Dog dental care is a very important aspect of caring for your dog. It affects literally everything that goes on in the stomach department.
Now, even though doggies are not prone to some dental issues like cavities as much as humans are, you still need to maintain a hygienic sitch (situation) up in the mouth. If you don’t, dogs can easily develop some dental issues like gingivitis, or plaque and tartar.
But beyond the bad breath and yellow teeth, there’s even more to worry about. Dental issues can cause serious life-threatening conditions like kidney, liver, and heart diseases.
But let’s back pedal a bit. It’s not just about the severe diseases. Even things as minor as toothaches can get really devastating for your dog.
A dog dealing with toothache is going through seriously severe levels of distress and pain. And you might not know it because he can’t really talk.
You know what’s worse? The stats. They are really scary.
Almost 90% of dogs worldwide over 4 years of age are experiencing some form of periodontal disease or the other.
Periodontal diseases are extremely painful and they can lead to loss of the teeth and severe infection.
Now, as dreadful as this might sound, you’ll be surprised to find that this disease can be prevented by simple, regular check up. It makes you wonder why people don’t make the effort, right?
By simply maintaining a religious dog teeth cleaning schedule and regular visit to the vet doctor, you can keep your dog’s pearly whites neat and healthy.
Of course, your pup isn’t going to take too kindly to the idea of cleaning their teeth. But with patience and consistency, you pup should get used to it.
What A Healthy Dog Mouth Should Like
It’s a great idea to get serious about your dog’s oral hygiene and all but you can’t just go about it all willy-nilly. There are tested and effective ways to go about it.
A great place to start is to know what a healthy dog mouth should look like. If you know what a healthy dog mouth should look like, then you can easily know what to expect as you embark on your dog dental care.
A healthy dog mouth should contain healthy dog teeth. And healthy dog teeth must be clean and completely free from tartar or plaque.
Tartar and plaque are tough, sticky, and scaly discolorations (not to mention disgusting) that form on the teeth.
Also, all of your dog’s teeth must be completely intact and should not be broken or jagged.
Alright, over to the tongue… a healthy dog tongue must be moist and should not contain cuts or lumps.
Next, we look at the gums. The gums should maintain a color along the hues of salmon pink – that’s on a general note. However, there are some breeds that have slightly differently colored gums. For instance, some come with black gums, while others come with pink and black gums.
Dogs with such oddly colored gums can make dog dental care a little tedious for their owners. This is because it becomes harder for their dog parents to really single out infection when it starts.
Now, why have we done this? Knowing what your dog’s dentition should look like on a normal day will make it all the more easier to spot when something goes wrong. If you’ve never done that before, then you should.
Talk to your vet to know what the standard is for your dog breed and make sure you check religiously for any abnormalities.
Top Reasons For Dog Dental Care
Reduces Bad Breath
Dog dental care will help to reduce bad breath in your dog. And please beware, bad dog breath is just a normal thing until it isn’t. If bad breath is becoming a permanent feature of your dog’s mouth, then he might just be suffering from a periodontal disease.
Prevents Severe Systemic Diseases
Bad oral health can affect the health of your dog’s entire system. Yes, it very well can. When a dog comes down with a periodontal disease, infections can ensue. This can lead to the introduction of bacteria to every other part of their body.
In fact, studies have shown that dogs with a chronic level of periodontal diseases can suffer severe damage to their heart, liver, and kidneys.
And it isn’t just the teeth, any inflammation in any part of your dog’s body at all, can lead to chronic damage of your dog’s vital organs.
Healthy Dentition Can Translate To Longer Life
Great dog dental care can ensure that your dog lives longer. Pretty darn good reason if you ask us.
Dog Dental Care Improves The Overall Wellbeing Of Dogs
If you prioritize dog dental care in taking care of your dog, you can turn your dog into a brand new dog! How do we mean?
Veterinarians world over seem to agree with one thing. The moment a dog has a painful tooth (or teeth depending) extracted, the dog shows a remarkable level of improvement.
Health wise, behaviorally, and otherwise, dogs tend to improve a whole lot once a vet extracts their bad tooth (or teeth).
Dog Dental Exams Are An Opportunity To Check Out Other Aspects Of Your Dog’s Health
During a dental exam, the vet checks other things other than just your dog’s teeth.
Usually, your vet will begin by checking your dog’s entire head. So, he’ll typically examine your dog’s face as well as his neck. After this, your vet might now proceed to examine his soft tissues and then other harder stuff like his teeth.
Helps You Catch Severe Diseases On Time
When vets conduct oral examination, it gives them the opportunity to find out about the all-round heath of your dog’s dentition. Well, that one is obvious, that’s what oral exams are for in the first place.
Your vet can easily catch broken teeth, oral tumors, or periodontal disease on time before things get out of hand.
You might not know, but one way your vet can find out if your dog might have other more troubling diseases is to do a dental exam or x-ray.
Now, as your dog approaches middle age and even into his senior years, you’ll need to increase the frequency of his oral exam.
Routines like professional scaling as well as plaque control become absolute musts and you must make sure that you’re on top of that schedule.
Helps To Catch Periodontal Diseases On Time
You can catch diseases on time if you’re religious with your dog dental care and regular exams. Periodontal diseases only cause severe problems when it gets too chronic.
But if you don’t catch periodontal diseases on time, your dog’s gum could get really irritated which could lead to bleeding and then several degrees of dental pain.
In really extreme cases, the root might become so badly destroyed that the teeth begin to fall out one after the other.
Periodontal Disease In Dogs Is Way Easier Than Curing It
Prevention is better than cure. It has always been and it will always be especially when it comes to periodontal diseases. Periodontal diseases are a lot easier to prevent than they are to cure.
Veterinary Anesthesia Is Now Safe!
There has been significant improvement in the practices of veterinary anesthesia practices. And now there are much safer gases now to be used for anesthesia. These gases are a lot more comfortable for dogs and they also help to relieve the post-traumatic stress from a surgical procedure.
Plus, there’s always a tech hand on ground to monitor the procedure. So, why not?
Baby Teeth Might Be Stubborn
You also need to take care of your dog’s teeth for the sake of his baby teeth. What do we mean?
Normally, a full grown dog should have 42 teeth. However, they are not born with all the 42 just like humans are not born with all 32 teeth.
First, the milk teeth have to show up, and then afterwards, they fall out and the more permanent ones replace them.
But sometimes, some of the milk teeth refuse to come out and when this happens, it causes a buildup of tartar as well as the irritation of the gums.
Dogs Are Quite Good At Masking Their Pain
If you don’t perform a routine dog dental care regularly, your dog could be dying in silence and you won’t even know.
They are really Oscar deserving actors when it comes to hiding pain. So, be observant.
Dogs Can Wear Their Teeth Out
Does that sound new to you? Well, dogs don’t take it gently with their teeth. They use it for virtually everything, so, naturally, the teeth will tend to deteriorate. This is the more reason you should check frequently.
Dog Dental Care – How To Go About It
Some people feel that dog dental care is just balderdash since dogs and wolves are long distance cousins. In their opinion, if wolves never went to the dentist, why should a dog?
This is quite the clever argument, seeing how the naysayers carefully left out the part about how dogs have evolved over time. And dogs have really evolved.
It’s been over 20 000 years after all, the least they could do was to evolve, don’t you think?
Plus, who told you wild animals don’t suffer from detrimental dental conditions? They do and seriously so too.
So, that settled, let’s get to the how-to part, i.e. how you can do a great job with your dog dental care.
Be Aware Of The Risk Factors
You need to understand your dog’s breed and understand the risk factors that come with those breeds.
It’s true that most dogs end up with periodontal disease at one point or another in their lives, but then some are more predisposed to this disease than others. There are some breeds that actually suffer more severely than others.
Some of those breeds include:
- Yorkshire Terriers.
- Pomeranians and some other breeds.
If your dog belongs to any of these breeds, then you need to begin dog dental care well in advance unlike with other breeds.
It might seem weird but it is normal and even expected to brush your dog’s teeth periodically. It’s possibly the best way you can help to keep your dog’s teeth in tip-top shape.
There are tons of doggy toothbrushes and toothpastes you can use to clean your dog’s teeth. Ensure that you don’t use your toothpaste or toothbrush (this one goes without saying) on your dogs.
Now, dog toothpastes and toothbrushes come in different flavors. Some even taste like bacon or chicken.
“Not fair! Why doesn’t mine taste like chicken?” Well, because you are not a dog and you can tolerate a good brushing, so deal with it.
Dogs, on the other hand, can’t, for the life of them understand why you’re bothering with trying to clean their teeth. So, they will fuss and you need to entice them with chicken toothbrushes and toothpastes to get them to behave.
And besides dog toothbrushes and toothpastes, you can also use dog chews and dog treats to reduce plaque and tartar accumulation.
Now, normal human toothbrushes are okay for your dog as long as they are soft and the right size. But then, typically, doggy toothbrushes are little more angled than a human one.
Also, most of them come looking like a finger cap. That is, you can slip them on to your finger and brush with it like you’re cleaning your dog’s teeth with your hands.
Finally, we also have pads or wipes. For those days when you can’t spare the time for a full brush, pads and wipes will be your best friend.
Use either of these materials to wipe through her teeth as well as gum line.
If you can’t get a dental pad for dogs around you, then you can simply cut out a clean strip of gauze and wrap it around your finger. That would work just fine too.
Follow The Doctor’s Orders
Your vet is always your best friend when it comes to everything that relates with your dog. This might sometimes mean a deep cleaning of your dog’s mouth from time to time.
If you’re worried about the anesthesia part, we already allayed your fears on that one. There are many safer gases used for anesthesia today in the world of veterinary medicine.
Now, some people might promise you that your dog can also get some dental cleanings without the use of anesthesia. While that’s very true, it’s also very ineffective.
According to petmd, these procedures only “provide cosmetic change” and nothing else. There’s no genuine medical benefit to be gotten from an anesthesia-free dental cleaning.
So, back to dog dental cleaning with anesthesia… The truth is that if you want the best for your dog, you’d have to agree to such procedures.
For one, it gives the vet a good chance to conduct an in-depth and comprehensive examination of your dog’s mouth. Plus, chronic disease conditions like cancers can only be caught during exams conducted under anesthesia.
When To Go To Your Vet
Whether brushing your pup’s teeth is regular for you or not, you still need to carry out routine oral checks on your dog every week or every other week at least.
If you notice any funny business then it’s time to go to the vet – puppy eyes or not.
Here are some signs that should get you worried…
- If he has consistent stinky breath.
- If his eating or chewing habits begin to change.
- Excessive pawing at his mouth or face.
- Drooling excessively.
- Missing teeth, or misaligned teeth.
- Crooked, discolored, missing, or broken teeth.
- Tartar buildup on the teeth (usually appears yellowish brown)
- Growths or bumps inside the mouth.
How Often You Should See Your Vet
Just like you go for your own dental checkup every 6 months, your dog should do same too. You should have an appointment with your vet to check out your dog’s teeth at least once (twice is perfect) every year.
Also, anytime you visit your vet, he should actually check your dog’s teeth for you. But if they don’t, it’s not a bad idea to give them a gentle reminder.
Use The Right Materials
For no reason should you ever use your own toothpaste for your dog. It bears potentially fatalistic consequences.
Human toothpastes contain fluoride and that’s okay for us. But for dogs, it is literally poison. It could easily kill them.
So you might want to stick to doggy toothpastes which you can easily find online or in pet stores close to you.
More Dry Food And Less Wet Food
If the “tooth brushing with my dog” tale always ends up in blood and gore, then you might need a backup plan. We are not saying to totally forget about brushing but, of course, you can’t be doing that every day.
One way to back up for dogs with such issues is to feed them more kibble and less wet food. With kibble, there are fewer chances of the food getting stuck to your baby’s teeth and causing tooth decay.
So, more kibble, less softy softy food.
Include Some Chew Toys And Chew Bones
These days, there are all kinds of chew toys and chew bones that your dog can chew on to strengthen his teeth and gums. But whatever you pick though, you must ensure that it is safe for him.
And remember, harder is not always better. You don’t want your dog to break his teeth while trying to keep those same teeth healthy.
A good chew bone or toy will help to improve the flow of saliva and this saliva contains powerful enzymes. These enzymes help to fight bacteria and other microbes in the mouth.
Plus, they rinse off leftover food so that bacteria cannot latch on, breed, and cause infections.
But then again, chew toys are not enough. You still need to brush your dog’s teeth regularly to maintain topnotch dental health.
There are some natural chew toys you can try for your dog like raw hide or knucklebone.
Now, when going for natural chews, remember what we told you: too hard is too bad.
So, avoid tough parts like hooves or ribs or ham shanks. These things are way too tough for your dog and can make him even fracture his teeth in the name of chewing.
Aside that, always make sure that the chew you’re going for has the approval of the Veterinary Oral Health Council. It should say “VOHC approved”. When you see this stamp, it tells you that such products are legit products safe for your dog.
How To Brush Your Dog’s Teeth… And Win Him Over!
Now that you’re ready to start brushing your dog’s teeth, you don’t expect him to sit still and open his mouth, do you?
Dogs are perfectly content with not brushing their teeth and walking about with stinky breath forever. They just don’t get what all the fuss is about.
But you now know that this is a terrible idea and so many things could go wrong. So, despite his feelings, you’re going to have to brush his teeth either way.
Now, some dogs are naturally cooperative. If you have such dogs, you’re blessed. Getting them to cooperate while you brush them wouldn’t be so difficult.
Then there are these other dogs who are born fighters. If you have such dogs, you are also blessed, it just won’t show up immediately while trying to get your dog to like having his teeth brushed.
Dogs like that might require several weeks to learn to adjust enough to tolerate having their teeth brushed.
Now, here are some steps you can follow:
Just Handle His Mouth First
The first thing you want to do is to just handle your pooch’s mouth for a little bit. You don’t want to just dive in head on and begin brushing. It doesn’t work that way and your dog will fight you every step of the way.
As with other kinds of training, you need to get your dog to associate brushing with pleasant thoughts so he can learn to sit still enough to have it done regularly. So, just handle first.
You can dip your finger into something delicious like non-fat yoghurt, peanut butter, or meat baby food. Now your finger is like some delicious treat that your dog will be crazy about.
Now take that finger into your pup’s mouth and while you allow him lick on your finger, gently touch his gums and his teeth. As you do that, try to rub on his gums and teeth like you’re brushing his teeth.
You’d have to keep reapplying the treat when necessary. And then as you move along, try to reach into more sides of his teeth.
As you do this, expose his teeth a little more by taking his lips aside. And then try to rub them like you did with the front ones.
Handling The Muzzle
Another thing your pup would have to get used to is you handling his muzzle. So, you both would need to work that out together as well.
Now, here’s how you do that.
Place your hands on his upper and lower jaw – i.e. one hand on each jaw. Now, just rest your hands there for a bit. It shouldn’t take more than some seconds.
As he gets comfortable with that, you want to then graduate to trying to pry his mouth open. You’d do this by manipulating your way into opening his lips. As he opens up, then you can gently work your way into prying the jaws open.
Once you’ve cleared up the preliminaries, it would then be time to get out the brushing gear. Here is where the real work begins. But once you know what to do, and you’ve done it a few times, it gets easier.
Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth
Remember when we said you cannot use human toothpaste for your dog because it contains fluoride which is poisonous to dogs? Well, there’s a little bit more to that.
You know how humans brush their teeth: when you’re done with the brushing, you spit out the rubbish, right? Do you think dogs can do that? Nope. It’s not normal for a dog to spit out the paste after brushing but if your dog can do that, we will be thrilled to watch a video.
So, for the vast majority of normal dogs, you’d need to get them their own toothpaste.
Dog toothpastes are formulated in such a way as to make them safe for swallowing. In fact, they come in very delicious flavors to encourage them to enjoy the brushing process.
First, Begin With The Visible Part Only
Now, when you bring out your brushing gear – the brush and toothpaste, just keep it close by and allow your pup to sniff around it. Then, allow him to lick them too.
Now, after this, just like you did when you were handling his mouth, move his lips aside and try to rub around the gum line and visible teeth. If you add some toothpaste, you might encourage him to be more cooperative.
As he settles into the idea, try to reach for more teeth with the brush. The toothpaste will get used up as you do this, so feel free to make a reapplication.
Keep the movement around the teeth in a circular pattern. This is most effective for cleaning dog teeth.
In all of these, do not forget his gum line.
Don’t Get Over Ambitious – Give It Time
Now, another mistake that some dog parents make is to try and do so much in such a short time. It never works for dogs. You must learn to take your time.
So, for the first few days of brushing, just stick to the visible teeth only. Don’t reach for the back just yet.
“Oh! But won’t his back teeth get tartar and plaque and all those bad periodontal diseases you talked about?” Well, not exactly.
Actually, in most dog breeds, the front teeth are the most likely to come down with periodontal disease. So, you’re covered.
Plus, a few weeks of not brushing the back teeth should not necessarily land you both in periodontal disease. Especially since you’re on top of your game with his dog dental care, which you are, right?
Reach For Those Back Teeth
As your pup begins to adjust to the idea of you brushing his visible teeth, it’s time to gently reach for the back teeth. Open his jaws very gently, and then try to brush the teeth behind.
In all honesty, brushing a dog’s back teeth can be crazy difficult but just do the best you can. Like we already told you before, front teeth are more at risk for periodontal disease than back teeth.
When you complete any session of brushing – back teeth or not – the next thing on the agenda should be to reward your dog for behaving himself accordingly.
Give him a treat, play with him, show him some affection, or say something sweet to him.
You need this for next time. If your pup can form a positive mental connection with brushing his teeth, you’ll find it easier and easier to brush his teeth as time passes.
As they say, all is well that ends well. If the last brushing session ended well, you sure bet he’ll be amenable to the idea of a second session.
Go To Your Vet
Now, it doesn’t end with you brushing your dog’s teeth, you’d need to take him to see his vet from time to time for a more thorough and professional cleaning.
The procedure is usually done under anesthesia and we hope we’ve been able to allay your fears concerning that by now (refer to sub – “Follow Doctor’s Orders”). If we haven’t, well, we tried.
Now, you need this professional cleaning for several reasons.
For one, your vet would be able to reach into some hard-to-reach areas pretty easily and better than you can. (It’s not your fault, they are trained, you aren’t).This way, he can also easily clean the parts under your dog’s gums and all.
Secondly, during a professional cleaning, your vet will be able to spot early warning signs of an oral disease or a systemic one. This way, they can be prevented or handled on time as the case may be.
During a professional cleaning also, your vet might take x-rays of your pup’s teeth to be sure that there aren’t any underlying problems that he might be missing. It’s kinda like what you do at your own oral checkup.
Now, as to the frequency of vet cleanings, some people say you should do that once every one to three years, at least. Others say annually. Seeing all that is done during professional cleaning, which would you go for?
If you ask us, we’d say to make it once every year at least. When it comes to fighting dog dental diseases, prevention remains the best approach. So, dog parents must make it a point to fight to prevent those diseases from occurring in the first place rather than attempt to cure them.
And you’d agree with us that an annual exam gives a far more likely chance to prevent dental diseases than a “once-in-three years” exam.
How Often Should You Brush Your Dog’s Teeth At Home?
It’s best to brush your dog’s teeth as often as you possibly can. Every day is most ideal for the best results.
In addition to brushing his teeth, you should also adopt other healthy practices as part of your daily dog dental care routine. Giving him chew toys, the right diet and other such things as we have previously discussed would help.
Some Dog Dental Care Concerns
The wonderful thing about a religious dog dental care routine that’s followed is that it gives you the opportunity to spot dental problems that you otherwise wouldn’t have known.
Dogs aren’t human and can’t communicate to us in human language when they are in pain. You’d have to find out this information for yourself.
But while checking through your dog’s teeth, do you know what signs to look out for? Do you know what signs should make you reach for your vet?
We already showed you what a healthy dog teeth should look like but in a few seconds, we will be looking at some dog dental care concerns that you should watch out for.
Of course, in the first place, signs like a discoloration, lumps, any kind of swelling, a different smell, or sores should make you call your doctor fast.
If your dog shows any of the aforementioned signs, chances are that he’s suffering from one or two of the underlisted dental conditions:
Halitosis, street name bad breath, is one of the first signs of trouble in pearly white town.
Bad breath is usually as a result of bacteria festering in the mouth from breeding on leftover food around the teeth and gums.
Besides this, your dog may be suffering from bad breath because of an infection.
Now, if you notice this, try brushing more regularly at first. On a good day, halitosis can easily be reversed if you make your brushing more regularized.
However, if the halitosis is due to more serious conditions like a kidney disease or an infection, brushing won’t help. You’d have to call the vet.
Cysts And Tumors
Once you begin to notice any kind of lump in your dog’s mouth, then you must immediately make preparations to go and see your vet. They will need to examine your pet immediately.
In truth, some lumps aren’t really anything but then again some are. They might be early signs of a tumor or a cyst. Since you can’t tell as you’re not a professional (except you are), you have to go to your vet.
Your vet might drain the cysts. Or if it’s a tumor, they might biopsy and remove them, that is, if the tumor is malignant.
Gingivitis refers to the inflammation of the gum. It can be caused by the accumulation of plaque on your dog’s teeth. The accumulated plaque can get so severe that it could lead to an infection of the gum.
But there’s good news here. Just like halitosis, gingivitis is reversible. You’d only have to get more serious with brushing your dog’s teeth. And you must be on top of things and make it once a day every day without missing any day.
But if you notice any bleeding or discoloration of your pup’s gums, then call your vet.
Therefore, this goes without saying: know the color of your dog’s gums.
Periodontal disease refers to an infection that occurs somewhere between your dog’s teeth and his gums. It can lead to swelling, pain, and loose teeth.
Dogs who suffer periodontal diseases might also find it real difficult to eat and may even also experience some nasal discharge.
If you didn’t know, humans too can also come down with periodontal disease if they fail to brush.
Here are some signs that might mean that your dog is going through periodontal disease
- Browning or yellowing teeth.
- Red gums.
- Swollen gums.
- Chewing difficulty.
- Loose teeth.
- Pain around the mouth.
If you notice any of these signs, call your vet and have him examine your dog. He might be experiencing periodontal disease and he’d have to be placed on the proper treatment plan.
Proliferating Gum Disease
This disease is more common with special dog breeds like boxers and bull terriers.
It occurs in a dog when the gum line begins to grow beyond the normal boundary and begins to reach as high as the teeth.
Now, because of this excessive growth, there is ample opportunity for infection and as such, such dogs should be treated with antibiotics.
Helping your dog to maintain proper dog dental care is very vital to his health. As you have seen, the state of the mouth very easily dictates the state of the body’s overall health.
Don’t forget, in dog dental care, prevention is the greatest cure. So, ensure that you remain on top of your dog dental care plan by helping him keep his teeth, tongue and gums sparkly clean.