Five Ways to Care For Your Dog's Teeth

Pet Health and Safety  •  Pam Karkow  •  Wednesday, May 20, 2020

I want you to try something. Close your eyes and imagine that freshly brushed feeling. Your teeth are slick and smooth, and a minty freshness enlivens your tongue. That is the feeling of a healthy mouth!  Don’t you want that same feeling for your sweet pets?

All too often I talk to friends about brushing their pet’s teeth and they complain that they don’t have time. But did you know that according to the Animal Medical Center of New York more than 85% of dogs over three years old have dental problems requiring professional treatment? And the state of a dog’s teeth doesn’t just affect their mouth, but their heart, liver, and kidneys.

So, what can we do about this at home? Here are five things to do right now to avoid expensive trips to the vet and more importantly, to extend your dog’s life.

Brush regularly

Not only is regular brushing a great time to bond with your pet, but it is also a good time to get your dog used to having his or her mouth handled, so vet visits (and two-year olds) will be less traumatic. Keep brushing sessions short--it only takes a couple of minutes for you to brush your teeth, right? And it is no different from your dog. Make sure to give plenty of praise and love pats throughout the teeth brushing. Also, use a toothpaste specifically designed for your dog, such as Petsmile Professional Pet Toothpaste. Human toothpaste contains fluoride which is toxic to dogs. You can also outsource this job to your family members--brushing the dog’s teeth is a great chore for your kids. Just make sure you show them the proper technique. 

Incorporate tooth-friendly treats

While these treats should not be used in place of regular brushings, chewing treats that are specially formulated to fight plaque and tartar can improve your dog’s dental health. Our dog gets a Greenie each night before she goes to bed. Check the Veterinary Oral Health Council before investing in treats for oral health. Their comprehensive list of approved products for dogs is very helpful in determining what is best for your dog. Just make sure your dog spends some time chewing the treat. If he or she just wolfs it down, it will not be very effective in fighting tartar.

Try food/water for dental health

Dental diets like Hill’s Prescription Diet and Purina’s Pro Plan Dental Health Formula can provide more “mechanical abrasion” to dog’s teeth, effectively working to clean tartar and plaque off the surface of the teeth. Simply choosing a dry kibble over canned food can also cut down on the buildup of plaque, as wet food promotes the buildup of this harmful substance. Another option is to try a water additive or oral gel. You can either purchase a gel you squirt over your dog’s teeth after a meal or a water additive like HealthyMouth Anti-plaque which you would simply add to his or her water.

Maintain regular check-ups

You go to the dentist once or twice a year, right? Well, it should be no different for your dog. Your pet should visit your veterinarian once a year for an annual wellness check, and part of that should include a peek at your pup’s teeth. Not only does your vet know what to look for in terms of gum and tooth disease, but he or she can also do a screening for oral cancer. Mouth cancers can grow quickly and spread to other areas of the body, so early detection is important.

Incorporate professional cleanings

Of course, even if you do all of the above, your dog is eventually going to need a professional cleaning, just as you do! How often your dog needs these cleanings is dependent on his or her age and the health of the teeth and gums.  PetPartners’ Defender Plus plan can help offset the cost of dental cleanings. Their schedule of benefits allows for your choice of spaying/neutering your pet or a dental cleaning each year. You can utilize this plan by choosing to have your pet(s) spayed/neutered during the first year and then a dental cleaning each subsequent year. Get a quote today!

Pet Dental Health Month

February is Pet Dental Health Month, so it is a great time to jump on the dental health bandwagon!  Just pick one of these suggestions to incorporate into your routine this month.  Me?  I just printed off a chart to hang above our dog’s water bowl.  I assigned one day to each family member and there is a box for them to check once they have brushed our dog’s teeth.  When you are looking at a time commitment of two minutes, one day a week, it is totally do-able!  What are you going to try?

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