Dogs, Nutrition, and Periodontal Disease

My veterinarian spends lots of time talking to me about my dog’s teeth.  What do I need to know about periodontal disease and my dog?

feeding_dogs_with_periodontal_diseasePeriodontal disease is the most common problem affecting dogs in all age groups. Diseases that affect the oral tissues can cause the teeth to fall out. There are primary organ diseases that can cause oral lesions.  Finally, periodontal disease can have a secondary effect on major organs, causing or exacerbating organ system diseases. The very best way to prevent periodontal disease is daily dental home care, but it is useful to add in effective, evidence-based dental food to provide daily plaque control.

There are key steps to promote oral health in dogs:

  1. Reduce and control plaque. Plaque is the root cause of periodontal disease in dogs.
  2. Match plaque control techniques to meet the needs of the individual dog.
  3. Feed a nutrient profile with an appropriate texture to contribute to oral health.
  4. Stay ahead of plaque accumulation and schedule professional periodontal therapy as             recommended by your veterinarian.

The importance of daily dental home care cannot be over-emphasized. If you are having trouble accomplishing dental home care, the veterinary health care team is ready to help. They can help build your skills by showing you how to remove plaque either using a child’s toothbrush or a surgical gauze wrapped around your finger.  It is important not to use human toothpaste to brush your dog’s teeth at home because it is toxic. You need to use toothpaste specifically formulated for dogs and cats.

Eating lots of sugar is associated with dental disease in humans.  Is sugar an issue for my dog’s oral health?

Studies have shown that sugars (soluble carbohydrates) do not contribute to plaque accumulation in dogs.

What factors (aside from dental home care) contribute to canine dental disease, and how can I do what’s best nutritionally for my dog’s mouth and teeth?

The specific risk factors that can contribute to periodontal disease in dogs include:

  1. Breed. Toy breeds, small dogs, and dogs with short muzzles are prone to overcrowding and rotation of teeth, as well as misalignment.
  2. Age. The older the dog, the longer dental disease has to accumulate.
  3. Immune system health. A healthy immune system contributes to a healthy mouth.

Nutrition can contribute to preventing periodontal disease and gingivitis. The food’s texture and make-up can affect the environment of the mouth. It can help maintain tissue integrity, stimulate saliva production, alter plaque bacteria metabolism, and provide mechanical cleansing of tooth surfaces. It was commonly recommended to feed dry dog food to prevent periodontal disease in dogs. However, in clinical studies, dry food alone did not contribute to improved oral health. This points out the importance of choosing a nutrient profile that has been developed to enhance oral health.

How can I know if the food I am choosing for my dog will actually contribute to his oral health?

Your veterinarian can make a specific nutritional recommendation of a product proven to be effective in enhancing canine oral health.

The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) was established in 1997 in order to provide an independent and objective means of evaluating and recognizing products developed to interrupt plaque accumulation.  It evaluates data generated in clinical studies performed with VOHC-approved protocols.  In addition, the VOHC has two levels of award: plaque control and tartar control. Plaque is the primary cause of periodontal disease, so look for the VOHC seal that specifies plaque control. It is also important to use these nutritional products in a way that achieves their best performance. That generally means daily use for every meal. In other words, mixing it with another product will dilute the effects and prevent it from doing the best job to enhance your dog’s oral health.

Dental food kibbles are built differently from conventional kibbles. They are bigger, forcing the dog to actually chew them. The kibbles act like a squeegee, swiping the plaque from the tooth as the dog bites through them.

How can I find out what canine nutrient profiles have earned the VOHC seal for plaque control?

A complete list of all products (not just food) that have been awarded the VOHC seal is available at www.  

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