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Greyhound Dental Problems:
Chronic Ulcerative Paradental Stomatitis (CUPS)
By Judy Kody Paulsen, Founder
(Excerpt from Spring/Summer 2009 issue of GCNM News)
The emphasis in dog racing is not on longevity in terms of overall health for the racers, but rather their immediate athletic performance capabilities. Long-term dental health is generally not considered a priority for a racing dog as evidenced by the majority of retired racers with advanced dental problems. The soft diet and absence of routine dental care combine to create an oral environment ripe for any number of painful conditions.
Retired racing greyhounds often have advanced periodontal and paradental disease by the time they are turned over to adoption programs. Periodontal disease affects the gums, bone in which the teeth are rooted, ligaments, and roots of the teeth, whereas the term paradental refers to tissues in the mouth, such as the mucosal linings of the lips, the roof of the mouth, and the tongue. Oral complications can create a significant financial burden for adoption groups and ultimately for the adopter, especially in dogs over two years of age.
The longer a racer is kept at the track or breeding farm, the more likely s/he is to have considerable dental problems. One such condition, Chronic Ulcerative Paradental Stomatitis (CUPS), is a disease caused from a hypersensitivity to bacteria contained within the plaque which coats the teeth. In the case of CUPS, this hypersensitivity translates into a disease which requires aggressive treatment. Itís likely that CUPS is a highly under-diagnosed problem in dogs, especially greyhounds, since most veterinarians and adoption groups make the assumption that greyhounds just have bad teeth and the only method of coping is with traditional cleanings and medicating.
CUPS is diagnosed not just by the appearance of the gums and teeth, but more precisely by close inspection of the paradental tissues for inflammation and ulceration in areas which contact the teeth. Even moderate buildup of plaque can create inflammation in the paradental tissues in some dogs.
Biopsies of the inflamed tissues and complete blood work can result in a definitive diagnosis, although a thorough history from the adopter and physical examination of the dogís mouth by a professional can often provide most of the information necessary to identify CUPS.
Most general veterinarians are well-versed in how to proceed with common periodontal problems that result from poor dental care, but what about paradental disease Ė do enough veterinarians consider the prospect that there may be more to the puzzle than inadequate oral maintenance? It may be up to the adopter to inquire about the possibility that frequent cleanings may not be the best approach, especially when symptoms recur quickly after professional cleanings. Sometimes within days or weeks of a dental appointment, the dog suffering from CUPS begins to exhibit halitosis, drooling, and oral pain as demonstrated by reluctance to chew on or eat anything hard.
The long-term outlook is dismal for the CUPS dog, even with the use of medications and routine professional cleanings. Regular, aggressive brushing can be painful for the affected dog. Cumulative effects of repeated anesthesia necessary for thorough dental cleaning can be detrimental to dogs, particularly the sensitive sight hounds. Long-term, intermittent antibiotic and/or anti-protozoal therapy can be expensive in addition to producing health consequences for the dog. Expense of continual visits to the veterinarian to attend to dental problems can be a concern as well.
From frequent brushing to applying oral gels to the teeth, dental treatments can be difficult for adopters to administer faithfully and may be ultimately ineffective in the case of CUPS. Although distressing for many animal guardians to consider, veterinarians familiar with CUPS agree the most effective approach is full mouth extractions.
Surprisingly, dogs with no teeth function very well and are able to eat most anything. Aesthetics should be the least of the adopterís concerns when it comes to choosing the most effective treatment for a greyhound suffering from CUPS. The ultimate goal is to create an oral environment that no longer is a haven for the growth of disease-causing bacteria.
As drastic as it sounds to have all teeth removed from your dog, this might be the best solution for dogs suffering from CUPS or other oral diseases as well. Knowing your greyhound will be free of mouth pain and will likely no longer require medication or procedures under anesthesia just to keep the teeth clean, youíll be as relieved as your dog after s/he recovers from the extractions. After all, it is our responsibility to ensure our animal companions the most comfortable existence possible and sometimes this can result from something as basic as getting a knowledgeable veterinarian, preferably board certified in veterinary dentistry, to diagnose and treat dental problems.
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