by Cate Burnette, RVT
As your pet ages, she becomes more susceptible to the chronic diseases that can make her senior years painful and unhappy. Her heart, kidneys, and liver are more sensitive to the effects of the bacteria in her body that causes dental disease. Keeping her teeth clean and her mouth free from periodontitis can extend her life.
Veterinarians estimate that between 75 and 80% of middle-aged dogs have gum disease, and a new study out of Purdue University shows a clear link between gum disease and heart disease in canines. In the study, dogs with no periodontal disease were diagnosed with endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart valves, in 1% of the cases. Those dogs with chronic periodontal disease were diagnosed with endocarditis in 15% of the cases.
Researchers believe that the bacterium causing the gum disease is the culprit behind the heart disease. Mouth tissue – the gums and the other soft areas of the mouth – are rich with blood vessels, and this hastens the speed at which bacteria can enter your dog’s bloodstream and travel throughout her body.
In periodontal disease, the surface of the gums is weakened and compromised. That breakdown of gum tissue allows the bacteria in your dog’s mouth to go directly into the blood coursing through the rest of her organs. The Purdue study indicates the same strain of oral bacteria causing gum disease infects the heart valves and results in endocarditis.
Certain strains of oral bacteria leave behind sticky proteins that can adhere to the walls of your dog’s arteries. As that protein builds up, the arteries thicken and this narrowing of the blood passageway is closely associated with heart disease. Bacteria are also known to cause the formation of blood clots that can damage the heart and lead to heart failure and stroke.
Not surprisingly, those same bacteria can infect your dog’s kidneys and liver, leading to chronic disease and eventual organ failure.
The best preventive measures to ease your pooch into her senior years without organ disease revolve around regular, at-home dental brushings and annual oral examinations with possible prophylactic tooth cleanings by your veterinarian.
You can go to your vet clinic, your local pet stores, and online retailers to purchase doggy toothpaste and a toothbrush for daily brushings. The toothbrushes are manufactured to fit in your dog’s mouth comfortably and the toothpastes come in flavors that she will love – all to make it easier for you to perform this daily chore with little to no hassle.
Additionally, for those times when you don’t have her toothbrush/toothpaste handy, all-natural dental wipes that can keep the teeth clean and the breath fresh are available for use. You could also try a probiotic anti-plaque spray that goes directly onto her teeth and gums to reduce the bacteria causing gum disease and infections. All-natural fresh breath foams take just a squirt after mealtime to check the growth of microbes and stem bad breath.
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to help prevent periodontal disease in your pup is also one of the newest on the market. Organic, oral care water additives make it easy to loosen plaque build-up and freshen her breath and while she drinks from her water bowl. Just a few drops a day added to her regular drinking water are all that is needed to help her stay gum disease free.