Dental Hygiene for your Dog!

Fresh air. It’s hard to believe it’s a major cause of tartar in your pet’s teeth. In fact, there are many important but unknown tidbits of information about dental hygiene. So what are some burning questions from owners about their canines’ canines?

If a tooth is broken, does it have to be removed? Which is safer: rawhides, compressed vegetable chew treats, synthetic bones, cooked bones, raw bones, or none of the above? Do I really need to brush my dog’s teeth? (And for heaven’s sake, chicken flavored toothpaste – ugh!) Does a dog have to be under anesthesia to have a dental cleaning? Isn’t bad dog breath unavoidable?

Saliva or air?

Turns out, saliva is better. It has enzymes to help keep the mouth clean after a meal. Many veterinarians have seen that “mouth breathers” (chronically nervous/panting dogs, brachycephalic dogs, etc.) have more trouble with tartar buildup. As the oral cavity dries out, the gums, tongue, and teeth aren’t kept moist and tartar builds up more quickly. Of course, this may be a difficult thing to do anything about (new trick: “close your mouth,
Cleo”?).

Other dental issues—cracked or broken teeth

A tooth that is cracked or broken doesn’t always present a health risk. If there is no pulp (nerve and blood vessels) exposure, and the animal isn’t obviously painful, sometimes a veterinary dentist will try a conservative approach and only take action if there are signs of an abscess or pain (avoiding chewing, pawing at the mouth, foul odor from the mouth, excessive drooling).

Dental Chews

Chewing on certain types of bones or rawhides can help reduce tartar and keep the gums healthy. All dogs are different in how they chew a bone. Some are gulpers. Gulpers generally do not do well with bones/rawhides. But the calm chewers can benefit from a good, American-made, plain rawhide, bully stick, ostrich tendon, or other animal-parts chew.

Raw bones can be great, albeit a little messy—with the same restrictions as above. Avoid cooked bones as they splinter off in dangerously sharp pieces that are serious trouble for the dog if swallowed. To avoid problems, it’s best to keep a close watch on animals while they are chewing a bone. And throw the bone out before it becomes small enough to swallow whole.

I do not recommend offering compressed vegetable bones like those green ones because I am never a fan of adding wheat products (a main ingredient) to a dog’s diet. There are much better ways to keep a dog’s teeth clean and keep a dog healthy: good, moist food, brushing, animal product chew treats.

Brush, Brush, Brush

Brushing a dog’s teeth can be a great idea. Tartar takes 2-3 days to fully set, so even brushing just a few times a week can still do a lot of good. Use flavored toothpastes made for dogs (not humans), or even a homemade paste of baking soda and water. Sometimes dental probiotics can also help. But once tartar is solidly on the tooth, it usually won’t come off with brushing alone.

Anesthesia or No Anesthesia?

Is a dental cleaning without anesthesia a good idea? It is certainly not perfect. But where animals may be poor candidates for anesthesia, it may be worth doing. The veterinarian can’t get under the gums nearly as well with an awake animal. And clearly no extractions or radiographs are possible. But a lot can be done without anesthesia. And sometimes, cleaning the teeth this way may be the only alternative.

Halitosis

Bad breath in a dog can mean that there is dental or gum disease. It is surprising how many owners ignore their dog’s progressive bad breath as just an unavoidable part of pet ownership. Best to have your vet rule out these problems.

And remember, if your dog has horrible breath, you may wish to plug your nose, but don’t breathe through your mouth.

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