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DENTAL CARE OF THE ITALIAN GREYHOUND

Italian Greyhounds are a breed that is predisposed to dental issues and possible tooth loss at an early age.  With proper and ongoing dental hygiene by you, and by your veterinarian, this can be delayed or avoided altogether.  Mouth and tooth infections cause pain, foul breath, and tooth loss.  The bacteria involved can cross the internal barrier and invade the bloodstream, creating health problems in other organs including the heart.  In short, poor dental hygiene can shorten your dog's life.

Genetics play a role in the overall health of the mouth and teeth.  Some IGs have enamel conditions. including enamel hypoplasia, enamel dysplasia, as well as a genetic tendency for the gums above and below the incisors (front teeth) to recede.  The latter could be due to ligaments that are too tight, but this condition is worsened by tarter buildup and bacteria.  

Even with correct teeth and gum lines, proper care is necessary to avoid dental issues with your dog.  Brushing with a cleanser (toothpaste) made especially for dogs at LEAST once a week is necessary.  Daily is perfect, but twice or three times weekly is often all a busy person can accomplish.  Special toothbrushes and finger "brushes" are made to help with the process.  The use of an antibiotic mouth rinse made for animals can help control bacteria if the dog has receding gums.  The use of hydrogen peroxide is fine as long as the dog doesn't swallow much of it, as it will cause vomiting.

If you get your dog used to having their teeth brushed, it will go quickly.  Using a bit of the paste on the finger brush or other toothbrush, you can start by lifting the lip on one side of the mouth and working on the molars and premolars on that side.  Then do the other side.  Lastly, do the front teeth (incisors), paying special attention to the area at the upper part of the tooth at the gum line.  We find that by gently brushing from the top down on the top teeth, we get better results.  We have also found that using a child's toothbrush on the bottom teeth, going from the gum line and brushing upwards with the mouth held open just a bit works well on these incisors.  We have found that the finger brush is tolerated better than the other types of brushes, and you can easily slip your finger under the cheek to get to the molars.

If you encounter tarter at the gum line, you should be able to flake it off using your thumbnail if you take care of the teeth at least twice weekly.  Some people use dental scrapers to remove tarter.  If you know how to use these tools, they can be of help.  Keep in mind though, that you can actually scratch the enamel with these tools.  If they're not used correctly, they can injure the dog.  

There are products on the market that are supposed to lessen tarter or make it softer.  We have tried several with varying success.  NONE of them should take the place of brushing.   For an excellent tutorial on brushing your IG's teeth, please visit http://www.cigrescue.org/dental.html

Feeding RAW beef rib bones or raw chicken necks will help remove tarter on the teeth, by the scraping they generate as the dog chews them.  DO NOT give cooked bones, knuckle or weight bearing bones (femurs), rawhide, nylon (nylabone products) or "greenies" as a means of aiding dental care.  There have been instances of dogs needing surgery to remove parts of both of these products due to them being swallowed and not digested.  Cooked bones can splinter, and weight bearing bones can break teeth if too large, or splinter if too small.

Your puppy will start teething at around 3-4 months of age.  It's important to watch to make sure the baby teeth are shed before the adult teeth fully erupt.  The primary candidates for retention are the four canine teeth.  If these teeth aren't shed during the teething process, it can cause the adult canines to grow in crooked.  Some cases are so badly misaligned as to cause deformities in the mouth and protrusion of the teeth outside of the mouth.  If the baby canines don't come out by themselves, your vet will need to remove them under a mild anesthesia.  

Your puppy should have what it called a "scissors bite" when all the adult teeth are in.  If you envision a pair of scissors, think of how the blades come together.  In your dog, the inside surface of the upper front teeth should just touch the upper part of the bottom teeth.  If the dog is "overshot" the upper teeth won't touch the lowers correctly.  If it's "undershot" the bottom teeth will protrude in front of the uppers.  An even bite is when the upper teeth rest directly on top of the lowers.  Crooked incisors are also possible.  All of these conditions can affect the way you care for the teeth, as you will have to make adjustments to make sure the teeth are being cared for properly.

Yearly dental exams by your vet should be part of the annual checkup.  Your vet may recommend having the teeth cleaned by them.  Most vets are now using state of the art means to remove any tarter you might have missed, including ultrasound.  They scale the teeth using professional scaling tools, and follow it up by polishing the teeth.  In some cases, a solution may be put on the teeth to seal them.  This is especially important if your dog has enamel hypoplasia or dysplasia, as these conditions cause the teeth to be more rough and porous than normal teeth, making them harder to keep clean.  They will check for cavities (rare in dogs) and for any teeth that might need to be extracted.  If you've done your home care, the chance of this last will probably be minimal until the dog is much older. 

Occasionally a dog will break a tooth.  If this occurs, you should check with your vet to determine what the best course of action should be.  Crowns are available, but are costly.  Generally the accepted procedure is to either leave the tooth alone if it's not causing pain or the chance of infection, or to remove the tooth.

If your dog loses teeth for any reason, it should not impact their overall health in a negative way.  You might notice they stick their tongue out more, but that's endearing in most of them.  

Enamel Hypoplasia (thin enamel) and Enamel Dysplasia (lack of enamel) can cause the teeth to be more difficult to keep clean.  The enamel is compromised, and easily broken.  There are solutions that can be applied by the vet to help protect these teeth, but it's not a cure.  Daily brushing is absolutely required in these dogs to make sure they retain as many teeth as possible.  It may also be necessary with these dogs to have professional cleaning done more frequently.

We are careful to try to breed only dogs that don't have any of these genetic conditions, but even with proper vigilance, there are some dogs that don't show signs of the condition themselves yet produce it in their puppies.  Additionally, if we DO decide to use a dog that has either produced or come from parents with one of the first two conditions, we will only breed to a dog that we are confident doesn't have the condition themselves.  We will not breed a dog with either of the first two conditions under any circumstances (enamel hypoplasia or dysplasia).  Keep in mind that every bloodline is probably affected somewhere with one or more of these conditions, so finding a bloodline that is 100% free isn't an option.  We start tooth care on our puppies before they go home, so the continuation of their dental care is easier for you.

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