Did you know that keeping your dog’s teeth clean may very well extend its lifespan? When conducted properly and on a regular basis, basic dental care practices can save your pet the agony of periodontal (dental) disease, which commonly affects dogs above four years of age. Although experts generally recommend a visit to a veterinary dentist for an examination or cleaning every six months or so, there is plenty that you, as an owner, can do to upkeep your dog’s oral health from home in between checkups.
What Constitutes Good Oral Health?
Canine breath is not minty-fresh by default. However, if you find that your dog’s mouth is reeking terribly, it might be a sign of oral disease. Check its gums and teeth once a week; you should see pink gums and clean pearly whites. Warning signs include a brown tartar buildup around the gum line, as well as swelling and white or red gums. These symptoms may be accompanied by excessive drooling, a loss of appetite or vomiting, which warrant the immediate attention of a vet.
Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth
Just like us humans, a dog’s chompers should be cleaned at least once (ideally, twice!) a day with a toothbrush to remove excessive food deposits, plaque and tartar. There is an extensive variety of canine toothbrushes available on the market, which are specially shaped to conform to your pet’s mouth. Those who are inexperienced with tooth brushing may wish to purchase special ‘starter kits’ for all the necessary tools to ensure oral hygiene, while finger brushes are available for puppies and smaller dog breeds so that owners can simply slip the product onto their fingers to clean more conveniently.
For the ‘newbies’, it is best to start by brushing your dog’s teeth without toothpaste so that it can gradually become accustomed to the feeling of having the brush inside its mouth. Begin by lifting the lip to expose the surfaces that need to be cleaned, and then gently brushing the gums and teeth while paying special attention to the canines and back molars which are used to chew food the most.
Select The Right Toothpaste
Now that your pet has gotten used to the sensation of a toothbrush, it is time to introduce toothpaste to make brushing even more effective. Whatever it is, do not use human toothpaste products, as these contain cleaning agents that may cause stomach upsets and serious health conditions if swallowed. Dog toothpaste is available in a plethora of flavours. While mint is great for eliminating bad breath, delicious flavours such as chicken are also available to make brushing a tasty and hence much more enjoyable experience. Before you begin brushing your dog’s teeth with toothpaste, first apply a small amount of it onto the toothbrush or your finger, and give your dog an introductory taste.
Oral Health Products
Solutions made with human food grade ingredients like Benedent Triple Pet Plaque Off and Synergy Labs Dental Fresh can be added to your pet’s drinking water to eliminate unwanted plaque and tartar build-up and reduce breath odour. Additionally, dental chew toys and edible dental chew bones are a great way to keep your pet occupied for hours, improving its oral hygiene with healthy doses fun and exercise for its jaw muscles. These should not be relied on as alternatives to brushing, which still remains the most effective and immediate solution to keeping your dog’s gums and teeth clean.
However thorough or diligent you are with your dog’s oral health routine at home, visits to a veterinary dentist are still necessary for scaling and polishing to keep its mouth in tip-top condition. Just remember to exempt your pet from brushing and other dental home care rituals during the first week after a full dental cleaning at the vet, as its gums may still be tender from the dental procedure!