A few weeks back, I allowed one of my small dogs on my lap. She was so happy she began panting. My eyes felt as if they were being stabbed with onions. I had to turn my head and squeeze my eyes shut. Her breath could curdle milk. Hesitantly, I pried her mouth open. I needed to see if something had died there. As I gingerly peered in I was Greeted with a mouthful of tartar and plague. Yellow and brown nasty teeth gunk. The fumes of her breath were kicking like a Bruce Lee movie. I felt embarrassed and guilty. How could I have let this happen? The next day I had a long chat with my veterinarian, and I am happy to say she is scheduled to have a proper cleaning under general anesthesia soon. It’s often a long wait to get in for canine dentistry.
Why is it that we will spoil our dog's silly without batting an eye? We afford them the best of everything from toys to beds and enroll them in the best training and daycare facilities, yet we don’t think twice about neglecting their dental needs. Can you remember the last time you brushed your dog's teeth? Sadly, for most of us that answer is, never. Have you ever had your dog's teeth professionally cleaned in a veterinary hospital? Did you catch your breath thinking about how huge that bill would be? A lot of people are intimidated by the price of canine dental procedures, including myself, even though I now understand the importance of routine canine dental care. Yes, it can be expensive, but with a little preventive care, it may not have to be quite so costly. To take some of the sting out of the price, just remember, proper dental hygiene could potentially save and or prolong your dog's life. Do I have your attention now?
Canine dental hygiene is important for your dog's overall health. Just like humans, dogs can develop gum disease and tooth decay if their teeth are not properly cared for. This can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, kidney disease, and liver disease. All those diseases shorten their already brief lives. unfortunately, many dogs suffer from dental pain without their owners realizing, because dogs will not tell us when they are hurting. Some signs to look for are a dog with a decreased interest in eating kibble or hard treats. They may still eat hard food; they’ll just chew on the opposite side. Other signs are excessive drooling, pawing at their mouth, chewing more slowly than normal, bad breath, sneezing more often, buildup of brownish colored plague, and a reluctance to be touched around their face and mouth. If you observe any of those symptoms in your dogs, please have them seen by a veterinarian.
The question now is, how to get into a brushing routine with your dog. The easiest way is to start brushing when they are puppies. This will help them get used to the process and make it easier for you to do it as they get older. Since quite a few of you have dogs well past the puppy stage, you’ll need to introduce tooth brushing as you would obedience training, with small incremental steps. Do not expect to just start right in with a thorough teeth cleaning, even with the calmest of dogs. Start by getting your dog used to having their mouth touched. You can do this by gently rubbing their gums and teeth with your finger. Once your dog is comfortable with this, you can start using a toothbrush and toothpaste. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a toothpaste that is specifically made for dogs. Doggy toothpaste comes in different flavors like bacon, beef and peanut butter. I would brush 5 times a day if human toothpaste came in flavors like bacon and peanut butter. Start brushing one or two teeth at a time. Gradually increase the number of teeth you brush each time. Be patient and consistent. It may take some time for your dog to get used to having their teeth brushed. If your dog is not having it. no matter how patient you are, you can try using a dental treat or toy to make the experience more enjoyable for them. Keep in mind that dental treats and bones are no substitute for regular dental cleaning. If you know your dog has any existing dental problems, talk to your veterinarian about how to best care for their teeth.
There are also special pet foods and dental wipes (chlorhexidine wipes) that are formulated to help keep your dogs teeth clean and prevent the buildup of plaque. Remember these foods and wipes only help to reduce the formation of plague, not remove it. Once tartar has formed only a professional cleaning, scaling and polishing under general anesthesia will remove it.
So after reading this, you might be saying, brushing a dog’s teeth is silly, they didn't and don’t brush them in the wild. Yes, that is true, but their diets were completely different then. Wild and early domesticated dogs killed their own food and their diets provided natural dental care because they ate the entire carcass. Their teeth were kept clean by chewing bones and hair. Once commercial dog foods hit the markets with added sugars and chemicals dental disease began to rise. It is estimated that 80% of dogs over the age of 3 have some degree of dental disease. 80%, let that sink in.
What color toothbrush is your dog getting?
Written by Louisa Redman