A few weeks ago I wrote an article on greyhound digestion. We learned that greyhounds rely on the crushing power of their molars to break down food, as they lack the enzymes needed to begin carbohydrate break down in their mouths.
Due to this, dogs’ teeth are important to their overall health. Greyhounds are known for their bad teeth. Today, I want to discuss the greyhound’s teeth and gums, how gingivitis occurs, and then how to get your greyhounds mouth into tip-top-shape!
If you have even been around a greyhound puppy, you know why they are called “land-sharks.” They have super fine sharp teeth that will cut through skin and bring you to your knees. Thankfully at about six months these 28 extremely sharp weapons fall out and replaced by 42 permanent adult teeth. Dogs have four types of teeth: canines, incisors, premolars, and molars. The canines are responsible for ripping or tearing flesh and the molars are responsible for crushing. These adult teeth lack in sharpness but are efficient at bringing down quarry and enable the greyhound to tear through bone and muscle.
Just as the adult teeth need to be strong to function, they also depend on strong gums for support. Gums are tissues in the mouth that are covered with oral mucosa. Gums help keep the teeth aligned and supported. If the gums are not healthy the teeth cannot be healthy either.
So why do greyhounds have such “bad” teeth? There are several hypotheses but no clear answer at this time. The national greyhound adoption program (NGAP) blames this on a raw diet fed at the kennels; however, I disagree. A raw diet with meaty bones should promote good dental care. Some feel that there is a lack of concern about teeth in the greyhound industry and point out that there is only a half page on tooth care in the greyhound bible AKA Care of the Racing Greyhound: A Guide for Trainers, Breeders, and Veterinarians. I am not sure that this is that accurate either, as tooth brushing is not difficult and could be covered quickly. The cause of bad teeth could be debated all day and a clear answer may not surface. Let move on to how tooth decay and gingivitis occur and how to prevent this.
Dogs have bacteria in their mouths, and certain bacteria are part of their normal flora (friendly bacteria). They also get bacteria in their mouths from eating, licking, chewing, and doing dog things. These bacteria stick to the teeth. If these bacteria are not removed from the teeth they cause irritation to the gums. This is called gingivitis. Most likely your hounds have gingivitis if their gums bleed with brushing. This is commonly seen early in an oral care program. Regular teeth brushing and chewing can reverse this. If these bacteria are not removed they will continue to build up on the teeth. This build-up of bacteria (tarter) will weaken the enamel of the teeth causing decay. This build-up of tarter can also affect the bone under the gum supporting the tooth if not removed. Once the bones supporting the teeth are affected the dog has periodontitis. This is not reversible and can cause tooth loss if not stopped.
The importance of the teeth and gums are paramount. Teeth not only support our nutritional needs, but if they are diseased, they create an entryway for bacterial to enter into the blood stream and potentially cause life-threatening infections.
How do we prevent this from happening to our best friends? Number one most important thing is brush their teeth. I admit that I am not the best at daily brushing, but after writing about the horrors of periodontitis I can promise you there will be daily brushing in our house! The second thing is to feed raw bones. Raw bones are irritants to built-up tarter on the teeth. The grinding of the bone helps to remove the tarter on the molars as you can see in the photo above. Please, do not feed cooked bones, as they can be extremely harmful to dogs. The cooking of bone denatures the proteins and causes splintering of the bone when chewing. Finally, encourage chewing! I love planet dog toys. The Orbee-Tuff line holds up to my aggressive chewers and the toys have a nice peppermint scent to help with bad breath.
I hope that this article is helpful to you and your hound. Below is a video of how we brush teeth. Promoting clean teeth and gums is one of the best things you can do for your greyhound!