Many dog owners know how important it is to keep a dog’s coat brushed, to check their ears for signs of infection, and to watch what they eat. But so many dogs don’t get one vital grooming routine because owners simply aren’t told how important it is.
Dental care is a crucial part of a dog’s health care and grooming, and shouldn’t be overlooked. Good oral hygiene can help prevent things as serious as oral cancer and heart disease, as well as things like bad breath and losing teeth with age. Here are a few dental care tips for dog owners that want to give their dog the best health they can.
1. Choose the Right Brushing Tool
Dogs need their teeth brushed at least once a week, although once a day is even better. Whenever you check their ears and trim their nails, you should also be incorporating a dental care routine into the grooming session. Brushing a dog’s teeth is pretty much the same as brushing a human’s teeth – you want to use a dog-safe toothpaste, and buff it into the teeth with a brush of some sort.
There are dog-appropriate brushes that come in a variety of styles. Choosing the right one can help your dog feel more comfortable. The most common options are the standard doggie toothbrush, which looks just like a regular toothbrush but with a longer handle, and a finger brush, which is a small rubber cap that fits over your finger with bristles at the tip. The former is better for dogs with larger mouths, while the latter is better for small dogs.
However, if your dog just will not accept tooth brushing with a brush, you can also try using dog tooth wipes, which are just rubbed against the teeth to get rid of plaque, or a dog mouth rinse. These aren’t as good as a brush, but they are better than nothing, and can work for dogs that may bite if a brush is tried.
2. Use Dental Chews & Treats
There are many types of dog chews and treats that can be used to help keep your dog’s teeth clean between brushings. Greenies are the most well-known dental chew, but any type of chew that a dog will gnaw on for a long period of time (like chicken jerky or bully sticks) are good for helping get plaque off the teeth. If you need to keep your dog’s calorie count low, try a nylon bone or rubber chew toy to get the job done as well.
There are also special diet changes you can make if your dog needs a little help in the dental department. First off, try to stick to dry kibble as long as you can. Wet dog food is not good for a dog’s teeth, and can actually make dental issues worse. There are special kibble brands that are formulated specifically for dental health, which your vet may suggest if your dog has dental issues. You can also try feeding your dog bone broth a few times per week to give them a boost of nutrients that are great for the teeth and gums.
3. Have an Annual Dental Cleaning
Most veterinarians offer dental cleaning in their offices, which involve putting the dog under general anesthesia and then doing an in-depth cleaning to remove serious plaque build-up. This can be pricey, but it definitely helps to protect your dog’s overall health as well as their dental health. The vet can also use this time to notice any issues that you may have missed when providing care of your own. This may not be as necessary if your dog is young with great oral hygiene, but the older your dog gets, the more important it is that a vet take a look at their teeth up close at least once a year. These appointments may also include x-rays to check out the oral health more in-depth.
4. Start Young
5. Know the Signs of Dental Disease
If you know what dental disease looks like in a dog, you can catch it early when it can still be treated easily. Signs of oral disease include things like bleeding gums, excessive bad breath, difficulty with chewing, lots of drooling, a change in the way your dog eats, rubbing their face against the ground or pawing at their face a lot, yellowish or brownish stains on the teeth, and inflamed gums that appear bright red. Watch for these signs when you brush your dog’s teeth, and you’ll be able to catch dental disease before it gets severe.
Dental disease can quickly become more serious. Oral cancer, heart disease, and other issues often develop as a result of gum disease, for example. So, knowing these signs can not only help improve your dog’s oral hygiene, but can also help keep them healthy overall.
Ash Babariya is the co-creator of Simply for Dogs and a life-long dog lover. Ash’s many adventures at the local dog park with her Boxers, Janice and Leroy, have turned her into the local “crazy dog lady”. She shares those adventures, as well as her research into the world of dogs, around the web to promote well-informed pet owning.