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All dogs have bad breath, right? Actually, no. Your dog’s bad breath could be a sign of major oral health issues… and dental disease that can lead to very serious problems later in life. Not only that, but it could also be causing your best buddy some major discomfort right now. Here’s what every pet parent should know about caring for their dog’s teeth and why it’s so important!
Why Dental Care for Dogs is So Important
We all want to give our dogs the best life possible. We take them for walks, buy them the best food, and get them their shots every year. But sadly, many of us overlook the importance of canine dental care, and that could have a serious impact on our dog’s health.
The American Veterinary College reports that most dogs begin to develop the periodontal disease around the age of three. Since the first sign is usually bad breath, most owners don’t pay much attention, and the condition is overlooked until it becomes very serious.
What pet parents need to know is, although a dog’s breath is far from minty fresh, extremely foul breath indicates a problem that needs to be addressed right away.
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Periodontal disease can lead to the same serious health problems for dogs as it does for humans, so caring for your dog’s teeth is crucial to his health. Of course, tooth loss is a real risk, but the dangers are even more severe than that.
Poor oral health leads to infections, permanent jaw damage, and extremely painful abscesses. If left unaddressed, these infections can spread throughout the dog’s body, causing heart, liver, and kidney disease, as well as other life-threatening health concerns.
Keeping your dog’s teeth clean at home and with professional cleanings will help him live a long, healthy life. Being proactive with your dog’s dental care will also save you money by preventing problems before they become major, and costly, health issues.
How to Know When Your Dog’s Teeth Need Professional Care
Most dogs should see their doggy dentist for teeth cleaning every 1 – 3 years. Your vet will take note of any developing issues with your dog’s teeth during his annual wellness visit and make recommendations accordingly.
However, if you notice any of the following issues in-between visits, your dog needs professional dental care right away.
- Bad breath that doesn’t improve with proper home dental care.
- Swelling of the gums or areas around the mouth.
- Bleeding gums.
- Pain when eating, often indicated by reduced appetite or slow eating and dropping food from the mouth.
- Discoloration or tartar on the teeth.
- Loose or broken teeth.
- Cysts, tumors, or other lumps in or around the mouth.
Caring for Your Dog’s Teeth at Home
Checking your dog’s mouth often and watching for any of the above issues is the best way to catch potential issues before they become serious problems.
Taking the following steps to care for your dog’s teeth at home is also crucial for keeping his teeth healthy and preventing unnecessary discomfort. It may allow him to go longer between professional cleanings, which saves you money, as well.
1. Brush Your Dog’s Teeth Regularly
Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly is one of the best ways to prevent plaque buildup and periodontal disease, even if it sounds a little silly at first. Try to do it at least a few times a week, and daily is even better.
Your dog might need a little time to get used to the idea, especially if he’s never had his teeth brushed before. Be patient and offer lots of positive reinforcement so he learns to enjoy it and doesn’t run away every time you pull out the toothbrush.
Always start with a dog-safe toothpaste because human toothpaste can contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs. Dog toothpaste also comes in yummy flavors like liver and peanut butter, which will make the process more appealing to your pooch.
You can use a soft baby toothbrush or go with one made specifically for dogs. Some come with long handles to help you reach the back teeth. Others are designed to fit over the tip of your finger. Do some experimenting to see what you each prefer.
2. Try an Alternative Cleaning Technique
If your dog flat out refuses to let you brush his teeth, or you simply want to try something different, there are alternatives.
One option is to try doggy tooth wipes. They’re made to rub against the teeth and gums to remove plaque. Keep in mind that they won’t clean the teeth as thoroughly as a toothbrush, but some dogs will accept them more readily. They’re also portable, so they’re nice for travel.
Special additives are also available for your dog’s water. They contain special enzymes to keep the teeth clean and reduce plaque.
If none of these options are working for you, look for special gels and sprays that can clean the teeth without brushing.
3. Offer Dental Treats Daily
Every dog loves a treat, and dental treats for dogs provide an easy way to care for your pup’s teeth daily. They are specially formulated to prevent plaque buildup, especially when offered daily. They also contain special ingredients to freshen your dog’s breath, such as mint, chlorophyll, or baking soda. They come in lots of flavors and sizes, so you’re sure to find one that your dog loves.
4. Give Him Something to Chew On
The act of chewing helps to keep your dog’s teeth clean, so providing dog chews is an easy way to care for your dog’s oral health. There are even special dental chews available that contain enzymes to enhance the effect. Freeze-dried chicken strips are also a popular choice, and rubber or nylon chew toys make a great calorie-free option.
Some Final Tips
Caring for your dog’s teeth at home is crucial for preventing plaque buildup, but it won’t remove built-up tartar or address other oral health issues. Only a professional dental cleaning can do that. It’s best to start with a visit to the doggy dentist, and then follow up with proper oral hygiene at home to keep your pup’s teeth clean for as long as possible.