Dog’s Dental Care: What’s Growing In Your Dog’s Mouth?
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Dog’s Dental Care: What’s Growing In Your Dog’s Mouth?

Dog’s dental care is very important and as most dog owners know, dog breath can be quite potent (to say the least!). You may think this is normal, but actually, this can be a VERY bad sign! Bad breath (or ‘halitosis’ if you want to be scientific) is a sign of poor oral hygiene. That rotten egg or rotten fish odor that you are smelling comes from the millions of bacteria growing in your dog’s mouth. The bacteria build up on their teeth (also known as plaque) and release large amounts of sulfur-based compounds, which are responsible not only for the horrid smell, but can also cause serious damage to our four-legged friends. Sort of makes you think about all those times your dog has licked your hand or face!

80% of dogs will have problems with their teeth or gums after age 3. Even worse, according to recent estimates, only one-third of those dogs suffering from diseases of the mouth receive proper care and treatment. Don’t let your dog fall into this statistic! Do something about it now!!!!!

Why is dog’s dental care so important anyways

Well, firstly, your dog’s dental care is just as important as YOUR dental health. If you had rotten teeth and couldn’t chew, I am sure you would be in pain. The same goes for your dog!

If you don’t use preventative measures to keep your dog’s mouth clean, dangerous bacteria WILL buildup on his teeth (plaque). This plaque not only causes an inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), but if not properly removed, it WILL cause damage to the whole mouth (periodontitis) which WILL lead to tooth loss. And it gets worse.

The plaque bacteria can also pass into the bloodstream, and if it does, then it can cause serious infections to his vital organs (the heart, kidneys, liver and lungs). At this stage, it’s not looking very hopeful. Don’t put your dog through this type of pain, especially when it is easily avoidable! That’s why dental health is so important! Good dental hygiene increases general health, wellness and quality of life.

Dog’s Dental CarePhoto courtesy of Church Land Animal Clinic

Dog’s Dental Care at home!

You may not always have time to go to the vet to have your dog’s teeth cleaned or examined. Even if you did have regular checkups, you should still keep up your dog’s dental hygiene at home. Here is how:

Brush his teeth

Dogs need to have their teeth brushed too! How often you might ask? EVERY DAY! If you can’t do it every day, then shame on you. No just kidding, occasional brushing is helpful too.

• You can use a toothbrush meant for humans as your dog’s toothbrush. However, the bristles should be soft, so as not to damage the enamel layer, (which is thinner than ours) and should be flat. The head should not be too large, so as to reach even the most difficult areas of the mouth. And the size should be appropriate to the size of your dog. I suggest using a child sized toothbrush.

• Ask your vet about proper brushing techniques. I brush going horizontally with the toothbrush bristles angled toward the gums. Don’t brush too hard and don’t brush the gums!

• Your dog will probably not like this idea at first. Don’t just shove the toothbrush in his mouth. Just be gentle.

• You should NEVER give YOUR TOOTHPASTE to your dog! It contains ingredients (sodium fluoride and xylitol) that are toxic to dogs and can damage their stomach. It is therefore extremely important to use toothpaste specially formulated for your dog. However, it is not totally necessary to use toothpaste. The action of brushing alone can be helpful. Some dogs just chew on the brush and try to eat the toothpaste, so it might be best to leave out the toothpaste and just try to brush his teeth if you are having this problem. If your dog doesn’t have any serious current problems with his teeth, then I suggest using one of these…

- CET Enzymatic toothpaste by Virbac is toothpaste for dogs that uses a natural antibacterial action to stop the buildup of plaque and helps prevent bad breath. It is also poultry flavor (may not sound good to you or me, but your dog will appreciate it!). This works really well and is probably the most effective in my opinion. I prefer to use this one because it is one of the only toothpastes that my dogs at home will let me use!

- Natural Toothpaste by Sentry Petrodex is great because it is 100% natural and doesn’t contain artificial preservatives! It uses natural abrasives to safely remove plaque to help prevent bad breath and gum disease. Plus, its peanut butter flavor is a great incentive to get your dog to allow you to brush his teeth. It doesn’t make the teeth as white as the CET brand, but the natural ingredients are better for your dog.

Doggie Dental Snacks

There are many dog treats out there today; some are good and some are bad. For some reason people think that since it’s a dog, that they can chew on real bones….sorry friend, it just isn’t true. Dogs can break their teeth on cleaned real bones, deer antlers, and cow hooves. The good, and the ones for dental health (as this is the current topic) are not real bones and instead have been proven to effectively clean their teeth. I have listed the best one (in my opinion) below if you are interested.

Greenies Dental Treats for Dogs are my #1 recommend choice to use as a dog treat that will clean his teeth and help make your dog’s breath a little more tame! And it’s not just me that approves them! Greenies have received the Registered Seal by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). The VOHC is an organization that reviews and examines pet dental products and they only approve products that meet their standards for plaque and tartar/calculus retardation in dogs and cats. Products are also only awarded the VOHC Seal of Acceptance if the results from product trials and tests conducted according to VOHC protocols prove safe and efficient. Here is why I love Greenies:

• VOHC approved (meaning it is a safe product)

• Clinically proven to provide a total oral care (fights tartar, plaque, it improves bad breath, and protects the health of the gums)

• They follow the AAFCO recommendations for highly soluble and digestible proteins for adult dogs (meaning it is easily digestable)

• Only need one a day (to keep the vet away!)

• I have only had one dog in all my years that didn’t like the taste (my dogs at home would eat the whole box if given the chance!)

• Made in the USA! From the Nutro website: “We are proud that NUTRO® Products are made in our own U.S. facilities. Our facilities are located in Victorville, Calif.; Lebanon, Tenn.; and North Sioux City, S.D. Our GREENIES® Products are made in Kansas City, Mo.”

Frequently asked questions!

These are BY FAR the most asked questions we get… (Yes I know, I already mentioned some of these before)

“What food should I use to control the formation of plaque and tartar?”

In general, foods that are soft and sticky can cause the accumulation of plaque and tartar; more so than hard and fibrosis foods. For this reason, dry foods are more helpful for dental hygiene. The abrasive action of the shapes and textures rub the tooth surface when they chew helps to “scrap off” some buildup. BARF diet also helps your dog’s teeth stay clean. You still need to brush your dog’s teeth.

“What’s the difference between plaque and tartar?”

Plaque is a biofilm on the teeth that is made up of bacteria (millions of them).

Tartar is hardened or mineralized plaque. It forms when the mineral salts of saliva begin to settle onto clusters of bacteria. This transforms the plaque into a sort of cement like substance. It becomes incredibly hard and therefore cannot be removed by simply brushing the teeth. Thanks to its rough surface, tartar becomes an ideal breeding ground for bacteria to adhere to on the surface of the teeth. This builds up and can cause many problems if not removed.

“How can I tell if my dog has problems with his mouth?”

Well, there are several obvious signs that something is wrong. When your dog leaves food in his bowl (and this is unusual for him specifically) or he doesn’t finish his treat…something is wrong. This also could be caused by other things as well but it could be from dental problems. Also, if your dog has trouble opening his mouth, difficulty chewing, is excessively drooling, has no appetite, is less sociable or is easily irritated…then it is time to go to the vet. Also, if you gently look at his teeth, and a tooth is broken or there are obvious fractures

“Are some dog breeds more prone to dental problems?”

All dogs are prone to diseases of the mouth, especially after 3 years of age. But small dogs (weighing less than 8 kg) are affected earlier in life and are affected more severely, especially at the level of the incisors and inner surfaces of the teeth. However, Greyhounds tend to have dental problems and can require extra dental care. According to Banfield Applied Research and Knowledge (BARK), the top 10 breeds most prone to periodontal disease include:

• Toy Poodle

• Yorkshire Terrier

• Maltese

• Pomeranian

• Shetland Sheepdog

• Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

• Papillion

• Standard Poodle

• Dachshund

• Havanese

“Is it normal that my dog’s breath reeks?”

As I mentioned before, bad breath is NOT a normal characteristic of dogs. That smell comes from the bacteria from the plaque growing on your dog’s teeth. This bacteria releases large amounts of sulfur-based compounds which causes the bad breath and can directly damage the gums. If your dog’s breath stinks, just go to the vet!

“Who should I contact if I notice that my dog has a problem with his teeth?”

Veterinarians are also pet dentists! Your vet will decide the most appropriate treatment if there is a problem that needs fixed, and they can also regularly clean and polish your dog’s teeth.

“When should I start thinking about my dog’s teeth?”

As soon as he becomes a part of your family! The sooner, the better! Especially when the permanent teeth begin to appear (around 3-7 months). Your veterinarian will be able to teach you some tips on keeping up your dog’s dental hygiene. Your dog should also get regular checkups in addition to cleaning his teeth at home.

“How often do I have to check inside my dog’s mouth?”

Unless there is a specific problem, it is recommended to have a look once every 2 months. It never hurts to check and see how things are going inside there.

“After my vet cleaned my dog’s teeth, how can I keep his teeth clean and healthy?”

The benefits of any cleaning or treatment can be short-lived if they are not maintained over time. As I mentioned before, you can brush his teeth and use oral hygiene supplements/treats that control plaque, tartar and bad breath. These are the most effective tools for proper daily oral hygiene.

“How often should I brush his teeth?”

Get ready…..You have to do EVERY DAY! Yes, the occasional brushing is helpful too, just not as good as the everyday brushing. There are special diets, supplements and treats that you can use to reduce the accumulation of plaque and tartar and improve breath.

“Can I use my own toothpaste to brush his teeth?”

ABSOLUTELY NOT! The toothpaste that YOU use contains substances such as fluoride and xylitol that are toxic to dogs and can damage their stomach. For this reason, it is important to choose toothpaste specially formulated for your four-legged friend .

“Can I use a toothbrush like mine to brush his teeth?”

In principle, yes you can. The toothbrush, however, should have certain characteristics. The bristles should be soft, so as not to damage the enamel layer, which is thinner than ours. The head should not be too large, so as to reach even the most difficult areas of the mouth. And the size should be appropriate to the size of your dog. I suggest using a child sized toothbrush.

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