What to do with your dog`s teeth
Did you know that dogs can suffer from dental disease just like humans can? Problems like tartar, plaque build-up and gingivitis can all affect dogs too. Bad dental hygiene can affect your dog’s heart, liver and kidneys and so good dental hygiene can help protect them. There are a few ways you can help your dog achieve good dental hygiene:
- Brushing your dog’s teeth
- Specially formulated diets
- Dog dental treats and chews
- Professional cleaning by your veterinarian
Brushing your dog`s teeth
It may seem silly to brush your dog’s teeth, but it’s an excellent way to prevent plaque buildup. Ideally to get into a routine to try and do it once daily. When they are puppies train them into it like you would with small children with a doggy toothbrush and water. Most dogs will find it strange at the start but you can get them used to it just like you would with getting their nails clipped or getting them groomed. There are several options for both tooth pastes and brushes from finger brushes to ones that look like our own. The trick is finding the one that suits you and your pet best. It is very important not to use human toothpaste not just for the flavour but also there are ingredients in human toothpaste which can be toxic to dogs and even fatal . Dog toothpaste usually comes in meaty flavours such as chicken to make it more palatable for your dog. There are even toothpastes with enzymatic activity which help break down the plaque along with brushing.
Some helpful tips to get your dog or new pup used to brushing.
- Always when getting a new dog and pup ensure they are settled in your home before embarking on their dental journey.
- Always remember to make this a positive experience so it is both easier for you and your dog. Incorporate treats for good behaviour when brushing their teeth. This can range from food to extra cuddles or even play time.
- As mentioned beforehand don’t use human toothpaste it can be toxic to dogs.
- Remember it is a positive experience so if your dog seems uncomfortable or sore to not persist.
Steps to help in training your dog to tolerate brushing their teeth:
- Start by putting a small amount of the toothpaste on your dog’s food or bowl so they get used to the taste.
- Then let your dog lick the toothpaste off your finger after a few days of step one.
- When you feel ready or confident enough use a finger or a finger brush and gentalily rub it along your dog’s teeth and gums. Be careful not to let kids do this unsupervised and if your dogs seem uncomfortable about this do not persist.
- When you and your dog feel comfortable about step three, start to add toothpaste when rubbing off the dogs gums and teeth. Do this a few times until your dog is used to the sensation.
- You do not need to open your dogs mouth fully to brush their teeth lifting their upper and lower lip to get to the teeth is usually sufficient. brush their teeth in a circular motion and focus ideally on the gum line. Try do it every 24-48 hours
Specially formulated Diets
Specially dental diets have been developed to protect dogs’ oral care. They work by using larger kibble that is harder to break up so the dog must chew and bite down on them. This helps by reducing plaque and tartar build up on your dog’s teeth and also helping to keep the breath fresh. For any dog parent that gets doggy kisses, fresh breath is a must!
Dog dental treats and chews
Similar to the diet the dental treats are designed to be hard to bite and chew so your dog has to work hard and therefore help reduce plaque and tartar build up and keep breath fresh. They are generally much more appreciated by our dogs than a toothbrush but they tend to be higher in fat and therefore we must be careful how often we use them. A lot of extra treats and calories may promote weight gain which can bring health risks of its own. These treats come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors, and you are sure to find something your dog loves. There are also some that come with enzymatic action to help break up plaque and tartar.
There are also many chews out there in many different shapes and sizes beware as not all will have teeth-cleaning properties. The act of chewing can help your dogs oral health. The gnawing scrapes plaque off your dog’s teeth. Again Chews like cow ears, bully sticks, and chicken strips are a great way to keep your dog happy and healthy. If you’re looking for something without any calories, there are many long-lasting rubber or nylon chews that do the job, as well.
Professional cleaning by your vet
Another part of your dogs oral care is professional cleaning by your vet. They can help by removing the stubborn hard tartar that won’t be removed by brushing or chew toys. Most dogs will need their teeth cleaned every 1-3 years. Your veterinary team can reach areas not usually reached with brushing. They can examine all their teeth for signs of decay, chipped or fractured and take dental x-rays. With some fracture and chips on teeth the more sensitive part of the tooth may be exposed so the nerve may be irritated causing pain. Dental x-rays if needed to check for tooth root abscess or other root problems among other things. It is important for a thorough check and your dog comfort that is is done under a general anesthesthetic so pain can be managed and your veterinary team isn’t put at risk of being bitten.
What does a healthy dog mouth look like
If you have an older dog and are encouraged to brush their teeth it is important to know what a normal healthy mouth looks like.
Their teeth should be pearly white with no build up of plaque or tartar. This is a brownish sticky film covering over their teeth. Sometimes it can obscure their teeth altogether. Their teeth should not be chipped and broken or worn. Dogs usually have about 42 teeth in their mouth there can be some with less due to congenital changes. Their gums should be a salmon pink and moist. Some dogs may have normal dark coloured spots on their gums which can be black in colour and this is normal pigmentation. Your furry friend’s tongue should be moist — without any signs of lumps or cuts. Make sure you know what your pet’s mouth usually looks like, and talk to your vet if you spot any lumps, raised spots, pale gums or bright red tissue. If you notice any changes in your dog’s mouth, such as lumps, discoloration, swelling, sores or a change in smell, contact your dog’s vet immediately. Any of these could be signs that your dog is experiencing an oral disease or condition that needs to be treated. Here are some common dog oral care problems your pet may suffer from, with tips on when you should contact your vet:
Halitosis: meaning smelly breath. This can be caused by food being stuck between teeth increasing bacterial numbers leading to plaque, tartar and decay. If your dog has very bad breath please consult your vet. There are other conditions such as kidney disease that can cause halitosis.
Gingivitis: meaning inflammation of the gums. If there is a large build up of plaque and tartar this means there is increased bacteria in the mouth. All these things are irritating to the gums and can cause bleeding and pain. The good news is this is reversible with appropriate treatment. Again other conditions can cause gingivitis so please contact your vet with your concerns.
Periodontal disease: meaning infection and inflammation between you dogs teeth and gums. When dental disease is allowed progress without intervention it can cause the teeth to become loose and painful. Periodontal disease is seen in more advanced untreated and unmanaged dental disease. Signs of periodontal disease would be brown teeth with red and sore gums with pain while chewing, avoiding harder foods or teeth grinding, and even nasal discharge among other signs.
Cyst and tumours: lumps bumps and masses may be found in you dogs mouth. Some may be easily treated and non-cancerous such as growths caused by the papilloma virus which as the dogs own immune system learns how to fight the virus the growths may regress but others may be malignant and can be quiet quick growing, invasive and may spread to other parts and so it is a good idea to biopsy them and get them tested.
Proliferating gum disease: where by the gum grows over the teeth. This is seen more commonly in bull breeds. This overgrowth of gum may contribute to infection and destabilisation of teeth..
By helping your dog maintain proper oral care, you can hopefully avoid all of the above common oral conditions. Show your pet you care, and help him keep those teeth, gums and tongue clean.