Dental Care in Dogs

Dental disease is the most common problem diagnosed in dogs. As many as 80% of dogs have some degree of gum disease or dental disease by the time they turn five. Warning signs for dental disease include bad breath, red and swollen gums and a yellow/brown crust of tarter along the gum line and on the teeth.

Dogs eating healthy diets are much more likely to have healthy teeth and gums than dogs eating highly processed, commercial kibble. The market is flooded with commercial foods which claim to prevent tooth and gum disease. There is little evidence that these products help and no evidence that dry kibble prevents dental disease. Thus, the first step in dental health is feeding your dog a wholesome, high quality diet.

Regardless of diet all dogs need regular dental care. This includes care from your vet as well as care at home. When you take your dog to the vet for their regular check-up make sure it includes a dental exam. Ask your vet what is involved in a good thorough cleaning and whether or not this is indicated for your dog. It is important that the procedure is performed by a vet with experience in doggie dentistry.

Home care is the backbone of dental health care. Brushing your dog’s teeth for less than a minute three times a week provides the best results. Just brushing your dog’s teeth once a week reduces plaque by 75%!

Now that you understand the importance of caring for your dogs teeth let’s talk about how to get started. As with anything new it is important to introduce dental care slowly to your dog. Use a soft toothbrush or finger toothbrush and dip it in beef, chicken broth or something your dog loves. Allow your furry friend to lick the brush a few times a day until it is familiar and associated with a treat. Now you can begin brushing your dog’s teeth.

To brush the teeth use circular motions stroking away from the gum line. Keep the first few sessions very brief and only brush a couple of teeth. Use some doggie toothpaste such as C.E.T. poultry flavor. This toothpaste contains enzymes which make up for imperfect brushing. Please don’t substitute people toothpaste. People toothpaste is meant to be spit and not swallowed, and will give your doggie a terrible belly ache. Be gentle when brushing, move slowly and stay relaxed. An anxious, upset owner results in an anxious, upset dog.

There are lots of chews on the market which claim to reduce plaque and tarter. Cow hooves, hard rawhide chews and bones can occasionally fracture teeth as well as become lodged in the digestive tract. Some rawhide chews produced outside of the United States are contaminated with bacteria and can make your dog ill. A safer alternative are chews made from vegetable sources and nylon chew toys that are designed to be gnawed on.

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