Continued

Teeth and the oral cavity

As dogs get older, even with the best oral hygiene, they tend to lose their teeth and exhibit gum diseases.

You may recall reading about gingivitis and tooth decay, etc, in earlier publications. Obviously, if there are oral problems, then the animal’s intake of food is compromised. One can utilize a veritable arsenal of medication to counteract oral diseases, and once such ailments are controlled and the old animal feels reasonably comfortable, the appetite will improve.

Often, the teeth of older dogs become loose. In such instances, your veterinarian will undoubtedly advise you to remove the loose teeth. I have known cases of elderly dogs in which all the remaining teeth had to be removed, because they were in such a state of decay. Of course, one should not allow such an advanced stage of non-functioning teeth to be reached.

Anyway, if the dog has no teeth in its mouth (false teeth have not proven to be feasible in dogs), then we have to alter the diet. The food has to be soft. Nowadays a lot of people are using the dry dog food. Well, if that is the case, one needs only to soak the dry feed with water or skimmed milk before feeding it to the dog.

Expectant and hopeful this (spayed) female dog waits at the GSPCA to be adopted by some kind person.

Similarly, if the dog’s diet is home cooked, then the latter should be soft and soppy. One can even run the entire meal through the blender. Use the common sense approach. Whatever works, use. The important consideration is that the food (texture) must be soft.

Finally, I should mention that, on the market, there is a canned dog food especially formulated in content and texture for elderly dogs.

Allow me also to emphasize that the elderly dog’s diet should not contain any substance (eg bone dust, bone chips) which is not easily digestible, and which could lead to constipation further down the line. For this reason, it is not advocated that we offer dogs dry dog biscuits, even though the latter might have the advantage of helping to remove tartar and plaque from the animal’s teeth.

All of the above proves to us that it makes sense, from day one, to institute a programme of oral and dental hygiene. This would include:
 
(i)  giving your dog something to gnaw on at least once a week (eg, a big beef bone or a commercial  leather or nylon ‘bone’).
 
(ii)  visiting your vet twice a year for the specific purpose of removing plaque from the teeth.
 
(iii)   brushing your dog’s teeth and gums with a mixture of baking soda and water (use a soft tooth brush for this exercise).
 
Next week, we will have a look at the care of some of your elderly pet’s internal organs.
 
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals.  Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.

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