Dogs are highly intelligent animals that can be taught to do a lot of things – but brushing their teeth isn’t one of them! Your dog depends on you to help keep his teeth and gums healthy. Without proper dental care, your dog can begin to show signs of gum disease before his fourth birthday. Start playing an active role in maintaining his oral health, even if you’re not a licensed “doggy dentist!”
- Start early – Begin caring for your dog’s teeth when he’s a puppy. This will help prevent the onset of dental issues as he moves into adulthood. It’s also easier to get him acclimated to a maintenance routine while he’s young, as opposed to trying to begin one when he’s more set in his ways.
- Give your dog a regular “checkup” – Every week or so, take a good whiff of your dog’s breath. If it’s overly offensive, it could be a sign of gum disease or other oral health issues. Check for loose teeth, swollen gums, or small lumps on the gums or underside of the tongue. Excessive drooling is also a possible indication of trouble. If any of these signs are present, schedule an examination with a veterinarian.
- Brush his teeth – Try to brush your dog’s teeth daily, or at least several times a week. Don’t use “people” toothpaste, as this could upset his stomach. Use a specially formulated toothpaste for dogs – they’re available in a variety of meat flavors, and even mint and peanut butter – and a canine tooth brush. A brushing alternative is to wrap soft gauze coated with a mixture of baking soda and water around your finger. Keep the brush or your finger at a 45-degree angle and brush in a small, circular motion.
- Consider diet – Your vet should be able to recommend dry dog food, hard kibble, and specially formulated treats that can slow the development of plaque and tartar. Try to avoid feeding him soft food or table scraps.
- Give him something to chew on – Chewing is an instinctive canine behavior. Chewing and gnawing can also strengthen your dog’s teeth and scrape away soft tartar that can lead to tooth delay. The good news is that you don’t have to sacrifice your favorite shoes or bedroom slippers. There are plenty of toxin-free rawhide and rubber chew toys that can serve the purpose. Natural bones or nylon products are not recommended, as they may be too hard for some dogs.
- Use an oral rinse – A rinse or gel containing chlorhexidine can be an effective plaque killer, as long as your dog doesn’t object to the somewhat harsh taste. These can be applied by simply squirting them into his mouth and spreading them over his teeth with your finger.
- Schedule regular veterinary examinations – Just like people, your dog should undergo a professional oral examination every 6 to 12 months. Ask your vet to make a dental checkup a regular part of your dog’s health maintenance program. A competent vet can detect and eliminate minor oral health issues that could lead to major problems down the road.
There are no dentists for dogs, but you can help him get the oral care he deserves with these tips!