Do's and Don'ts of Dog Dental Care

Your furry friend is dependent on you for everything, including their dental health. Most pet owners take their dog to the vet, but they don’t take time to keep up their animal’s teeth. Obviously, dogs can’t pick up a toothbrush and brush their teeth, so you’ll have to come up with clever ways to maintain your dog’s dental health. In this guide, we’ll cover the causes of poor dog dental hygiene, why it’s crucial to your dog’s overall health and what you can do about it. We’ll also cover our top method for cleaning your dog’s teeth at home.

What is plaque?

From your trips to the dentist or lessons in health class, you’ve probably heard of plaque. The same plaque that affects your teeth is the same bacteria ridden biofilm that grows in your pet’s mouth. When your dog eats, there’s a buildup of plaque that forms on their teeth. Plaque can harden within 36 hours, so it’s essential to have a plan in place to take care of your canine’s teeth. The main cause of plaque and tartar buildup

What is tartar?

Plaque is the initial film on your dog’s teeth, after eating. However, once your saliva combines with that plaque, this film hardens to tartar. Having this substantial deposit around your dog’s teeth will cause periodontal disease according to the NIH.

Does your dog have bad breath?

The first sign that something is wrong with your dog’s dental hygiene is that they have bad breath. Many owners don’t even know that something is going on with their pet until they get a lick on the face that’s unpleasant. When your dog is suffering from cavities or dental disease, their breath smells because of the build-up of bacteria. Smaller dogs have more problems with their teeth than larger dogs because their mouths are prone to tartar and plaque build up.

What causes your dog’s bad breath?

As we mentioned earlier, the cause of bad breath is usually because of bacteria build up or another dental disease. However, your dog could be suffering from an issue with their digestive system, internal organs, or their respiratory system. The best way to figure out the cause of your dog’s bad breath is to schedule an appointment with the vet. Through a physical examination, your vet can determine what’s going on with your dog’s foul breath.

Common dental diseases in dogs

Periodontal Disease

Dental issues are one of the most common conditions that veterinarians must treat. A lot of dogs have issues with their teeth as they get older, but depending on the breed, your dog might need special treatment from the beginning. Plaque is on your dog’s teeth the minute they eat their food, a treat, or a bone. These bacteria then combine with your dog’s saliva to form tartar, which is a limestone-like material. Once there’s a tartar build up on your pet’s teeth, this material wedges into the gums which begins periodontal disease. This plaque and tartar buildup become out of control when pet owners don’t have a dental hygiene program in place.

Periodontal Disease is the most common problem that dogs have with their health. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80-85% of all pets have periodontal disease. By the age of four 100% of pets have some form of periodontal disease. Once tartar is built up under the gums, pockets of bacteria build below the surface. Your dog can have abscesses under the gums that can be visible at the gum line, or they can be further below the surface. These pockets allow for more bacteria to grow and the process continues. The major problem with periodontal disease is that these pockets in your dog’s mouth enable the bacteria to get into your dog’s bloodstream. These harmful bacteria can negatively affect your dog’s heart, liver, kidneys, and your dog’s overall attitude according to the American Veterinary Dental College. Thankfully, this disease is preventable if you take care of your dog’s dental care today.

Gingivitis: This occurs when your dog’s gums are inflamed because of excess plaque. Some symptoms of gingivitis include bad breath, bleeding, and swollen gums. With regular teeth cleaning, you can reverse this condition.

Halitosis: Bad breath is common when your dog has a dental issue. If you start to brush your dog’s teeth or use another teeth cleaning method, you can get your pet’s breath smelling good in no time.

Swollen Gums: This occurs when food and tartar are stuck between teeth and up under gums. Brush your dog’s teeth at home and take them to annual cleanings at your vet to treat swollen gums.

Proliferating Gum Disease: A condition that occurs when gums grow over teeth and need to be treated with antibiotics. This disease is common among bull terriers and boxers.

Mouth Tumors: These look like lumps in the gums, and they must be removed by a professional if they’re malignant.

Salivary Cysts: These large fluid-filled sacs appear under the tongue or around the corners of the jaw. A vet must drain these cysts, and they remove the salivary gland that’s damaged.

Canine Distemper Teeth: If your dog suffered from distemper as a puppy, they could have eroded and decayed teeth as an adult. A vet should remove these decayed teeth.

Why your dog’s dental health is important

Just like we’ve mentioned before, your dog’s dental hygiene is vital because if neglected it can lead to severe diseases. Once your dog’s dental health is compromised, bacteria can enter their bloodstream, through their gums, and travel throughout their body. If you choose to ignore your dog’s dental health, they’ll have worse problems, impairing their health and your wallet. If you haven’t been paying attention to your puppy’s teeth, you can start today, which saves you and your pet a lot of pain in the future.

Which dental care methods work for your dog?

When you take your dog to the vet for the first time, they should advise you on options for dental care. Some of these methods won’t work with your dog because they’ll cause too much anxiety. Thankfully, there are many different methods that you can choose from.

  • Brushing
  • Water or Food Additives
  • Cleaning Treats
  • Professionals
  • Brushing your dog’s teeth

When you talk to your vet, brushing your dog’s teeth is one of the easiest ways to keep up with your pet’s dental hygiene. In fact, many vets will give you a toothbrush in a puppy starter pack at their offices. The sooner that you introduce a brush to your puppy, the easier that tooth brushing will be. However, some adult dogs aren’t fond of you placing foreign objects in their mouth. Most vets tell you to brush your dog’s teeth after each meal, but 1-2 times a week is commonly accepted as a good dental regimen by most owners. Here are some things you should consider if you are going to brush your pup’s choppers at home.

Selecting Toothpaste

There are many options when you choose toothpaste. Make sure that you choose toothpaste that:

  • Is made for pets: You should never use a toothpaste meant for humans.
  • Has a good flavor: Many hounds prefer a meaty flavored toothpaste versus a sweet or minty taste. However, meaty flavored toothpaste can leave your pet with foul smelling breath.
  • Is safe: Check the ingredients list of your toothpaste to make sure there’s no alcohol or artificial sweeteners.

Your pet likes it: To see if they will enjoy the toothpaste, first try to give them some as a treat. If your furball enjoys it, you can use the toothpaste to brush their pearly whites.

Selecting a Brush

There are many toothbrushes that you can choose from, and your dog’s mouth and temperament will determine the type of brush you use.

  • Size: A toothbrush should not be big too big for your pet’s mouth
  • Check the handle: Experts recommend that you should use toothbrushes with a smaller handle.
  • Finger brushes: Smaller dogs are better with regular toothbrushes because your hand is bigger than their mouths.

How to brush your canine’s teeth

Now that you’ve selected the toothpaste and toothbrush, how do you brush your dog’s teeth? Follow these steps to learn how to brush your dog’s teeth.

  1. Pick a calm time to brush your pooch’s teeth, and make sure that they have eaten for the day.
  2. Choose a location that has good lighting, so that you can see all the way into the back of their mouth.
  3. Touch your pet’s teeth and gums with your fingers first. Make sure that your hound is comfortable with you handling their mouth. Lift the top lip while you touch the teeth, and then repeat this step with the bottom lip.
  4. Now, slowly touch the toothbrush to your dog’s teeth. Touch all sides of teeth on the top and bottom. Then, treat and praise them after this step.
  5. Slowly introduce toothpaste to your dog by letting them sniff and lick the paste. Praise your dog, like the toothpaste is a treat.
  6. Place toothpaste on the toothbrush.
  7. Start at the front teeth on the top of the mouth and move around to the sides.
  8. Move to the bottom of the mouth and move from the front to the sides.
  9. Now that you’ve brushed everything make sure to treat your furball, praise them, and make them feel good. Brushing teeth isn’t a natural experience, so you need to encourage them.
  10. Choose to brush your dog’s teeth daily after meals, or several times a week for the best dental hygiene routine. Even once a mouth is better than not at all.

If you’re not much for reading (who is these days) you can check out this great instructional video that summarizes the steps for brushing above.

Powder and water additives

If brushing isn’t working for you, then you can use powder and water additives. Powder additives are added to your pup’s food. You apply this mix daily, and it helps reduce the plaque in their mouth. Water additives are liquid and added to your pet’s water bowl daily. The water additive can give your canine minty breath and will reduce the bacteria in your dog’s mouth and bowl. This is a great option for difficult dogs, and you can use these additives in addition to brushing.

Dog dental chews

Many people buy chews for their dogs because they’re an easy option, but they’re the least effective and one we think you should avoid. In fact, the only way to ensure that dogs have the best teeth is by brushing daily. Chews don’t last long enough to give your pet a thorough cleaning. Also, many of these chews have ingredients that aren’t natural and can upset your pooch’s stomach. However, the worst thing that can happen with chews is that they break off large pieces and swallows them. Now, you have a choking hazard, and the chew isn’t cleaning their teeth. We recommend not using chews unless you supervise, and only to use this option as a last resort.

Professional Cleaning

Occasionally, even if you are brushing your puppy’s teeth, you’ll need to get them cleaned at the vet. When your vet cleans the teeth they put the animal under anesthesia to complete the process. This procedure can be expensive but is essential if there’s any signs of serious dental disease or need for tooth extractions. Groomers do offer to brush teeth, but one brushing or picking every six weeks isn’t enough to promote good dental health. You need to tackle dental hygiene daily to make sure they’re as healthy as possible.

Dental Care products

There’s a wide range of dental products available for your dog on the market today. Not every product will work or be effective in every situation. It’s okay to choose a product and test it out with your dog. If they don’t like it be willing to adjust and try another method instead.

Dental Strips

In between brushing, it’s great to have an additional method for dental care in place. Try some of these hands-off approaches to dental care that will improve dental health and maximize the effects of your routine. PetStrips are easy to use and provide bacteria control throughout the day. A single strip can also be added to your pets water bowl or fountain. As they drink, the solution is moved around their mouth, distributing the dental effects.

When choosing a dental solution, try finding products that contain natural bacteria fighters, like thymol eucalyptol. These will be very effective at combating bad breath by reducing the amount of bacteria. For pets that just do not drink enough, the effects will be significantly muted, and possibly completely ineffective. Another factor to consider that may affect the efficacy of a water additive is the cleanliness of the bowl or dish that the water is offered in. Water bowls should be cleaned weekly to prevent bacteria build up. Plastic or rubber bowls should be exchanged for metal, ceramic or glass to prevent further bacteria that can fester in the cracks and scratches of the material.

For a different approach that may be more effective for our less hydrated pets, try adding to your pets food. Similar to adding to their water, the flavorful strip can be added to their meals, and they do the rest of the work for you. This is an effective way to prevent plaque build-up and bad breath. Simply add one strip to your pet’s food and as they eat, they will naturally circulate the healthy bacteria around their mouth. All for the affordable low cost, with a price at only $7.50!

Final thoughts

We’ve gone through all the ins and outs of dental hygiene so that your dog can have the best dental health. Since they can’t brush their teeth, you’ll have to figure out which methods work for you. Many pet owners choose to feed treats and have dental cleanings every year. However, if you want the most affordable and effective method, you’ll choose to brush your dog’s teeth daily. Your dog will thank you for daily attention to their teeth, so they don’t have to suffer through the dental pain. Your pet’s mouth can affect their health and mood, making them less sociable when they’re in pain. Remember:

  • Chews- Questionable, and some report they cause indigestion.
  • Additives- Are great to add to a dental hygiene plan, but should be used with brushing.
  • Brushing- Best option to keep your dog’s dental health on track.
  • Professional Teeth Cleaning- An expensive, but necessary, option when your dog is suffering from dental issues.

Diet can help dental health

A nutritious diet is also important for their dental health. Air-dried food, check out our top air-dried food pick, as well as ground raw diets, help your dog reduce the amount of tartar build up on their teeth. You can feed your dog carrots and apples that are difficult to chew, so they end up cleaning your dog’s teeth. Paying attention to your dog’s dental health now will save you money in the long run. Processed food is one of the chief reasons that dogs have issues with plaque. Now that you have all the keys to your dog’s dental health, what kind of hygiene plan will you create?

Even if you haven’t paid attention to your dog’s dental health before now, it’s still possible to reverse most dental diseases with a toothbrush. However, if you feel uncomfortable cleaning your dog’s teeth, you should take them to the vet to get them professionally cleaned. Your dog deserves to be able to enjoy their food without dealing with dental issues. Take responsibility for your dog’s dental health today; you won’t regret it!

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