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  • Writer's pictureLaurie Gouley

Provide Your Dog with Proper Dental Care

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

Brushing dog teeth

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80 percent of dogs have oral disease by the age of two.

As with people, the main culprit of dental disease is a build up of plaque which eventually hardens into tartar, leading to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontal disease.

The result: a bacterial invasion of the gums and tissues supporting the teeth, damaging them and ultimately causing tooth loss. These bacteria can also invade the bloodstream, potentially damaging the lungs, heart, kidneys and liver.

But, as a responsible owner, you can lower your precious pet’s risks by pursuing a conscientious program of oral care – ideally when he’s still a puppy – by brushing his teeth on a regular basis. Brushing his teeth is the most effective way of controlling plaque by breaking it up before it can harden into tartar.

To start, buy an actual doggy toothbrush or a child’s soft toothbrush along with a toothpaste or oral gel that’s designed specifically for pets. NEVER use human toothpaste because the fluoride can be toxic, and NEVER use baking soda because dogs mustn’t swallow it.

Brush your dog’s teeth at the same time every day, concentrating on the outer surfaces of his teeth. Begin slowly, praising him often, stopping if he becomes agitated, then beginning again. Increase the amount of brushing time slowly, day by day.

For more difficult dogs, there are rubber finger brushes or, if all else fails, your own finger. It’s the act of brushing or rubbing that provides the most benefit. But should your dog absolutely refuse to have his teeth cleaned, add a specifically formulated antiseptic oral rinse to his water. At the very least it will help to freshen his breath.

Dogs love to chew, and this has the added benefit of helping to keep their teeth clean. There are scores of specifically formulated oral care products for them, including dental chews and sticks, chew toys and dental treats that can help rub off some of the plaque on his teeth.

There are also special “dental” diets that have been shown to reduce plaque and/or tartar build up. They work by physically cleaning the teeth more efficiently than regular kibble (this kibble is less likely to crumble upon chewing) or by the addition of chemicals to prevent the hardening of plaque into tartar. But speak with your vet beforehand to ensure the dental formula is both appropriate for your dog’s age and beneficial to his overall health.

Thoroughly inspect your dog’s entire mouth once a week, being on the alert for such problems as bad breath, drooling, red or puffy, bleeding gums, yellow tartar crusted along the gum line, discolored, broken or missing teeth or bumps in his mouth. Take note as well of any changes in his chewing or eating habits.

Even one of these symptoms warrants a prompt visit to the vet for a professional examination of his mouth, gums and teeth. If your vet finds that your dog does indeed have dental disease, a full evaluation under anesthesia, including x-rays, cleaning, and, if needed, teeth extractions will, in all likelihood, be recommended.

And so, if you’ve been neglecting your dog’s dental health, it’s never too late to remedy the situation.

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