Have you ever taken a close look inside your dog’s mouth and discovered hair seemingly sprouting from beneath the gum tissue surrounding their teeth? It may appear peculiar, like some kind of strange dental anomaly, but there’s actually a logical explanation behind it. Hairy teeth in dogs are a telltale sign of skin problems. Let’s delve into why.
The Itchy Chewers
When dogs experience itchiness, they often resort to chewing on their skin to seek relief. For certain breeds with short, coarse hair, such as boxers and bulldogs, the hairs shed during this chewing process can easily get trapped under the gums. You’ll typically find this happening around the incisor and canine teeth at the front of their mouth.
The Immune System’s Reaction
Although the hair comes from your dog’s own body, the immune system perceives it as potentially threatening foreign material and launches an attack. As a result, inflammation occurs. While some dogs may only experience a mild reaction that causes minimal damage, others may suffer from a severe inflammatory response. Moreover, the hair entangled around the teeth creates a breeding ground for food particles and bacteria, leading to gum infection. This, in turn, causes the gums to recede from the teeth, a clear indicator of periodontal disease.
The Dangers of Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease refers to the inflammation and deterioration of the tissues surrounding the teeth. This includes gum tissue, cementum (a calcified substance covering the roots of teeth), periodontal ligaments that connect teeth to the jawbone, and the alveolar bone itself. If left untreated, periodontal disease becomes painful and eventually causes tooth loss. Moreover, the bacteria in the mouth can enter the blood vessels in the gingival tissue and spread infections to other parts of the body, including the heart valves, lungs, liver, and kidneys.
Seeking Veterinary Treatment
Fortunately, periodontal disease can be addressed by a veterinarian. Your vet will administer anesthesia to your dog, conduct a thorough examination and cleaning of their teeth (including the removal of any hair), and may even take dental x-rays to assess deeper structures. In severe cases, damaged teeth may need to be extracted.
Prevention is Key
Preventing the recurrence of periodontal disease triggered by hair requires a two-step approach:
Address the underlying cause of your dog’s itchiness. Common culprits include flea bites, mange mites, and allergies to substances like pollen, mold, or certain food ingredients. Consulting a veterinarian can help identify the root cause, which may involve diagnostic tests such as skin scrapings, cytology, fungal cultures, or allergy testing.
Remove any hair that becomes lodged around the teeth before it causes significant damage. Gently wiping the area with a cotton swab can be effective, but brushing your dog’s teeth daily is even better. Not only does it help eliminate hair, but it also prevents the buildup of plaque and tartar, which are leading contributors to periodontal disease.
For more information, you can refer to the resources below:
- Dictionary of Veterinary Terms: Vet-speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian
- Subgingival hair: An embedded predicament
Take good care of your furry friend’s dental health, and remember to keep an eye out for hairy teeth as a sign of underlying skin issues.