Dental problems are one of the most common health orientened issues in Italian Greyhounds. It is important to keep a dog's teeth clean. Shortening the life of an IG (the normal range of age is 13 - 15 years) by employing improper dental care is very possible. Infections from ill-kept teeth can affect heart, lungs, liver or kidneys. Brushing at least once a week will help to ensure a pet's long, healthy life. Responsible breeders have already addressed the problem of bad teeth (lack of enamel, teeth prone to tarter buildup, etc.) and are working towards producing dogs with healthier teeth.
The periodontal membrane is the fibrous connective-tissue layer covering the cementum of a tooth and holding it in place in the jawbone. The most common periodontal disease is gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums. Symptoms include tender and sometimes swollen gums that bleed easily. Gingivitis can develop into pyorrhea. This is a relatively common disease of the periodontal membrance. It is usually caused by hardened bacteria, called bacterial plaque, that attach to the teeth and destroy the periodontal tissue. Removing the bacterial plaque is the usual treatment. Bad breath, fever, ulcers, or destruction of the mouth tissues, may develop in severe cases. Trench mouth (Vincent's gingivitis) is a form of the disease caused by bacteria that infect the weakened tissue.
So how can we prevent this in our dogs?
My own belief is that some dogs are more genetically prone to this problem than others. Many breeders and other professionals share this opinion although it has not yet been backed-up by clinical studies. The problem is that some dogs seem to more readily develop a plaque build-up which decays the gums causing the teeth to loosen and fall out. Other dogs seem to be genetically prone towards no tarter build-up. Could it be that some dogs have bacteria (plaque) fighting organisms in their mouths that prevents tarter build-up? I've come up with no research on this but am still looking.
For now, the best remedy is a thorough, regular and frequent brushing of the dog's teeth. Here are a few additional tips to help prevent the build up of tarter.
1. Stay away from dog foods which contain sugar as an ingredient (usually this is soft brands of dog food and treats).
2. Have chews available for dogs that are designed to help clean teeth (i.e. Nylabone, Gumabone, etc.).
(3) Supply treats/kibble designed to clean teeth (i.e. Hills TD or the Pedigree Denta-Bone).
(4) Administer a weekly teeth-cleaning at home (although it's better if you brush EVERY DAY!).
(5) If necessary take the dog for a thorough cleaning by a knowledgeable veterinarian.
If owners are diligent (and an owner should know if his IG is prone to tarter buildup) a yearly cleaning can be avoided. But owners MUST be proficient in cleaning teeth and consistent! A yearly check on the teeth by a veterinarian is recommended in any case.
What are the possible repercussions of inadequate dental care?
Dogs can develop deep infections from poorly kept teeth. Infections can spread from the teeth to the jawbone and even worse, into the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys KILLING the animal! Dogs with clean teeth live longer, healthier, happier lives!
About teeth cleaning
There are toothpastes made for dogs (don't use human toothpaste!). For rinsing I recommend a product called Nolvadent, an anti-plaque product that comes in gel or liquid. There are special toothbrushes that are made for a dog's mouth. I find it easier to use a washcloth or a small pad of cheesecloth (or a cotton ball) instead of a brush.
What does the vet do?
The vet will clean and polish the dog's teeth. If there has been a past history of inadequate dental care the dog may have already developed periodontal disease. The cleaning may be more involved and may include the administration of antibiotics (especially when there is a possibility of removal of loose teeth). Vets recommend doing teeth cleaning under some type of sedation or anesthesia. For Italian Greyhounds Isoflorine is HIGHLY recommended as IG's and other sighthounds can display adverse reactions to some sedatives.
Getting yourself in a routine habit of cleaning the dog's teeth may save you heartache in the long run!