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Rescue Dog’s Advanced Disease Illustrates
Need for Preventive Dental Care

Eva Ulery, DVM, clinical instructor, works with fourth-year veterinary students Brett Sexton and Brittany Hofman to take radiographs of Lady Blue’s jaw.

Veterinary student Brittany Hofman holds Lady Blue after her dental surgery. (Photo courtesy of Lois Hoover.)

Lois Hoover of Kansas City has rescued many dogs of a variety of breeds over the years, but Italian greyhounds hold a special place in her heart.

“They’re tiny and fragile, but so strong in spirit,” she said. Hoover is a foster parent for the Missouri/Kansas chapter of the Italian Greyhound Rescue Foundation. “Spirited” is how Hoover describes “Lady Blue,” the Italian greyhound she began fostering in January. Lady Blue and her sister were surrendered to the rescue organization by someone who could no longer care for them. Hoover took in Lady Blue while her sister was sent to another foster home in St. Louis. The foster families will care for the dogs until as many medical needs as possible have been met. For Lady Blue, who is believed to be about 9 years old, that has meant extensive veterinary intervention to correct severe dental problems.

Hoover first took Lady Blue to her veterinarian in Kansas City, who referred the dog to the University of Missouri Veterinary Health Center (VHC) Small Animal Hospital. Eva Ulery, DVM, clinical instructor of community practice, determined the dog had end-stage periodontal disease.

“Lady Blue’s lower jaw was broken because of chronic infection that had eaten away gingiva and jaw bone,” Ulery said. “Our goal was to eradicate the infection and pain.”

Unfortunately, there was not enough healthy gingiva and bone left to repair her mandible. Ulery removed the unhealthy bone, gingiva and teeth, and sutured the remaining tissue to create a functional lower jaw.  Now, Lady Blue is infection-free and eating comfortably.

“Dogs usually recover well from oral surgery,” Ulery said. “Lady Blue has adapted nicely and has a better quality of life. However, we as pet owners should take the time to educate ourselves on proper preventive dental care for our pets.”

February is National Pet Dental Health Month, an annual effort to raise awareness of the importance of oral health care for dogs and cats. VHC Community Practice veterinarians suggest that pet owners do the following:

Watch for symptoms of dental disease. Pets often show no symptoms of periodontal disease. Signs of dental problems can include reluctance to chew, especially on hard toys or food, using only one side of the mouth, excessive drooling and bad breath. If pets have an odor to their breath, bacteria could be growing underneath the gum surface.

Brush their pets’ teeth. “Removing soft food before it hardens into plaque and tartar is key,” Ulery said. After 48 to 72 hours plaque turns into calculus, which harbors bacteria and cannot be brushed off the teeth. Ulery suggests that owners could train their pets to accept the toothpaste as they would treats. “Always use toothpaste that’s approved for dogs or cats. Never use human toothpaste as it’s harmful to pets.”

Have pets’ teeth cleaned regularly by a veterinarian. “Many pets need their teeth professionally cleaned each year,” Ulery said. Ask your veterinarian for a complete oral exam and radiographs as well.

Consider products designed to help prevent dental disease. Examples include food, water additives and specially-designed chew toys. Ulery suggests asking your veterinarian for advice or checking for dental products on the Veterinary Oral Health Council website, http://vohc.org.

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College of Veterinary Medicine
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Last Update: February 10, 2016