Tag Archives: dental care

Bad teeth revealed as biggest problem for pet greyhounds

Dental disease is the most common health issue facing pet greyhounds, according to the largest ever study of greyhounds treated in first opinion veterinary clinics. The research, led by the Royal Veterinary College’s (RVC) VetCompass programme in collaboration with the University of Bristol Vet School, reveals that 39 per cent of greyhounds suffer from dental problems, which is a far higher percentage than for any other dog breed.

greyhound dental disease

As well as bad teeth, the research revealed that traumatic injuries, overgrown nails and osteoarthritis are also major concerns for pet greyhounds. Overgrown nails affected 11.1 per cent of greyhounds, wounds 6.2 per cent, osteoarthritis 4.6 per cent and claw injury 4.2 per cent.

Greyhounds in the UK are typically used for racing during their early lives, with an increasing number rehomed as pets after their racing careers are over. The results of this study, which is published in Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, adds significantly to evidence available for the debate on the welfare issues surrounding greyhound racing. It will also help breeders and regulators to prioritise activities to mitigate the worst of the harm to greyhounds from their racing careers, as well as help greyhound rehoming organisations advise adopters on optimal preventative care options.

Researchers studied 5,419 greyhounds seen by first opinion vets in 2016. Key findings include:

  • The most common disease in greyhounds was dental disease (39.0 per cent affected). This is much higher than reported for other larger breeds such as the German Shepherd Dog (4.1 per cent) or the Rottweiler (3.1 per cent);
  • Urinary incontinence was more common in female greyhounds (3.4 per cent) than males (0.4 per cent);
  • Aggression was more commonly reported in males (2.6 per cent) than females (one per cent);
  • The median lifespan for greyhounds is 11.4 years, compared to the 12 years previously reported for dogs overall;
  • The most common causes of death in greyhounds are cancer (21.5 per cent), collapse (14.3 per cent) and arthritis (7.8 per cent).

Dr Dan O’Neill, Veterinary Epidemiologist and VetCompassTM researcher at the RVC, who was the main author of the paper, said: “Pet greyhounds are now a common breed treated in general veterinary practices in the UK. Retired racing greyhounds can make very good pets, but these results sadly show that they also carry health legacies from inherent breed predispositions as well as impacts from their prior racing careers. These potential problems include bad teeth, behavioural issues and arthritis. Our new VetCompass evidence especially reveals a worryingly high level of dental disease. This awareness should encourage all those who care for the greyhound to prioritise preventive and remedial strategies for these issues and therefore to  improve the welfare of this lovely breed, both before and after rehoming as pets.”

Dr Nicola Rooney, co-author and lead researcher on Greyhound Welfare Project at the Bristol Veterinary School, added: “Greyhounds can make fantastic pets and live long healthy lives, but it has long been suspected that they are particularly prone to dental problems which can negatively impact upon their quality of life. Here we have the first evidence that levels of dental issues are higher in greyhounds than in other breeds. This highlights the importance of conducting research into ways of improving dental health.

“At Bristol we have been conducting a three-year research programme to further understand what causes dental problems in greyhounds and methods to avoid them. Combined with the current RVC study, this is an important step to understanding and improving the future welfare of greyhounds.”

Professor Steve Dean, Chairman of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust (KCCT), explained: “I must declare an interest in this study as my additional role as Chairman of the Greyhound Trust reveals my enthusiasm for this lovely breed. It will come as no surprise to those who love greyhounds that dental plaque is a significant condition in this breed. This latest study from the VetCompass initiative reveals the extent of the problem and should stimulate interest in further work to understand why periodontal disease is such an issue for both the racing dog and the retired greyhound. Effective research could also have a far reaching impact for several other breeds that suffer a similar challenge. The VetCompass programme has been helpful in revealing breed specific problems and this study is yet another informative analysis   of extensive clinical data. The Kennel Club Charitable Trust regards the financial support it provides as a successful investment in clinical research.”

Paper

Greyhounds under general veterinary care in the UK during 2016: demography and common disorders by O’Neill, D.G., Rooney, N.J., Brock, C., Church, D.B., Brodbelt, D.C. and Pegram, C. in Canine Genetics and Epidemiology [open access]

Source:  University of Bristol media statement

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Two new genes dis­covered in the de­vel­op­men­tal de­fects of can­ine enamel

In addition to humans, hereditary disorders of enamel development occur in dogs, greatly impacting their dental health and wellbeing. A recent study reveals canine enamel disorders similar to those found in humans, linking them with ENAM and ACP4, two genes previously described in humans.
Dog tooth enamel study

New variants in the ENAM gene that codes enamelin were discovered in Parson Russell Terriers

The enamel that covers teeth is the hardest structure in the entire body. Its development is a complex process, and related developmental disorders may result in low enamel quantity, its absence or structural weakness. Alongside aesthetic issues, enamel defects have an impact on dental health and general wellbeing. Amelogenesis imperfecta (AI) is a group of hereditary developmental disorders affecting enamel, with more than ten associated genes reported in humans.

AI causes a significant wellbeing problem for dogs as well, yet the diseases, poorly known in canine medicine, often remain undiagnosed. Canine AI has earlier been linked with the ENAM and SLC24A4 genes in two breeds. In a recent study conducted at the University of Helsinki, two novel recessively inherited enamel disorders were described in dogs, and associated with causative variants in ENAM and ACP4. The identified genes have previously been linked with hereditary enamel development defects also in humans.

“We have observed enamel defects in several breeds. In this study, we found new gene variants in the ENAM gene of Parson Russell Terriers and the ACP4 gene of Akitas and American Akitas. The ACP4 finding was of particular interest, as its role in the development of tooth enamel is not well known, and there are no previous descriptions for any animal models,” says Marjo Hytönen, PhD, the first author of the study.

ENAM codes for enamelin, the key enamel protein, and is significant for achieving the correct enamel thickness during tooth development. A considerable part of human AI disorders are associated with mutations in the ENAM gene, whereas ACP4 codes for the phosphatase enzyme, whose specific significance to tooth and enamel development is currently unclear, but which may influence cellular differentiation and mineralisation. Dogs with an ACP4 mutation expressed thinning of the enamel and a slight mineralisation disorder.

Unlike mice, dogs have primary and permanent teeth just as humans, and the number of teeth is also similar. Therefore, dogs serve as an excellent model for human dental diseases.

“The spontaneous enamel defects found in this study resemble earlier descriptions of human patients, and are also linked with the same genes. Through gene tests, the gene findings will provide new diagnostic tools for veterinarians and breeders, which will also help with understanding the causes, mechanisms and hereditary nature of enamel defects. This is important for the development of early and improved therapies,” explains Professor Hannes Lohi, director of the research group.

Earlier, the group discovered a mutation in the FAM20C gene, impacting tooth hypomineralisation. Gene mapping will continue on various dental diseases in different breeds, including a publication which is currently being prepared on an unknown AI gene.

 

Source:  University of Helsinki media release

 

New – but is it safe and effective?

Look what I found when cleaning out yesterday – in a file of old vet records for Daisy (who passed away in July 2014) – a brochure for Periovac.  With February being Pet Dental Health Month – I thought this blog post was entirely appropriate.

Periovac brochure

Perio-what?

Periovac, marketed by Pfizer with some fanfare in 2006, the vaccine was touted as the latest and greatest thing that dog owners could do to support dental health in their dogs.  On a routine visit to a vet for a lump on Daisy’s side, he handed me this brochure when he noted that she had some tartar buildup recommending both a dental cleaning and vaccination with this product.

“It’s quite new,” he said.

I remember that this statement raised some alarm bells for me because animal medications have a much lower threshold for testing and approvals before they hit the market.  In fact, most pet owners are unaware that the newest medications on the market are often being sold with fairly limited research behind them, often under limited or conditional licenses.

At that time, I was also of the view that dental health in people is managed through dental care such as regular brushing of the teeth and professional cleanings.  I thought that the same would apply to dogs (and still do!).  I couldn’t imagine a vaccine for my dental health – so why one for my dog?

I remember emailing Angell Memorial Animal Hospital’s advice line about use of the product.  The response is one I vividly remember, “Has she tried everything else?”

That answer spoke volumes for me.  I didn’t vaccinate Daisy.

Pfizer withdrew the product from the market in 2011.  They said after a 4-year study, use of the vaccine could not be linked to a long-term reduction in periodontal disease.  The company stood by the product’s safety, however.  I wonder how many dog owners had paid to use the vaccine in good faith – possibly stopping other care methods like brushing of the teeth – I bet they weren’t told that the vaccine turned out to be ineffective!

So my advice for Pet Dental Health Month remains – brush your dog’s teeth.  Everyday.

And my other advice – for dog health in its entirety – is be careful about being an early adopter of new medications.  Make sure you understand how the medication works and what research has been done into both its efficacy and its safety.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Is dental care cultural?

Earlier this week, I went to the dentist.  There was nothing wrong – I just booked in for an annual check-up and a cleaning.  The lovely young dentist I saw said, “Oh, you’re an American.  Americans understand dental care.”

And, while I was flattered, it also got me thinking.

Here in New Zealand there are public service announcements on television with tooth fairies reminding parents they need to brush their kid’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste.  We never had anything like that when I was growing up and I don’t think it was needed because I remember that we even had health classes in school when we’d receive little complementary packs of a toothbrush and toothpaste to take home.

But if dental care varies across cultures, it would explain why I still meet many dog owners here in New Zealand who don’t brush their dog’s teeth.

teeth-brushing

A client demonstrates teeth brushing

Most veterinarians will say that teeth brushing for our dogs is the best thing you can do – before dental diets, drinking water additives and chews – for your dog’s dental health.

Dental care, including teeth brushing, is a good habit for everyone in the family.  After I brush my teeth at night, Izzy gets her teeth brushed.

Greyhounds are known for their bad teeth – and yet more than 2 years after I adopted her, I am proud to say that Izzy has yet to need a dental cleaning at the vet.  And the vet comments that her teeth are in good condition.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Fighting Fractures

Sometimes, I come across resources on the internet that just have to be shared.  Here’s one of them.  It’s a fact sheet by Dr Brett Beckman, a veterinary dentist, about fractured teeth, how to prevent them, and the treatments available.

Fighting Fractures

You can download a .pdf of this fact sheet from www.dentalvets.co.uk

Recommended reading for all dog parents…

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Teefs

Greyhounds, it seems, like to sleep with their mouths open.   And their owners like to take photos of their hounds showing off their ‘teefs’ – photos that are shared on Facebook groups involving greyhounds (I follow several)…

Greyhound front teeth by Elizabeth Anne Dodd

A sleeping greyhound shows off their front teefs (Photo by Elizabeth Anne Dodd)

So I’ve used these photos as an inspiration.  How much do you know about your dog’s teeth?

greyhound front teeth upside down by Gill Vernon

An upside down sleeping Greyhound, again showing off the front teefs (Photo by Gill Vernon)

Let’s look at a diagram of an adult dog’s teeth:

 

Adult dog teeth diagram

An adult dog’s teeth (diagram courtesy of the Merck Vet Manual)

The dog has 6 incisors on the upper and lower jaws that are used for grasping.

Of the famous “canine teeth” there are only 2 each on the upper and lower jaws.  Their main function is tearing.

There are 8 premolars on the upper and lower jaw and their main function is grinding.  There are 4 molars in the upper jaw and 6 on the lower jaw.  These teeth also have a grinding function.

The best way to keep your dog’s teeth healthy is to feed a nutritious diet.

I am a big support of regular teeth brushing, too. (see my blog post on Brushing your dog’s teeth)

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Brushing your dog’s teeth

I see a lot of dogs in my massage practice who have bad breath and/or other noticeable signs of dental disease.  Ask most veterinarians and they’ll tell you that they do a lot of ‘dentals’ during the course of any given week.  If your dog requires teeth to be extracted because of infection, cracking, or gum disease, your healthcare bill will quickly increase.

The first line of defense in keeping your dog’s teeth healthy is a good diet of wholesome ingredients.  That includes chews and bones.  Raw diets excel in this because they use bones as a staple part of the diet but I have also seen dogs with excellent teeth who are fed commercial dog foods – typically supplemented with fresh ingredients – and with bones and chews a regular part of the regime.

Some owners feed a combination of raw and commercial diets; I personally like this balanced approach and it is what I feed my own dog.

But, and here’s the but…bones and chews don’t solve the dental disease problem for a good number of dogs.   Why?

  • Some dogs just aren’t naturally strong chewers; they aren’t motivated by chewing for very long – even on a fresh and meaty bone
  • Dogs who have been rescued or adopted may already have already experienced damage to their teeth or suffered early in life because of a poor diet or starvation
  • I believe that some dogs, like people, have a mouth chemistry that pre-disposes them to tartar build-up.  Dogs are individuals and we simply can’t rule out that nature deals the bad-teeth card to some dogs
  • Dogs who have been born with defects such as cleft palates usually have something wrong with their teeth from the outset; bones and chews may be difficult for these dogs

So what’s the next step?

My view is definitely teeth-brushing.  We train our children to do this daily.  Why would it be any different for a domesticated dog?

[And, with hand on heart, most vets will choose teeth brushing over a special ‘dental diet’ any day.]  The issue here is having the patience and persistence to brush teeth effectively.  Unfortunately, a lot of owners simply give up because of their dog’s protests and vets then become conditioned to ‘water down’ the advice by saying ‘try it a couple of days per week..’ and ‘feed a dental diet.’

I brush my dog’s teeth daily.  Izzy is a retired racing greyhound, a breed known for their bad teeth.  By the time Izzy was adopted at age 5 1/2, her teeth were noticeably unstable and worn down from what must have been chewing on the bars of a kennel or some other surface equally as unforgiving.  She had teeth extracted as part of her adoption medical visit.

I like this very straightforward video from The Whole Dog Journal on the subject of teeth brushing.  The only oversight is that the video doesn’t cover the triple-headed toothbrush design which I prefer.  My concern with the long-handled toothbrushes is that it is easy to poke a dog in the mouth with them, particularly if they are fussing with you over getting their teeth brushed in the first place…

Triple headed dog toothbrush

A triple-headed dog toothbrush – my choice!

There are other natural solutions to dental care which include the use of homeopathics and herbs.  All of these are my choice before a dental diet.  Why?

Well here’s the ingredient list off the label of a well-known prescription diet product.  Does it sound healthy/wholesome to you?

Brewers Rice, Whole Grain Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Powdered Cellulose, Pork Fat, Soybean Mill Run, Lactic Acid, Chicken Liver Flavor, Soybean Oil, Calcium Sulfate, Potassium Chloride, L-Lysine, Iodized Salt, Choline Chloride, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Taurine, Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Natural Flavors, Beta-Carotene

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand