Dogs need dental care! Unfortunately, dental hygiene for dogs is sometimes overlooked. Many people seem to just expect dogs to have bad breath, and few people brush their dog’s teeth frequently or do not brush at all. Dental hygiene is just as important to your dog’s overall health as things like nutrition or proper exercise. Help keep your dog healthy and pay attention to those pearly whites!
1. The Breath Test
Sniff your dog’s breath. Not a field of lilies? That’s okay, a normal doggy breath isn’t particularly fresh smelling. However, if his breath is especially offensive and is accompanied by smell or iron (blood), a loss of appetite, vomiting or excessive drinking or urinating, it’s a good idea to take your dog to the vet.
2. Check the Mouth
Once a week, with your dog facing you, lift his lips and examine his gums and teeth. The gums should be pink, not white or red, and should show no signs of swelling. His teeth should be clean, without any brownish tartar.
3. Signs of Oral Disease
The following are signs that your dog may have a problem in his mouth or gastrointestinal system and should be checked by a veterinarian: Bad breath, excessive drooling, inflamed gums, tumors in the gums, cysts under the tongue or loose teeth
4. Tooth Decay
Bacteria and plaque-forming foods can cause build-up on a dog’s teeth. This can harden into tartar, possibly causing gingivitis, receding gums and tooth loss. Only way to prevent this is by regular teeth cleanings.
5. Canine Tooth Brushing Kit
Get yourself a toothbrush made especially for canines or a clean piece of soft gauze to wrap around your finger. Ask your vet for a toothpaste made especially for canines or make a paste out of baking soda and water. Never use human tooth paste with dogs. Special mouthwash for dogs is also available at the vets or petshops.
6. How to start brushing
Taking these steps will make brushing a lot easier for the both of you:
First get your dog used to the idea of having her teeth brushed. Massage her lips with your finger in a circular motion for 30 to 60 seconds once or twice a day for a few weeks. Then move on to her teeth and gums.
When your pooch seems comfortable being touched this way, put a little bit of dogtoothpaste or a paste of baking soda and water on her lips to get her used to the taste. Next, introduce a toothbrush designed especially for dogs. Toothbrushes that you can wear over your finger (or a clean piece of gauze) are also available and allow you to give a nice massage to your dog’s gums (see video).
7. Brushing Technique
Yes, there is actually a technique! Place the brush or your gauze-wrapped finger at a 45-degree angle to the teeth and clean in small, circular motions. Work on one area of your dog’s mouth at a time, lifting her lip as necessary. The side of the tooth that touches the cheek usually has the most tartar, and giving a final downward stroke can help to remove it. Once you get the technique down, repeat this once or twice a week. When you give raw foods you will have to do this more often if not every day.
Getting familiar with the possible mouth problems your dog may encounter will help you determine when it’s time to see a vet about treatment, the most common dental problems are:
This is a painful infection between the tooth and the gum that can result in tooth loss and spread infection to the rest of the body. Signs are loose teeth, bad breath, tooth pain, sneezing and nasal discharge. This can cause infection of the heart valves (endocarditis), liver, and kidneys.
An inflammation of the gums caused mainly by accumulation of plaque, tartar and bacteria above and below the gum line. Signs include bleeding, red, swollen gums and bad breath. It is reversible with regular teeth cleanings.
Bad breath, can be the first sign of a mouth problem and is caused by bacteria growing from food particles caught between the teeth or by gum infection. Regular tooth-brushings are a great solution.
Develop when tartar builds up and food gets stuck between the teeth. Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth at home and getting annual cleanings at the vet can prevent tartar and gingivitis.
Proliferating gum disease
Occurs when the gum grows over the teeth and must be treated to avoid gum infection. An inherited condition common to boxers and bull terriers, it can be treated with antibiotics.
Appear as lumps in the gums. Some are malignant and must be surgically removed.
Look like large, fluid-filled blisters under the tongue, but can also develop near the corners of the jaw. They require drainage, and the damaged saliva gland must be removed.
Canine distemper teeth
Can occur if a dog had distemper as a puppy. Adult teeth can appear looking eroded and can often decay. As damage is permanent, decayed teeth should be removed by a vet.
9. Chewing Toys
Chew toys can satisfy your dog’s natural desire to chomp, while making his teeth strong. Gnawing on a chew toy can also help massage his gums and help keep his teeth clean by scraping away soft tartar. Ask your vet to recommend toxin free nylon and rubber chew toys. Gnawing also reduces your dog’s overall stress level, prevents boredom and gives him an appropriate outlet for his natural need to chew.
10. Diet for Healthy Teeth
Ask your vet about a specially formulated dry food that can slow down the formation of plaque and tartar. Also, avoid feeding your dog table scraps, instead giving him treats that are specially formulated to keep canine teeth healthy.
Dental Cleaning by Your Veterinarian:
To prevent dental disease, your dog needs routine dental care at home. But to perform good home care, you need to start with clean teeth. Brushing will remove plaque but not tartar. So if your dog’s teeth have tartar, it is necessary for your veterinarian to remove it and polish the teeth. This professional veterinary dental cleaning is often called a prophylaxis or “prophy.”
A routine dental cleaning consists of:
- Anesthetizing your dog.
- Taking radiographs (x-rays) to assess the health of all of the teeth and bones of the mouth.
- Flushing the mouth with a solution to kill the bacteria.
- Cleaning the teeth with handheld and ultrasonic scalers. All calculus is removed from above and below the gumline. This is extremely important and can only be done if the animal is under anesthesia.
- Using a disclosing solution to show any areas of remaining calculus which are then removed.
- Polishing the teeth to remove microscopic scratches.
- Inspecting each tooth and the gum around it for any signs of disease.
- Flushing the mouth, again, with an antibacterial solution.
- Optionally, applying a dental agent to retard plaque build up.
- Recording any abnormalities or additional procedures on a dental chart.
- Determining the best follow-up and home dental care program for your dog.
Very important for Bulldogowners:
Most Bulldogs can not tolerate certain methods of anesthesia, due to their flat faces they need more monitoring and need special sedation procedures (like having the dog tubed all times). Always ask your vet about this! It happens to often that a Bulldog dies because of wrong anesthetics, make sure you go to a vet who is specialized in brachycephalic breeds (shortnosed/flat faced dogs). The best way is to prevent, clean your dog’s teeth daily so a visit to the vet and anesthetics are not necessary
An example of a vet cleaning bulldog’s teeth without anesthesia
Make Sure You keep your Bulldog Smiling 😀