Oral Care: The Foundation of Overall Health
If you were to conduct a poll amongst humans, chances are good that you'd find a great many who strongly object to the idea of going to the dentist. For some of us, this response is rooted in fear and causes us to put off dental visits until we find ourselves experiencing discomfort. This is not a good idea as your oral health plays a huge roll in your overall health, so keeping your mouth happy is vital to, well, your vitality, and the same standard of care should be applied to your rabbit dogs.
Just as people do, dogs can develop oral health problems. In fact, more than half will develop such problems by the time they are a mere four years of age. This may come in the form of a dangerous plaque buildup that can be transported via the bloodstream, ultimately causing stroke or heart issues, or it can create tooth decay that results in abscessed or lost teeth.
In order to prevent problems such as this from affecting your rabbit dogs, you must start at the tooth.
Photo: Beagle Daily
One of your biggest allies when it comes to oral care is knowing what is normal. That means taking the time to examine your dogs' mouths on a regular basis, but especially after time spent hunting rabbits. In the field, dogs are exposed to all sorts of hazards that can negatively impact their mouth. Each time you call it a day after a hunt, check the mouths of your pack for any injuries or foreign objects. Beyond that, take a mental note of the normal mouth appearance for each dog. Any irregularities that pop up may need a trip to the vet. What you want to see are pink gums (not red or white) that are not inflamed. Teeth should be clean with minimal tartar and breath should not be offensive. We all know dog breath isn't always the best, but you should be able to differentiate between what is normal for your dog and what is a sign of an underlying problem. Bad breath can mean much more than an oral issue, too, so if you notice it, especially in combination with loose teeth, mouth tumors, excessive drooling, and mouth inflammation, a trip to vet is in order.
Much of the battle on canine gum and tooth issues can be waged preventatively by owners that make oral health a priority. In order to keep your rabbit dogs' mouths healthy, the first place to start is with a healthy diet. When it comes to dog food, you get what you pay for and cheap dog food is just that. Once you've selected a healthy food, it is time to add some durable chew toys such as those made by Kong or Nylabone. Additionally, chewable treats are good as well, but you need to play it safe. Rawhide can cause choking and/or internal blockages and is very popular despite this. A safer alternative that is a hit in our house (and recommended by our vet) are Dentastix in mint flavor for added freshness.
Beyond encouraging dogs to practice natural chewing behaviors with items that are safe for them and good for their oral health, it is also beneficial to give their teeth a little cleaning at home. The ability to do this will depend a lot on your dogs' comfort level and some may be more tolerant than others. In order to clean teeth, you can purchase a kit from your vet or pet retailer that includes dog safe toothpaste and a brush. If that is not tolerable for your dogs, it is also possible to place gauze on your finger and rub that on teeth to remove buildup. Whichever tool you prefer, chances are it will take some time to get your dog accustomed to it to the point of acceptance, so don't give up. Instead, make it a part of your regular routine until your rabbit dogs don't even give oral care a second thought.
St. Marks Vet
Even if you practice vigilance when it comes to oral care, there may still come a time when veterinary care is necessary. If your dog develops issues such as Periodontal Disease or Gingivitis, a procedure known as scaling may be necessary to treat those conditions. This can require anesthesia which in itself can be dangerous for dogs, so doing all you can to prevent this need from occurring is ideal.
Ultimately, however, dogs are just like people in that some are predisposed to certain health issues. This could mean that despite your best efforts, your pooches are going to need some maintenance from the vet on their pearly whites. The upside to good oral health practices is a happy, healthy dog, which in itself is priceless.
What is the oral health routine you practice with your dogs? Do you have any tips and tricks you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments.