Poor oral hygiene can cause serious or sometimes even life threatening problems for your dog, yet it is often overlooked. Having your pet’s teeth brushed only at the groomer’s is not enough; the onus is on the conscientious Guardian to maintain their dog’s teeth with regular brushing. Regular dental care can not only add years to your dog’s life, but save you considerable veterinary bills in the process.
Just as with our own oral hygiene, prevention is the best course of action. Starting young will ensure your pet becomes comfortable with the routine. Ideally, teeth should be brushed daily, along with feeding dry kibble and providing specially designed dental chew toys or Pet Planet smoked bones to help keep the teeth clean. Because Dogs and cats do not produce amylase, an enzyme in human saliva that assists in breaking down grains, increased chewing positively impacts an animal’s level of dental hygiene. Often dogs on a raw diet that includes raw meaty bones require much less brushing than dogs on any other type of diet. If a raw diet is not an option for your pet, grain free is another alternative.
The teeth should be inspected regularly for plaque, a sticky film consisting of food particles, saliva and bacteria. If teeth are neglected, plaque collects between them and around the gum line, mineralizing into a hard brown substance known as tartar. The gums, irritated by tartar buildup, become swollen and painfully inflamed, and your dog’s breath can become unpleasant. Over time, the teeth can even loosen and fall out.
Once tartar has formed, it must be removed in dogs the same way as in humans, by scraping with special dental tools. If your dog has not had his teeth brushed regularly since puppyhood, you must often begin with a trip to your veterinarian to have your dog anesthetized and his or her teeth scaled. Then you may begin a program of regular dental care.
When brushing the teeth, you can use a soft bristled nylon brush, a finger tip brush, or soft, clean gauze wrapped around your finger. Brush with gentle circular strokes on the tooth surface, not forgetting the biting surfaces of the back teeth. At first you may only be able to brush the outside surfaces of the teeth, until your dog learns to accept the procedure.
Use canine toothpaste, it is formulated and flavored to help dogs accept it, and it is safe to swallow. Human toothpaste can cause irritation and digestive upset in pets.