of the gum tissue. At this point the condition is reversible with proper care. It progresses to gum recession and eventual loss of teeth. Bacteria enters the bloodstream and can travel to your dog’s vital organs.
A complete dental and sometimes an extraction gets your Greyhound’s teeth looking better, and their mouth smelling great. Your pet’s teeth and gums should be examined at least once a year by your veterinarian to check for early signs of a problem and to keep your pet’s mouth healthy. Dental care, however, doesn’t stop at a dental check-up or procedure.
Prevention of the most common oral disease in pets consists of frequent removal of the dental plaque and tartar that forms on teeth that are not kept clean. Regularly brushing your Greyhound’s teeth is the single most effective thing you can do to keep their teeth healthy between dental cleanings, and may reduce the frequency or even eliminate the need for periodic dental cleaning by your veterinarian. Daily brushing is best, but it’s not always possible and brushing several times a week can be effective. Most dogs accept brushing, but patience and training are important.
The following steps are going to be easier when your Greyhound is feeling calm and receives a treat at the end of the cleaning session. An excellent way to keep your dog calm during brushing is by tiring your dog our first with some exercise. This will naturally get rid of your dog’s energy, leaving little resistance when you brush their teeth. If your Greyhound has never had their teeth brushed, you want to slowly ease into it.
Gently lift the side of your Greyhound’s mouth. This will get your hound used to you touching his mouth and gums. Wrap a soft cloth or dog wipes over your finger and gently rub his teeth. Work with the outside because that is where the plaque and tartar build-up. Most dogs won’t allow you to clean the inside surface of their teeth so stick to the outside surface. Ensure you reach the back upper teeth and canines as they tend to build up tartar quicker.
Soak a soft canine toothbrush in warm water and start gently brushing your dog’s teeth. Hold the brush at a favorable angle and brush up and down, focusing on where the teeth meet the gum. Brush with gentle strokes to cleanse the teeth and gum.
Start using dog toothpaste. Give your dog a small dollop of toothpaste to introduce the new taste. Letting the dog lick toothpaste off your finger and rubbing his teeth and gums at the same time would be a gentle introduction to the process. Dog toothpaste is safe to be swallowed. Never brush your Greyhound’s teeth with human toothpaste (not meant to be swallowed) or human toothbrush. Regularly check your Greyhound’s mouth for signs of decay and tooth problems.
Now, reward your dog with a friendly pat or play to reinforce tooth brushing as a positive experience.
Dental tooth wipes are convenient for owners who are completely unable to brush their dog’s teeth and want to try out a different cleaning method. Tooth wipes are designed to be rubbed against the dog’s teeth to get rid of plaque. They are intended to work similarly to toothbrushes. However, they pose difficulty in reaching the nooks and crannies but are easier to manage than toothbrushes.
Feed your Greyhound quality dry kibble. The mechanical action brought about by chewing dry kibble scrapes off plaque and tartar from your dog’s teeth. Provide your dog with lots of water after eating as it helps dislodge food debris from their teeth too.
Ask your vet about prescription dental food. For dogs that are opposed to the other options or are very prone to periodontal disease, a few dog food companies make prescription dental food that have been clinically proven to help reduce dental disease.
As your dog chews the food, the kibble cleans the surface of their teeth, and by doing so, reduces tartar buildup. The kibble also contains ingredients that help to kill bacteria that lead to plaque and tartar formation.
Purina ProPlan Veterinary Diets DH Dental Health, Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d Dental Care, and Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Dental formula have all been formulated by certified veterinary nutritionists and have gone through clinical trials to prove their efficacy. Since these diets require a prescription from a veterinarian, you will need to ask your vet about trying one of these formulas for your dog.
PARTNER WITH YOUR VET
Proper dental care for your Greyhound is essentially a joint effort between you and your veterinarian. Talk with your veterinarian about any dental products, treats, or dental-specific diets you’re considering for your pet, or ask your veterinarian for their recommendation. Professional cleanings will be required for optimal dental health.
Next week, we will look at some other things you can do in addition to brushing to keep your Greyhound’s mouth healthy.