Your dog relies on his canines to properly chew and digest his food. But good dog dental hygiene goes well beyond his need to eat. It helps him keep healthy teeth and gums, reducing and preventing infections that could shorten your best friend’s life. Good dog dental hygiene is about quality preventative care.
There are several components to be on top of your dog’s
dental hygiene habits. Some are regularly scheduled things like professional
cleanings and brushing his teeth. Others can be a bit more enjoyable for your
pup. They include dental treats and dog chews. Even the type of dog food you
give could help reduce tartar buildup in his mouth.
As with any treat, food or chew for older dogs or dogs with
health issues, consult your veterinary clinic before introducing your pet to
something new that he might have problems with. With healthy dogs, always keep
a mindful eye on them when giving them something new.
Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth
Our dog thinks his toothbrush is a chew toy. We can’t really leave him unattended with it but he doesn’t really fight us when we bring it out. In fact, he gets pretty excited about his brushing routine. Brushing your dog’s teeth will help those canines stay white, reduce plaque buildup, and help with doggie breath.
Don’t use your toothpaste with your dog. It is okay for us
but toxic to your puppy. Get the special dog
toothpaste that will make him love brushing his teeth. What dog wouldn’t
love a bit of chicken and peanut butter to clean those chompers? Dogs love this
once they are trained to get used to it. After all, there is a stick with tickly
things roaming in their mouth; they really do want to eat it.
Brush often, but you don’t need to make it a daily habit.
Once a week is a great oral hygiene routine for your dog.
Doggie Dental Wipes
If you want to make things a bit less messy, try dog dental
wipes. These are tooth wipes that you rub along your dog’s teeth. They feel
like they are getting a gum massage when, in fact, you are removing plaque. No
tartar buildup there! Keep in mind these are more limiting than brushing your
When you brush your dog’s teeth, you are able to get into the
little spaces in between teeth. With a dental wipe, you can’t. This is no
different than if you used a wipe on your own teeth (a human one not your
dogs). These don’t really do much for freshening breath of that slobbery pal.
Dog Dental Treats
dog treats are everywhere, coming in all shapes and sizes for your
four-legged friend. Greenies are probably the most common but there are dozens
on the market. You dog doesn’t mind dental treats because he gets to do with it
what he wants. There are no, “Don’t eat the toothbrush,” moments.
These treats help remove plaque and tartar and generally
help improve doggie breath. Giving your dog dental treats is not the end-all to
prevent dental issues. Dogs love treats but these could increase calories or have
ingredients they are allergic. Read the ingredients and talk to your veterinary
clinic about their preference for your dog with dental treats.
Chewing and grinding on something like a bone is a canine’s
natural way of keeping his teeth clean. Sure, he gets vitamins and minerals
from real bones but there are also tons of benefits for healthier teeth. His gums
get massaged and plaque gets reduces. This helps fight periodontal disease
(though it won’t eliminate it on its own).
Choices of natural dog chews range from real beef bones to deer
or elk antlers. You can also get cow or pig ears, bully sticks and various
types of chicken stripes. Rawhides have fallen out of favor as they don’t
digest in your dog’s stomach and might lead to a dangerous obstruction. There
are also nylon chews that are pretty durable and much cleaner in the house.
Dry Food or Wet Food
Giving your dog kibble over wet food is a good option for healthier
teeth. Just like chewing on a chew bone, the grained texture on kibble provides
friction to help remove tartar and plaque. Wet food doesn’t have this benefit.
However, with this pro there is a con for those who want to
give their dogs more natural and healthier foods. Even grain-free foods are
processed making them less-than-desirable for many pet owners. For those that
do give dry dog food to their pups, this is just an added benefit.
Professional Dog Teeth Cleaning
The best way to maintain great dog oral hygiene is to have
regularly scheduled professional dog teeth cleaning. This is the absolute best
way to get rid of all that bacteria, plaque and tartar. The Veterinary Oral Health
Council recommends periodic examinations for your dog by a professional.
This helps discover small problems before they become big problems.
There are veterinary professionals who specialize in canine
dental cleaning. Dogs can be put under anesthesia to protect them and the cleaner
while getting teeth cleaned. Older dogs in particular will benefit from professional
cleanings. Depending on the overall dental health of your dog, you may want to
have their teeth professionally cleaned at least once, maybe twice a year.
National Pet Dental Month
February happens to be National Pet Dental Month. Set your
calendar to review your dog’s teeth either at home or with a professional canine
dental clinic. Good dental health promotes good overall health. By keeping
decay and bacteria from taking ahold in your dog’s mouth, you keep him eating
better and those organs healthier.
Best Practices for Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth
You decided to grab the tooth brush and get your pup in the
habit of brushing. You’ll have to do most of the work. Again, if he is anything
like our dog, he’ll want to eat the toothbrush. While that might be okay for
cleaning his teeth in the short-term, it can lead to serious issues down his
Here are the best
practices for brushing your dog’s teeth:
- Start as a puppy: The earlier you start, the easier it is to train them. Sure, a puppy will have his puppy teeth fall out and get replaced. By then you should have him well trained for good oral hygiene.
- Find a toothbrush that works: It doesn’t need to look like your toothbrush. A fingertip toothbrush is easier to manipulate in your dog’s mouth and you are less likely to hurt him.
- Be patient: You might not get all those canine teeth brushed the first time around. In fact, it might take quite a while. You don’t want it to become a fight. Get a few in, take a break and go back to it using all the positive reinforcement you can muster.
- Be gentle: Work slowly though your dog’s mouth. He may have sensitive gums and you never know when you might hit a cavity. With your hands so close to his teeth, we don’t want anyone to get nipped.
- Rinse and repeat: Brush his teeth regularly so he gets used to the process. Don’t make him afraid of it. The more relaxed you can be, the easier it will be for him. The more often you do it, brushing becomes part of life just like brushing him.
Final Thoughts on Dog Dental Hygiene
Keeping your dog’s teeth healthy is part of responsible dog
ownership. He relies on you to do what is right to keep him safe, healthy and
happy. Life will be very hard if he doesn’t have teeth to eat his favorite dog
food or chew on his favorite type of chew toy. He’ll also be more prone to illness
without good oral hygiene.
The good news is dog dental issues can be prevented with
very easy habits. Between dry dog food, crunch kibble treats, dog dental treats
and bones, your dog is well prepared for basic dental health. Take it one step
further to brushing his teeth weekly or monthly and visit a dog dental hygienist
once a year.
Not only will those pearly canine white take better photos
for your Instagram page, he will be an overall happier dog.