Have you noticed bad breath, darkened tartar or swelled, red or white gums on your dog? If so, he may have gum disease. Just like people, dogs need regular dental hygiene to enjoy optimal health. February is National Dental Care Month, so there’s no better time to take control of your dog’s oral health. We’ve compiled the best ways you can assure your pooch’s smile stays free from disease and odor.
Signs of Ill Health
The ASPCA recommends checking your dog’s teeth once per week for signs of dental disease. In addition to bad breath, unhealthy gums and brown tartar, you can also look for excessive drooling and loose teeth. Growths under the tongue or on the gums are also signs of oral disease. If his breath is especially stinky, and he demonstrates changes in eating and drinking habits, consider making a trip to the vet.
Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth
Without regular oral care, your dog’s teeth will develop tartar, which is the dark, hardened plaque that forms on teeth. Not only is tartar unattractive, but it also causes common dental problems that can become serious health issues. Brushing his teeth is the easiest way to avoid gum disease, but before you begin, you’ll need the proper tools. Human toothpaste, for example, can irritate your dog’s stomach. Fluoride also interferes with enamel formation in young puppies.
Your vet can tell you what the best toothpaste is for your dog. If using a canine toothbrush is too daunting, wrap soft gauze around your finger and brush your dog’s teeth gently with your hand. There are also canine toothbrushes you can wear over the tip of your finger. Your dog will let you know what’s most comfortable for him.
Just like trimming nails, brushing your dog’s teeth properly will take patience and perseverance. Get him accustomed to having his mouth touched by gently massaging his lips with your finger for about a minute every day. Once he is comfortable, add dog toothpaste (or a baking soda and water paste) to your finger. Gently touch your dog’s lips with the paste so he can get used to the unusual taste.
After a few weeks of practicing, it’s time to brush. If you suspect your dog has inflamed gums or severe oral disease, make an appointment with your veterinarian before you start brushing. When you have the all-clear, don’t forget to be gentle! Rub your finger along your own gums first and you’ll see how little pressure you need to apply to be effective. Once you get the hang of it, get in the habit of brushing at least twice per week.
The Benefits of Chew Toys
Chew toys and dental treats are also effective tools that fight oral disease. Not only do chew toys and treats relieve your dog’s boredom, but they also massage gums and remove plaque and soft tartar. Your vet can recommend suitable toys that are made from durable, non-toxic materials. Some of these materials are even designed to clean your dog’s teeth and gums.
Maintaining your dog’s oral health will help you promote his overall health and happiness!