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January 16, 2018

Monitoring Your Dog’s Dental Health

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If your dog’s doggy kisses are becoming a bit much, dental issues may be to blame. Dogs as young as three years old may experience periodontal issues which can lead to long-term health problems. Periodontal disease, gingivitis, halitosis, and salivary cysts are just some of the mouth and dental health issues a dog can suffer from. These issues can mean the loss of teeth, difficulty eating, or even more severe health problems later in life. 

 

Not sure if your dog is having dental trouble? Here are some things to check for:

 

  • Bad breath – Your dog’s breath isn’t going to be minty fresh but if it smells like he’s been chewing on garbage (and he hasn’t been), he probably has some dental issues.

 

  • Bleeding or red and inflamed gums – Once a week, check your pup’s gums. They should be pink and healthy looking. If the gums are red, inflamed, or if you see signs of bleeding – it’s definitely time for a vet visit.

 

  • Yellow-brown tartar – When you check your pup’s gums, also look at the tartar on his or her teeth. Yellow-brown tartar along the gums is a sure sign of an issue. If your pup’s smile could make him an extra in a zombie movie, you’ve got trouble.

 

  • Loose teeth – Do any of your pup’s teeth seem loose or particularly out of place? If so, see your vet immediately. A loose tooth could cause digestive issues if swallowed.

 

  • Difficulty chewing/dropping food when trying to eat – We all know what a toothache feels like - that instinctive flinch when eating or drinking, the careful way we chew.  If your pup seems to be having trouble eating it could be a sign of dental problems.

 

  • Excessive drooling – Some pups naturally drool more than others but if Fido has become a drool factory out of the blue, mouth pain might be the culprit.

 

To avoid dental distress, and to keep your dog’s breath from smelling like… well… dog breath, here are some tips and tricks for healthy teeth and gums in pups.

 

1. Visit the V-E-T

Dental health begins at the veterinarian’s office. When you take your pup in for annual visits, your vet will usually do a cursory dental examination. If you’ve been noticing problems, ask your vet if it’s time for a more thorough dental exam and a cleaning.  We won’t lie, these visits don’t come cheap. Dental examinations include x-rays and cleanings usually require sedation. However, an ounce of prevention now could mean the difference in a bigger bill later for an infected tooth extraction. Your vet can also recommend the best at-home methods to help maintain dental health.

 

2. Brush-a, brush-a, brush-a!

This may sound like a crazy idea, but dogs can be trained to tolerate having their teeth brushed and many even enjoy the process.  There are toothbrushes designed specifically for dogs as well as fingertip brushes that fit over your finger & allow you to scrub your dog’s teeth. Always use toothpaste formulated for dogs – human toothpaste has ingredients that are toxic for dogs and should never be used. Also, dog toothpaste has fun flavors that make the experience more enjoyable for your dog.

 

The main thing to remember is patience. Make dental health part of your daily cuddle and grooming sessions. Let your dog sniff the toothpaste and get used to the flavor. Then slowly introduce the brush.  Use slow circular motions, trying to get between the teeth, around the gums, and all the way in the back. Your first few sessions might not get all teeth, but gentle patience should let you build up to a more thorough brushing session. Daily brushing is best but if that's not feasible try to brush your dog's teeth at least every two to three days. 

 

3. Try tooth wipes (or sprays)

If your dog is still dubious about the whole toothbrush thing, try dental wipes instead. These wipes are made to be rubbed against your dog’s teeth to help get them clean. They won’t provide the type of deep cleaning that a toothbrush can but they’ll certainly help.

 

Another option is dental spray.  These sprays are formulated to help reduce plaque and tartar while freshening your dog’s breath. Simply spray into your pup’s mouth around the teeth, no rinsing or brushing required!

 

4. Treat your pup

There are a variety of treats on the market geared toward dental health. These treats are specifically made to help remove plaque from your dog’s teeth while freshening his or her breath.  These are usually more popular with pups than brushing or wiping the teeth. Look for treats that specify they're made for breath freshness and/or tooth and gum health. 

 

Treat options include:

 

The list goes on and on!

 

5. Chew on this

Anything that your dog chews on is helping his or her teeth.  Things like cow ears, bully sticks, etc. not only scrape plaque off your dog’s teeth, they also have enzymes that can help promote dental health.  If you don’t want to toss your dog calories every time you toss him something for his teeth, rubber and nylon chew toys will also do the trick. Your options run the gamut from crocheted, cotton toys that naturally floss like the Monster Crochet Dog Toy to the Busy Buddy Bristle Bone that can brush and massage gums to the Bonfloss Dental Hygiene Chew Toy. Look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal on chew toys. These toys meet pre-set standards when it comes to dental health effectiveness.

 

Dental health in dogs is often easily overlooked.  However, with proper examinations and the right tools, you can make sure that Toto doesn’t have to be called Toothless when he gets older.

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