We all love our furry friends and want the best for them, but did you know there’s one aspect of dog care that many dog owners tend to forget? Between all those natural diets, fancy toys and training sessions, our dog’s teeth are often ignored. A pity, because bad teeth can greatly impact a dog’s quality of life.
Let’s have a look at the basics of dog dental care and what you can do to keep your canine’s teeth in top condition.
Why is dog dental care so important?
In the wild, dog teeth stay healthy through a combination of gnawing on tough items and a diet that’s low in foods that cause plaque build-up. Things are a little different for our domestic furry friends: as with humans, their teeth are prone to accumulating plaque, partly due to the foods they’re fed.
Bad teeth can be a major issue for dogs, and as a result, for their owners. Some sources note that up to 80% of dogs aged three or up suffer from periodontal disease to some degree, leading to pain, bad breath, lost teeth and often very steep vet bills. Abscesses and infections in other parts of the body as the result of tooth disease aren’t unheard of, and neglected tooth problems can eventually lead to permanent bone damage.
Maintaining proper dog dental care is something that’s in your hands. Sure, it can be annoying, and not all pooches like to cooperate at first. But it’s just part of being a responsible dog owner and it can prevent a host of trouble in the future!
How to provide proper dog dental care
Brushing your dog’s teeth
Yep, it sounds completely foreign to some, but brushing your dog’s teeth daily (or at least every other day) is the absolute best thing you can do to keep its teeth in good condition. After all, bacteria and plaque build up with every meal. Both are easy enough to remove if you do so on time. If you let the plaque sit and harden into tartar, however, it becomes almost impossible to remove at home. In the long run, it can start affecting tooth and gum health.
You can brush a dog’s teeth using a dog toothbrush and special flavored pet toothpaste. Not sure how in the world you’re going to get the job done? With a few weeks of training, even the more stubborn pooches should usually be fine with having their teeth brushed.
- Begin by getting your dog used to having the outside of its mouth touched. Treats will help!
- Introduce your dog to the dog toothpaste.
- Begin gently touching their teeth using your finger or a finger brush.
- Once the dog is comfortable, you can switch to a normal dog toothbrush.
If you get a new puppy, be sure to get it used to having its teeth brushed right from the beginning. It will make the whole thing so much easier!
Other dog tooth care options
There are some other options that can aid in keeping a dog’s teeth healthy, although you should remember that tooth brushing is your best bet. A toothbrush is the only thing that can really get into all those nooks and crannies and really remove plaque everywhere, after all.
To complement your dog dental care routine, you can consider:
- Dog dental wipes. They don’t get into all the corners, but they can at least clean the teeth superficially.
- Dental chews. Their quality varies, but some are actually quite effective in reducing at least oral bacteria.
- Dog chews. A 2013 study found that normal chews like bully sticks can help in oral bacteria reduction.
Does my dog have dental problems?
Wondering after reading this whether your dog may be suffering from periodontal disease? It can sometimes be difficult to tell, as they’re very good at hiding the pain that comes with tooth issues. Still, there are some indicators:
- Bad breath. Sure, your dog’s breath is never going to be minty fresh, but it shouldn’t make you keel over either.
- Red and inflamed gums, possibly along with bleeding. A healthy dog’s gums will be pale pink in color.
- Excessive tartar build-up. Tartar is brownish in color and looks somewhat gritty, as opposed to the natural shininess of clean teeth.
- Trouble eating. This is very serious and warrants a vet visit ASAP.
If you spot any of these symptoms in your dog, be sure to ask your vet if they can do a dental exam and see what the situation is. Sometimes only a deep clean is necessary, while in unlucky cases, rotted teeth may need to be removed. In some dogs, a dental exam may have to be performed under anesthesia.
Save yourself and your furry friend a lot of trouble by keeping their teeth clean! It can take some training to get a dog used to having its teeth brushed, but trust us, you’ll be glad you did it when your dog gets to live out its years with healthy pearly whites.
Enlund, K. B., Brunius, C., Hanson, J., Hagman, R., Höglund, O. V., Gustås, P., & Pettersson, A. (2020). Dog owners’ perspectives on canine dental health—a questionnaire study in Sweden. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 7, 298.