Dog owners need to practice good oral hygiene for their pets to protect them against not only dental problems and gum disease, but organ damage that can result from poor dental care. Gums and teeth that become infected can allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Left untreated, the bacteria can cause vital organ damage, which can be painful, expensive to care for and even deadly if not medically treated.
Bacteria can enter your dog's bloodstream when gum tissue is soft and a tooth’s root structure is weakened. Advanced periodontal disease can inflame the animal’s heart valves, a condition known as endocarditis. Coronary artery disease is also associated with canine and feline gum conditions. Some bacteria can narrow artery walls and decrease blood flow, while other bacteria can cause blood clots to form and damage the heart muscle.
The liver is responsible for purifying blood, facilitating the digestive process and eliminating waste. When bacteria from periodontal disease or infected teeth enter the bloodstream, it can damage the liver. This can create a domino effect in which other internal systems that rely on the liver’s functions become compromised as well.
When kidney function is compromised, waste products can build up in your pet’s body. Acute renal disease can develop when infection enters the bloodstream, with long-term damage including diabetes and elevated blood pressure. A dog with kidney disease can also become easily dehydrated and may have problems managing bladder and bowels.
Recognizing the Signs
The faster a dog’s tooth infection is diagnosed and treated, the less resulting organ damage is likely to take place. Pay close attention to your pet’s eating habits and look for signs such as chewing on one side of the mouth, swollen gums or loose, lost or broken teeth. Also keep an eye out for excess saliva and gum abscesses -- all of which are signals your pet may be suffering from some sort of dental ailment.
Brush your dog’s teeth using a canine toothbrush and specially-formulated toothpaste on a regular basis. If your pet struggles or you find this task difficult, ask your vet to refer you to a pet dentist, or find a reputable groomer that provides the service. Ask your vet to check your pet’s teeth during annual exams so you can be made aware of any potential dental disorders.
- PetMD: Bacterial Infection (Actinomycosis) in Dogs
- Texas A&M Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences: Pet Dental Health
- Veterinary Oral Health Council Acceptance: Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease) is the Most Common Disease Occurring in Pet Dogs and Cats
- Healthy Pets: How Improving Your Dog’s Teeth Could Save His Life
- Dr. Barchas: Dental Disease in Cats and Dogs
- VetInfo: Top 10 Causes of Liver Disease in Dogs
- Cam Day Consulting: Kidney Disease in Dogs and Cats
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.