The Importance of Canine Dental Care Is Often Ignored
As a child, we always had at least one dog in our family. We ran and played together daily. They were hauled up into the hayloft with us to hang out on rainy days and camped out with us in pup tents in the back yard on summer nights. We never forgot to feed and water them. Frequently, we shared our lunches with them as well. But, the importance of canine dental care was totally lost on us. It never crossed our minds to brush their teeth, and we had never heard of a dog going to the dentist.
Times Have Changed
First, For the Prima Donna
The first time I heard of a dog seeing a dentist was as an adult. My dearest friend was showing Chows, and I occasionally helped her with pre-show grooming. Backstage (so to speak) at the shows, I intermingled with breeders and handlers and learned all kinds of things I never knew before.
The AKC standards for each breed are what the judges use to evaluate each dog. Breeders try to make sure their dog is as perfect a fit as possible. If the dog’s “bite” does not meet the standards for that breed, some of the more serious breeders take the dog to a dentist.
While it is not an ethical thing to do, some owners have braces put on their dog’s teeth to help them win shows. Dogs are not to be altered in any way as they are judged, in part, for their potential to pass on certain traits to their offspring. How upset would you be if you paid a high stud fee for a dog with a perfect bite who passed on faulty genes to all his puppies?
However. a bad bite is more than a cosmetic issue. If severe enough, it can cause significant medical problems. Putting braces on a dog to prevent medical issues is a reasonable thing to do. However, doing so to fool a judge is fraudulent and unethical.
Now, For the Everyday Dog
Why should you brush your dog’s teeth?
The primary key to an effective canine dental care program is consistent, daily removal of plaque. Plaque continuously builds up at the gum-line unless you brush every day. This build-up of plaque will eventually form calculus and irritate your dog’s gums. If this occurs, an infection may occur, loosening and destroying the tissue attached to the tooth. In severe cases, an under-the-gum line infection can develop and spread to the dog’s heart, kidney, and liver.
When do I have to start dental care for my dog?
You should start brushing the puppy’s teeth as soon as they emerge. Even though the pup’s baby teeth will be replaced with adult teeth, eventually, it is easier to introduce the practice to a puppy. If you wait until he has adult teeth to start brushing, you are likely to have a more difficult time getting him to adjust.
An early introduction will make canine dental care more relaxed in the long run.
If you have difficulty brushing your pup’s teeth, speak with your vet about canine dental care options available in your area. In addition to cleaning their teeth, there are other things you should know about canine dental care as well. Those topics will be addressed after we complete the discussion on brushing your dog’s teeth.
How Do You Brush Your Dog’s Teeth?
Brushing your pup’s teeth does not have to be hard on either one of you. If it is approached with an upbeat attitude, it can be an easy and fun procedure. First, choose a finger or soft-bristled toothbrush. The bristled toothbrushes that are made for dogs specifically are best. They are correctly angled to reach the dog’s back teeth with ease.
You will also need specialized, and enzymatic toothpaste created just for dogs. Ask your veterinarian if he carries this in his clinic or, if not, where you can purchase it. Human toothpaste should not be used to brush your dog’s teeth. The detergents they contain are not safe for your dog to swallow. Be sure to cover the bristles thoroughly with the canine toothpaste so you can cover the teeth entirely.
In the Beginning
Happily and gently approach your pup, taking your time. Do not be in a big hurry to “get the job done.” Start by using a washcloth to clean the pup’s teeth. You should wipe both the front and back of the teeth just as you would with a toothbrush. This cleaning process should be done twice a day for the first two weeks.
Try to combine something pleasant with this process. This combination could include playtime, a treat of some sort, or just a moment of cuddling up with him or her. The idea is for your dog to associate this daily, canine dental care with something he enjoys and finds pleasant.
The Second Step
After you have completed two weeks as described above, it is time to start using the doggie toothbrush. At first, do not use toothpaste. Just wet the bristles with water. It may take your pup a few days to adjust to this process. Once your dog is comfortable with this process, it is time to apply toothpaste to the toothbrush.
Perform approximately ten short, to and fro motions before you move the toothbrush to a new area. Most of your efforts should to cleaning the outside surface of your dog’s upper-level teeth.
How often should my dog’s teeth be cleaned by a veterinarian?
The frequency will depend on how much plaque and calculus has accumulated on an individual dog’s teeth. Each dog will have its own degree of growth for any period of time. Three things primarily determine this growth:
- Home dental care
Your dog’s teeth should be examined at least once a month. Look carefully where the tooth and gum line meet for an accumulation of brown or yellow material. The area over the canine teeth is especially prone to this problem, as is the area near the cheek teeth.
The plaque associated bacteria produces various substances known to irritate gum tissue. If promptly and appropriately treated, this inflammation usually resolves. If the dog has underlying, chronic illnesses such as diabetes, or is on steroids for a medical condition, it may be harder to treat.
Mild gingivitis frequently responds well to home oral care, but moderate and more severe gingivitis nearly always require significantly deeper cleaning, below the infected gum line’ This procedure requires anesthesia.
Is Periodontal Disease Curable?
You cannot cure periodontal disease, but it is manageable. It requires both intensive, oral care at home and intermittent, professional dental cleanings. This degree of cleaning involves anesthesia, and the time between each deep cleaning procedure depends upon you. How often and how well you brush the dog’s teeth at home will determine the dental clinic schedule. If you are not able to adequately clean your dog’s teeth at home, your dog may require several professional dental cleanings each year.
Periodontal disease is an infection or inflammation that results in the weakness or deterioration of the support structures of the teeth. Gum disease is one of the most common afflictions in dogs, with over 80 percent of dogs having early stages of gum disease by the time they are three years old.
Besides Brushing My Dog’s Teeth, What Do I Need to Do?
Feed your dog the right food.
You need to prevent plaque from building up on your dog’s teeth. If you cannot brush your dog’s teeth or if plaque builds upon his teeth quickly, some diets can help. Approved by the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) to assist in keeping a dog’s teeth clean are:
- Hills Prescription Diet Canine t/d
- Science Diet Oral Care
- Iams Chunk Dental Defense Diet
- Eukanuba Adult Maintenance Diet
- Heinz Tartar Check dog biscuits
- CET chews and toothpaste contain enzymes known to help kill plaque-associated bacteria.
Choose toys carefully to protect your dog’s teeth.
Dogs often fracture a tooth when they chew on items that are harder than their teeth. It is best to prevent them from chewing upon:
- cow or horse hooves
- ice cubes
- cow bones
Other ways to damage your dog’s teeth are games and toys.
The items mentioned above often cause a dog to fracture one of his upper premolars. Very young dogs should not play games, such as Tug-of-war, as it may cause their growing teeth to shift into inappropriate locations. Throwing items, such as a Frisbee, for your dog to catch with their teeth can also cause trauma, causing the pulp to become inflamed. This inflammation is known as pulpitis
Drago with his favorite Kong Chew Toy
Not all toys are dangerous, but a few can cause damage to your dog’s teeth.
Toys that rarely harm teeth are
- Hard rubber toys and balls.
- Kongs and Gummabones made by Nylabones
- Stuffed cloth toys
- Pull toys
Toys To Avoid or Only Allowed Under Close Supervision
All treats and toys that can be chewed or pulled apart such as:
- Rawhide items
- Stuffed toys
- Soft rubber toys
- Ingesting large pieces of these items can cause intestinal upset or blockage. This blockage can be life-threatening and may require surgery. It is much less expensive to purchase quality chew toys than to pay for veterinary surgery and medical care.
Big vet bills can be hard to pay.
If you find yourself having a hard time paying for your dog’s needed medical care, you may wish to read:https://happymutt.org/can-you-afford-to-own-a-dog/?fbclid=IwAR151q0q8rhvx_T30qVChrXI9CAbCDRugHneW-Ct9FFlc9twnuPHlwmR_co