How to Care For Your Dog’s Teeth
Do you ever wonder what happens to your dog’s Puppy Breath? Well, it does go away and you will never get it back, but “Dog breath” doesn’t have replace it. You can keep your dog’s breath fresher with good regular oral hygiene including brushing, chew toys and regular dental check ups. And while a raw diet has been reported to clear up plaque and keep teeth in top notch condition it isn’t always a feasible option for dog owners. And you can’t let your dog determine what kind of care his teeth get. If there is no way you can brush them, there are other sprays and gels that will kill bacteria and make for a cleaner healthier mouth.
So how often should you tend to your dog’s mouth? At least once a week you should take time to check your dog’s teeth and gums by gently running your finger along their gums. You will be checking for swelling, tenderness and tartar buildup. Healthy gums should feel firm and have a healthy color. Dogs with dark skin will sometimes have molted coloring on the gums so get to know your dog’s mouth and what is normal for him. If you find that the gum area seems sensitive or if you notice bleeding or swelling you need to take your dog to the vet for a complete exam. Gingivitis is a killer of dogs if it is left untreated and infected teeth can lead to weight loss and sickness in your dog.
After your initial exam and everything is within the norm you will want to brush your dog’s teeth. Start by letting your dog sniff the toothpaste. They make several flavors, so search until you find one your dog is eager to lick. Let him have a taste if it is his first time, otherwise put a dab on the toothbrush or finger brush. You most likely will not get a tooth brushing in like you do on yourself, just try to get the paste on the gum line the best you can. If your dog will let you brush then go ahead and brush for as long as your dog will allow. You can replace doggie toothpaste with baking soda and water but you never want to use human toothpaste due to the fluoride content.
Small dogs need extra attention paid to their teeth as they are more prone to tooth decay, and gum disease that can lead to serious illness and even death if not treated in the early stages. While most vets choose to clean teeth under anesthesia, many dog owners will not have their dog’s teeth done. More and more vets are partnering up with professionals that will clean teeth without anesthesia, so do your research and find someone who will do this rather than forgoing cleaning.
If your dog is on a processed food diet it is helpful to know that dry kibble helps to keep the teeth cleaner and can help keep tartar reduced. Another option is a natural “green” beef bone or marrow bone with meat and fat on the outside and marrow still on the inside. As the dog chews and pulls off the meat it works on the front teeth and as they gnaw on the bone with their molars they get worked on as well. A serious word of caution here, if your dog chews the bone and you see thin shards forming you need to remove the shards or the bone completely. You do not want those breaking off and the dog swallowing them or getting them stuck in the teeth and/or gums. NEVER give your dog cooked poultry bones!
There are also lots of great “dental chews” on the market if your dog will chew them. Some toys are made so you can put a tasty treat inside such as cheese whiz or peanut butter or even a biscuit that encourages the dog to try and chew them out. Some dogs will wolf down dental chews like candy and while this may be their idea of good, it does little to help keep the gums stimulated and teeth clean. Shop around until you find a toy or chew that your dog enjoys. If they devour them you can also take the chew away after 15-20 minutes of chewing. Not only does this increase desire, it also prolongs the life of the chew.
After all this is done you are left asking, “What is an acceptable amount of tartar?” If you look at the gum line of your dog’s teeth at the canines you may see darkness at the gum line. If you see that the tartar is dark brown and yellowish in color and it looks like there is texture to it then you should take your dog to the vet and have them examined. If there is a small amount of tartar and your dog will tolerate it, you can work on it and remove it at home. Again, you want to take extra precautions for small and older dogs as they are prone to tooth and gum problems that when left unaddressed can cause health issues.
If you have a dental system that works well for you and your dog please scroll down to the comments and share your ideas so others can learn from your experiences.