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Oral disease is the most common health problem diagnosed in dogs. By three years of age, most dogs and cats have some evidence of periodontal disease (AVDC). In humans, periodontal disease has been linked to several health problems such as diabetes mellitus and increased severity of diabetic complications. Oral disease is also related to renal, hepatic, and cardiac disease.
The American Veterinary Dental College defines periodontal disease (gum disease) as the development of plaque from the accumulation of bacteria in the mouth. Plaque sticks to the surface of teeth, and then minerals in the saliva harden it into dental calculus (tartar), which is firmly attached to the teeth.
When there is a substantial accumulation of plaque and calculus under the gum line, the tissues that support teeth are damaged, and this can lead to tooth loss. This is why it is extremely important to take care of your Chihuahua’s teeth as a dog owner.
WHY CHIHUAHUAS TEND TO BE PRONE TO DENTAL PROBLEMS
Chihuahuas and other small breeds are more susceptible to the development of dental disease. Small breeds such as Chihuahuas have a much higher ratio of the tooth to jaw, which leads to the overcrowding of teeth and makes the natural teeth cleaning process through chewing more difficult. Since there is less space between teeth, plaque-containing bacteria accumulate in inaccessible areas, and it can result in gum disease and tooth loss.
Diet plays an important role in the development of dental disease. Dry dog food is abrasive to the teeth, and this is needed to loosen plaque from the teeth. Unfortunately, small dogs are often fed with soft diets that do not have this abrasive action.
SIGNS OF DENTAL DISEASE
Periodontal disease is multifactorial, meaning there isn’t going to be just one cause. The Chihuahua breed is also known for having soft teeth. Soft teeth make them more vulnerable to bacteria that can ultimately lead to tooth decay.
- Bad breath
- Behavioral changes
- Loose tooth
- Teeth that are discolored or covered in tartar
- Shying away when the mouth area is touched
- Drooling or dropping food from the mouth
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Loss of appetite or loss of weight
Unfortunately, there are some cases when the only evident clinical sign of the oral disease is bad breath; therefore, pet parents are sometimes unable to detect the disease and provide the appropriate care for their pets. For this reason, periodontal disease is usually under-treated and may cause multiple problems in the oral cavity as well as in other organs.
TREATMENT OF DENTAL DISEASE
If you detect any sign of oral disease, you should take your Chihuahua to the veterinarian. Treatment of oral disease begins with a thorough oral examination followed by a professional dental cleaning, which includes scaling and polishing. This is a procedure that requires general anesthesia. Dental procedures that are performed “awake” are not recommended.
A veterinarian will need to take X-rays to assess the current teeth and gum damage. Severely damaged teeth may need to be removed; however, several options can be employed to save your dog’s teeth.
PREVENTION OF DENTAL DISEASE
Home oral hygiene is essential to prevent oral disease and to improve the health of Chihuahuas that already have some degree of periodontal damage. Appropriate home oral care may decrease the frequency of professional dental cleaning. It is important to implement an oral hygiene routine early in the life of your dog so that he/she allows oral manipulation during his/her adult life.
HOW TO CLEAN YOUR CHIHUAHUA’S TEETH
- Examine your dog’s mouth for any abnormalities
- Use a small toothbrush (for humans or dogs) or a piece of gauze and pet toothpaste – never use human based toothpaste
- Lift at the corner of the mouth with one hand and brush carefully along the line where the gum and tooth meet. If you need step by step instructions for brushing your dog’s teeth, the ASPCA has a good article here
- Brush with an oval motion making sure that the toothpaste is well distributed through all the teeth
- Brush all sections of the mouth, including upper and lower teeth
Check out this video on brushing your dog’s teeth:
THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP YOUR DOG’S DENTAL HEALTH
- Buy your dog some dental chews and chew toys. We like these Chewable Brushless Toothpaste
- Be consistent about brushing your dog’s teeth. Daily is best, but often hard to do. Try for at least a few times a week
- Feed your Chi mostly dry kibble
THE TEETHING STAGE
So, what about the teething stage your Chihuahua puppy is going to go through? Chihuahua puppies are born without teeth. They will start to grow in their teeth between 5 to 6 weeks of age. Once they have all erupted, your pup will have a total of 28 puppy teeth.
When your pup is around five months old, they will begin teething, and this is when their permanent adult teeth will begin to grow in. When they lose their puppy teeth, they will most likely lose the smaller front teeth first, followed by the premolars, the molars, and finally, the large canine teeth.
Since their teeth are so small, the puppy will likely just swallow the teeth before the dog owner even notices they are missing. Once the puppy is done teething, they will have around 42 permanent teeth.
It is also not uncommon for a Chihuahua to have double teeth. When their milk teeth stay in place, and the canines erupt, it is known as double or deciduous teeth. To see if this is happening, you should begin watching your puppy’’s teeth from around three months of age. Sometimes you will need an experienced veterinarian to remove the teeth, usually at the time your chihuahua is spayed or neutered.
At home brushing is incredibly important and should be implemented early on. To keep your Chi pup’s teeth strong and healthy, from a young age, use a quality canine toothbrush and toothpaste. and Sstart cleaning their teeth as soon as you see them, even if they are just in their teething phase and will be losing those teeth anyway. They are still prone to dental infections and decay and this will be a great time to begin training.
It is good to get into the habit of making dental cleaning a part of each day’s routine. Never use an adult human toothbrush or toothpaste. It will take 2 to 3 minutes to ensure proper brushing. When brushing, make sure to have a good grip and try to get your pup to relax. You want to make it a positive experience rather than a hated chore.
Brush all the exposed sides of the teeth and use a circular motion like you would when brushing your own teeth. Once your pup gets used to it, they will find it to be a normal part of their everyday routine.
So how are your dog’s teeth? Do you currently have any dental practices you use with your Chihuahua? If so, what do you do? Share with us in the comments.
The American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC). Retrieved from: https://www.avdc.org/periodontaldisease.html on August 12, 2015.
This article has been fact-checked and approved by Dr. Paula Simons DVM. You can read more about her on our About page.