Dental Care

I have told you about the 'milk' or puppy teeth of your dog, how these are cast between the ages of 4 and 6 months, and the methods by which you can facilitate this. They are practically rootless, and can in most cases, when they are loose, be removed with finger and thumb. Once they are loose, the sooner they are got rid of the better.

The only ones which are in the least likely to give trouble are the 'fang' teeth, (four in all) which are on each side of the upper and lower jaws. The upper ones are sometimes very tenacious, and do not become loose even when the adult fangs are coming through. They can cause great pain-you will see that the gums are swollen and inflamed-may cause convulsions, and will certainly cause loss of appetite for anything other than soft food.

It is therefore advisable to keep a careful watch during this period of the young dog's life, and if these 'fangs' remain obstinately firm when the adult ones are forcing their way through, take the puppy to your veterinary surgeon, who will give it an anaesthetic and remove them painlessly.

There are only twenty-eight 'milk' or puppy teeth, but there are forty-two permanent teeth. The twelve front teeth in both top and bottom jaws are the incisors, the four immediately behind them are the canines, and the remaining twenty-six are the molars. 

Dogs are like human beings: some have much better and more durable teeth than others, but you can certainly do a very great deal to preserve the teeth by correct feeding, and by seeing that your dog has its quota of 'hard' food, such as large bones, biscuits, or rusked bread. These not only pro mote the flow of digestive juices which are essential for correct digestion, but also play a very large part in keeping the teeth clean and eliminating the particles of food which get lodged in between them and cause decay.

This 'hard' food is in fact the equivalent of our toothbrushes and toothpastes.

Tartar is a yellowish substance which sometimes appears on the teeth at the base of the gums. Some dogs are much more prone to this than others, and I suspect that it is largely due to incorrect feeding. It may cause offensive breath, and a watch should be kept so that it can be removed if and when it appears.

This can be done by probing very gently with the blunt and rounded end of a nail-file. This need not hurt at all if carefully done, and it will be found that the tartar will chip off in quite sizeable pieces, once dislodgement has started.

A good way to prevent this tartar forming is to brush the teeth occasionally with a not-too-hard toothbrush dipped in chalk to which some cooking salt is added-though I cannot say the dog will enjoy this very much! Ordinary 'human' toothpaste can also be used; and I think this is much kinder.

If, however, the teeth have become very tartared, your veterinary surgeon will clean and scale them for you.

As I am writing, I have my seven-year-old terrier by my side, and his teeth, with a very minimum of attention, are as dean and white as when they first appeared. He is correctly fed, and tartar is therefore non-existent.

As I have said, some dogs' teeth are better and more lasting than others. Many do suffer from decayed teeth as they get older, particularly in the molars, and with advancing years watch should be kept for this.

The first warning may be an offensive breath. Dogs cannot tell you when they have toothache, but if they are continually trying to scratch their faces and rub their jaws on the floor you can be pretty certain that they have. Your veterinary surgeon will remove these offending members, quite painlessly, under an anaesthetic, and your dog will once more start to enjoy life.

You cannot tolerate toothache. Why, then, should your dog?

by - Catherine Fisher
The Pan Book of DOGS
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