Alvin Taylor Chihuahua

Yorkies with Bad Teeth

Question:

I have a Yorkie and they are prone to bad teeth. Is there a supplement I could give him to stop the deterioration since he hates it when I brush his teeth?

Answer:

In my clinical experience, the toy and smaller breeds have many more dental problems than the larger breeds do. My “doctor’s intuition” is that the teeth are so compressed in those small jaws that overcrowding occurs, inherently predisposing the teeth problems. Additionally, their roots are so small that they are not anchored in the lower jaw very well. Small amounts of dental calculus (tartar) can cause the teeth to become loose and fall out prematurely.

 

Dental disease in the smaller breeds may often start early in life, with the adult teeth that are erupting being so small that they are not physically able to push out the temporary puppy (deciduous) teeth. The puppy teeth begin to fall out at approximately 4 months of age and all should have fallen out and been replaced by the permanent adult teeth by 6 – 7 months. If they haven’t naturally fallen out, this happens to be the recommended time to spay or neuter your pet and is a perfect time for the puppy teeth to be extracted. This will prevent various subsequent dental problems.

 

Periodontal disease is one of the most commonly encountered medical problems that I see in pets. This occurs because, to your point, brushing most pets’ teeth can at best be difficult, if not impossible. Imagine if we didn’t brush our teeth…yuk! Brushing your pets’ teeth is the most effective method of removing plaque before it turns into tartar. Plaque forms on your pets teeth within a few hours of a meal and can begin to harden into tartar quickly, often within 24 hours!! So unfortunately, there is no ideal replacement for regular brushing.

 

To answer your question, I have seen one supplement on the market that is a concoction of seaweed extracts. I have not however seen any clinical studies on this product to determine whether or not it has any real benefit or not. As you might guess, I do have a few other suggestions though. There are some pet friendly flavored (poultry and beef for example) toothpastes that make the process more palatable (no pun intended) for your pet.

 

Additionally, there are pet-sized commercially made toothbrushes that fit over your finger available that may be accepted more readily than a human toothbrush by your pet. Even a 4 x 4 gauze pad wrapped around your finger will suffice and works well in some pets. This is what I use. Jack and Dakota (our dogs) tolerate fairly well. Sunny (our cat), not so much!

 

Routinely feeding a dry kibble vs. a wet food will slow down the plaque development process. And instead leaving food out continuously (referred to as free or self feeding), if dental care is paramount, I recommend feeding two meals a day to minimize the time for plaque to form. And even better yet, you can feed your pet a commercially available food from your veterinarian that greatly reduces plaque formation. One has unique, large kibbles that are moderately high in fiber which “brushes” the teeth as the kibbles are bit down into. There are others that contain enzymes to enhance dental care. You may want to ask your veterinarian about one of these diets.

 

Additionally, giving 2 or 3 hard biscuits a day helps to stimulate the gums. Be sure not to give any more than this as biscuits may contain a significant amount of calories and we do not want to promote obesity. There are some treats and rawhides that promote themselves for the teeth and gums. Again, I have not seen any controlled clinical trials on most of these though.

 

Finally when it comes to oral hygiene products, there are daily antibacterial oral rinses available that can make your pets’ breath smell sweeter by knocking down some of the bacteria that is omnipresent in your pets’ mouth.

 

The ultimate in oral care however, is to have your pets’ teeth professionally cleaned and polished as recommended by your veterinarian. The frequency of this procedure will vary from pet to pet and your veterinarian is best trained to determine this. There is nothing that can replace this prophylaxis, especially if brushing proves to be problematic.

 

Dr. Revoir’s veterinary opinion should only be used as an educational guide and in no way should be substituted for licensed veterinary care. Your veterinarian should be consulted in all health matters involving your pet.

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