Tooth care for a small dogs – keeping their milliom-dollar smile safe!
Teething in small dogs
The adult teeth of small breed dogs (less than 10kg) appear between the age of 4 and 6 months and the fi nal molars come through, at the latest, at around 7 months.
Each half jaw carries 21 teeth including 6 incisors, 2 canines, 8 premolars and 5 molars.
Oral hygiene: starting early
As soon as the puppy’s adult teeth come through, it is important to keep a watch on oral hygiene to prevent the formation of dental plaque and tartar.
Infl ammation of the gum encourages the development of bacteria that produce toxins: the latter attack the tissue that holds the tooth (periodontium), which can come loose. The pain caused by this gingivitis can discourage the dog from eating.
Studies (Harvey & coll., 1994) have shown that small dogs are affected earlier and suffer from more severe periodontal disease.
Symptoms: This is a felting fi lm of bacteria that allows the calcium present in saliva to deposit and form tartar. This hardens and can then only be removed by an operation systematically performed with a general anaesthetic for dogs: tooth depuration. This phenomenon worsens with age. The immediate consequence is an infl ammation of the gum in the area of friction, then the gingivitis extends (the gum becomes red). The tartar makes the gum recede, laying bare the crown up to the root; the teeth can become loose. A severe infl ammation rapidly becomes very painful for the dog, and generates bad breath; it can cause heart or kidney complications.
Prevention and solution: Daily brushing is the most effective solution as it prevents the formation of dental plaque. It requires both a little time and having accustomed the dog from a young age. Feeding with dental specifi c kibble helps with daily oral hygiene: the size and texture developed specifi cally for this kibble encourage daily superfi cial ‘brushing’ — the greater the contact time between the tooth and the surface of the kibble, the greater the effect.
The addition of salivary calcium chelating agents, such as sodium polyphosphates, reduces the transformation of dental plaque into tartar by fi xing it in the saliva. The latter, produced in greater quantities by chewing dry food, helps mechanical cleaning and enzymatic anti-bacterial action.
Particular predisposition of small dogs
It has been demonstrated (Gioso & coll., 2001) that the thickness of mandible/height of fi rst molar ratio decreases signifi cantly with the size of the dog. For dogs weighing more than 30kg, the thickness of the lower jaw is equivalent to the height of the carnassials. For dogs weighing less than 5kg, this ratio can drop to 0.6, or even 0.5 for Yorkshire Terriers.
When periodontal disease occurs, the progressive destruction of the bone along the root can weaken the jaw and cause fractures. (File developed with the help of the veterinarians of the Royal Canin Research and Development Centre)