Dental care for dogs often is not taken seriously. Here’s why it should be. Your dog’s mouth is a direct pathway to his lungs, kidney, liver, and heart. By allowing bacteria to fester in your pet’s mouth, you may be subjecting him to dental health issues. That means that, in order to protect his health, you should provide frequent dental care. Below are some pointers to get the job done quickly and correctly.
The Anatomy of Your Dog’s Mouth
You know that dogs eat all kinds of odd things. But amazingly, they don’t get cavities because they are protected by:
- The cone shape of their teeth
- The non-acidic saliva they produce
- Their low-carbohydrate diets
Still, they suffer from plaque buildup, which causes periodontal disease and ultimately tooth loss. Plaque is a soft, clear or cream-colored deposit that forms on teeth and below the gum line after eating. It becomes tartar when minerals in your dog’s saliva interact with it. If this tartar isn’t removed it serves as a breeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria can travel down the throat and throughout your dog’s body, attacking vital organs. At the same time, your dog’s gums can become inflamed, infected, and painful. They might bleed. Tooth loss can follow.
Arresting Plaque and Tartar in Your Dog’s Mouth
There are three ways to eliminate canine tartar buildup.
- Give your dog knobby chews and rawhide bones. These will rub the substance off his teeth without him knowing it. (But always under supervision and never give him natural bones, which could splinter and get caught in his throat.)
- Feed him crunchy kibble versus canned food (or a blend of the two), as well as nubby dog treats to dislodge plaque.
- Brush his teeth (or have your vet do it).
How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
The key is to start when your dog is young so that he will learn to accept your hands in and around his mouth. First, assess his teeth to make sure all of his baby teeth have fallen out. (Some toy breeds suffer from retained teeth. If that’s the case, a trip to the vet will be necessary.)
- Begin by running your finger gently along the outside of your dog’s gums so he’ll get a feel for it. As this exercise becomes routine, try the inside.
- Then apply doggie toothpaste to a finger wrapped in gauze (or use a special doggie toothbrush) to slowly scrub his teeth. You’ll want to use a 45-degree angle and clean the surface of his smile in a circular motion.
- Repeat once or twice a week.
When to Seek Professional Teeth Cleaning Help
If your animal will not accept your help with brushing, or if you see brown tartar or bleeding, a trip to the vet will be necessary. The vet will give your pet a general anesthesia and clean the teeth both below and above the gum line.
Caring for your pet’s dental hygiene might not sound like fun. But as a responsible dog owner, you’ll want to take it seriously. His long-term health depends upon it.