When it comes to our dogs we’re willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that our furry friends are living their healthiest life – from feeding premium dog food, making sure they get enough exerciseand taking them to annual preventative veterinary check-ups – we spend a lot of time and money ontheir health and wellbeing. But are enough pet parents paying attention to their dog’s oral health?
Research has shown that compromised canine dental health can have a material impact on a dog’s overall health andquality of life– often without your dog exhibiting any obvious signs of disease or pain. With over 80% of dogs older than 3 years of age estimated to have active dental disease, we think itstime for pet owners to increase the focus on their dog’s oral health.
Let’s start with some good news –dogs are less prone to cavities compared with humans. However, a majority of dogs over 3 years of age are developing plaque build-up, tartar and gingivitis. While these problems initially manifest in bad breath or yellowing teeth, like in humans, they can lead to serious issues in dogs, including in extreme cases heart, liver or kidney disease. While this may sound scary, you’ll be happy to know that it’s actually not that difficult to get on top of your dog’s dental hygiene needs. To help you start on the journey, we provide you with some simple stepsto improve your dog’s dental hygiene and in turn improve the quality and longevity of their life!
Does feeding kibble clean your dog’s teeth?
There is a common misconception among dog owners that kibble cleans teeth however there is no evidence-based research that supports this. While there are some specifically formulated prescription dental diets that can help promote dental hygiene in dogs, most commercial kibblewill stick to your dog’s teeth and gums like any other food. In fact, commercial kibble is usually made using fillers that break down into sugar andactually contribute to increased plaque and bacteria inside your dog’s mouth.
Regardless of the type of food that you feed your dog, when it comes specifically to oral health, the best way in which dog owners can help prevent oral diseases is through regular brushing of your dog’s teeth.
Dog teeth brushing 101
Brushing your dog’s teeth may seem daunting to begin with but if you start slowly and keep persisting it can end up being fun for you and your dog! Ideally, you can start a brushing routine with your dog from when they are a puppy however it’s never too late to start – even senior dogs can benefit greatly from daily teeth brushing.
We recommend these simple steps to get you started on a teeth brushing routine for your dog:
- Always introduce a brushing routineslowly. Never force it upon your dog and introduce each element gradually. Start by rewarding your pet for letting you approach their face, mouth and gums with your hands. Once your dog seems receptive to this, teach them to accept a finger touching their teeth by rewarding and praising them.
- Once a dog is comfortable with you touching their mouth and teeth, slowly introduce a toothbrush with tooth paste on it. You can find toothbrushes that are specific to dogs or a soft-bristled human tooth brush will also do. If you have a smaller dog or puppy, consider starting with a finger brush (sold at most pet stores) which dogs can be more receptive to. When it comes to toothpaste, it is very important not to use human toothpaste for your dog –most human toothpastes contain fluoride which can be poisonous for dogs. Choose a tooth paste that is specifically formulated for dogs and if possible, in a dog-friendly flavor such as beef, chicken or even peanut butter! Initially, let your dog just lick the toothpaste off the toothbrush. As they start to get used to the idea, over the next few days, slowly introduce brush strokes on their teeth. Be careful not to rush this part and remember to reward and praise your dog as you increase the amount of brushing gradually – this process may take up to 1-2 weeks but you’ll reap the rewards for the rest of your dog’s life by being patient!
- Once your dog is comfortable with small brush strokes, use your fingers to pull your dog’s gums away from their teeth and slowly start working around your dog’s mouth. Starting at the front of the mouth, brush at the gum line at a 45-degree angle using a circular patternand covering all of your dogs teeth – including the molars (large griding teeth located at the back of your dog’s mouth).
Ideally, you brush your dog’s teeth daily for 5 minutes. Try and make it fun for your dog by letting them lick some of the tooth paste and even chew on the brush a little to engage them in the process – particularly in the early days!
Don’t have time to brush your dog’s teeth every day? Try a raw bone or dental chew!
If you aren’t able to brush your dog’s teeth daily a great option is feeding your dog a bone – they work to help remove the plaque build-up off your dog’s teeth and as a bonus – dogs love them! Just be sure to make sure that the bone is always raw (never cooked) and as a rule of thumb, the bone should be larger than the size of your dog’s head to avoid them swallowing it. If your dog is unable to have a real bone for health reasons, most pet stores sell high quality dental chews that can have the same effect.
Know when to see the vet
While your dog’s routine dental hygiene can be easily managed by you at home, most dogs at some point in their life will require a veterinary dental treatment. This often involves a general anesthetic and a full dental examination including a professional clean. It’s helpful to look inside your dog’s mouth at least once a week so you can keep an eye out for any serious symptoms. A list of some of the signs or problems to look out for and that mayrequire you to take your dog to the vet include:
- Bad breath
- Tartar build up on teeth that is unable to be removed through daily brushing
- Change in your dog’s chewing habits (including chewing on one side or reluctance to eat foods that are hard)
- Swollen, painful or bleeding gums (gingivitis)
- Excessive drooling
- Broken, looseor missing teeth
- Bumps or growths inside the mouth
With oral hygiene playing such an important role in your dog’s overall health, it’s important to start your dog on a dental hygiene routine today. Through regular brushing (even a few times a week to begin with) and introducing raw bones to your dog’s diet you can make a remarkable difference to your dog’s overall health!