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Dental health is an important and often overlooked aspect of caring for our canine companions. It’s estimated that over 80% of adult dogs over the age of three have dental disease and few dogs display symptoms before permanent damage has been done.
Without proper dental hygiene, dogs are at risk of developing periodontal disease, which can lead to tooth loss as well as complications with the liver, kidneys, and heart. Periodontal disease can also cause abscesses as well as permanent damage to the jaw bones.
Thankfully, serious dental problems can be easily prevented with regular care. Here are a few tips to keep your dog’s teeth in good health:
- Daily At Home Care
- Regular Veterinary Care
- Healthy Food Choices
- Chew Treats and Toys
- Check Your Dog’s Teeth Often
- Know When to See the Vet
1. Daily At Home Care
One of the best things you can do for your dog’s dental health is daily brushing. Consider your own dental health and what your teeth might look like if you only brushed them once a week or less.
Though it can take some time to get your dog used to the process, you and your dog will
eventually get the hang of it and you can effortlessly incorporate this task into your daily routine. Just remember to start slow and use plenty of positive reinforcement.
When choosing a toothbrush and toothpaste, it’s important to choose products made especially for dogs. Human toothpaste contains ingredients that can be toxic to dogs, so be sure to only use doggie toothpaste.
Though some owners use soft bristled toothbrushes designed for humans, doggie toothbrushes are often easier to maneuver and safer to use in your dog’s mouth. There are several styles to choose from including silicone brushes that can fit comfortably over your finger.
If your dog won’t tolerate having his teeth brushed, you may also consider using other products such as dental wipes. Wipes won’t clean your dog’s teeth as thoroughly but they’re a great alternative to not brushing at all.
2. Regular Veterinary Care
As with humans, it’s important to periodically have your dog’s teeth cleaned by professionals. Depending on your dog’s overall health and age, your vet may recommend dental cleanings every 6 to 12 months.
No matter how good your at home dental care is, there will still be plaque and tartar buildup that will require professional cleanings. Additionally, veterinary staff will be able to get a better look at your dog’s teeth than most owners can at home.
This is especially important when it comes to spotting any potential problems so that they can be treated as soon as possible. Early intervention is key in preventing dental disease.
When deciding how often to take your dog for routine dental care, it’s best to consult your veterinarian for advice. Older dogs or those with previous dental problems may require more frequent visits. Additionally, some dog breeds are more prone to dental issues than others.
3. Healthy Food Choices
The type of food you feed your dog can have a huge impact on his or her dental health. Generally, softer diets such as canned and commercial raw food tend to stick to the teeth and lead more quickly to plaque buildup.
Plaque tends to build up more slowly with dry, crunchy dog foods such as kibble because the texture of the food scrapes the teeth clean as the dogs eat. Some companies also offer kibble specifically designed to help keep your dog’s teeth clean.
This is not to say that kibble is ideal for all dogs. If you do choose to feed your dogs a softer type of food, it’s important to be aware of the effects of this diet and offer plenty of alternatives such as chew toys and treats or daily teeth brushing.
No matter what type of food you give your dog, be sure that it’s a nutritionally balanced diet that will provide him with the necessary nutrients to keep his teeth, gums, and overall health in good condition. If you are having trouble deciding what type of food is best for your dog, consult your veterinarian for advice.
4. Chew Treats and Toys
If you are looking for an easy way to help keep your dog’s teeth clean and healthy, look no further than chew treats and toys. There are a ton of toys on the market designed specifically to scrape away plaque as your dog chews.
These toys vary in hardness to accommodate individual dogs’ needs and often have interesting textures to clean hard to reach areas of your dog’s mouth. If your dog is a tenacious chewer, you will need to supervise chew sessions to make sure he doesn’t break off and swallow any pieces.
Edible chews such as bully sticks can also be a great way to let your dog take charge of his dental health. Bully sticks are a healthy and long lasting chew that most dogs find irresistible. They’re available in a range of sizes to suit dogs of any breed or age.
When choosing chew treats and toys, it’s important to avoid hard products if your dog is a heavy chewer. Hard toys and treats, such as raw marrow bones or toys made of hard plastic, can cause your dog to chip or break a tooth.
In addition to keeping your dog’s teeth clean and healthy, chew treats and toys can also provide your dog with hours of physical and mental stimulation to help prevent boredom related bad behaviors.
5. Check Your Dog’s Teeth Often
Rather than waiting until you notice a problem with your dog’s mouth or behavior, you should take a good look at his teeth on a regular basis.
If you already brush your dog’s teeth every day, it will be easy to check his teeth and mouth each time. However, if this isn’t part of your daily routine, you need to make sure you check your dog’s teeth at least once every week or two.
Keeping an eye on your dog’s dental health will help you to spot any potential problems before they become too serious. Whether it’s a broken tooth, a laceration from a chew toy, or simply plaque buildup, it’s important to address the problem as soon as possible.
Additionally, regular handling of your dog’s mouth will make it easier for you to treat any problems he may have in the future. Even if you’re just performing a quick examination, be sure to reward your dog for waiting patiently with plenty of praise and a tasty treat!
6. Know When to See the Vet
It’s essential to know when a dental problem can wait until your dog’s next dental checkup and when a problem needs to be addressed immediately.
Bad breath and a little bit of tartar buildup doesn’t necessarily require immediate treatment, but if your dog’s dental problems are affecting his ability to eat, he needs to see a vet sooner rather than later.
If your dog has loose teeth, inflamed or bleeding gums, or any bumps or lumps in his mouth, you need to make an appointment with your veterinarian right away. Facial swelling, sneezing, and nasal discharge can also be symptoms of serious dental problems.
Dogs with dental disease may also appear to chew only on one side of their mouth or they may move away when you try to touch their head or face.
Without treatment, dental disease can spread harmful bacteria throughout the bloodstream. This can lead to serious infections in your dog’s internal organs and can be fatal if left untreated. For this reason, if you believe your dog has developed dental disease, it’s recommended to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
Oral hygiene is an important aspect of your dog’s overall health, so it’s crucial that you take the steps necessary to keep his teeth as healthy as possible. Without proper dental care, your beloved companion could be suffering from a painful condition with potentially long term effects on his health.
Thankfully, keeping your pet’s teeth in top shape is relatively easy as long as you can implement these six tips into your dog’s existing routine. Remember, if you ever have any questions or concerns about your dog’s dental health, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.