How Can I Improve My Dog's Dental Health?
With 90% of dog owners not cleaning their dog's teeth and 85% of dogs having dental disease by the age of 3, it's certainly time for us to get to know how to improve our dog's dental health. Read this paw-ket guide to caring for your dogs dental health.
About Dogs And Their Teeth
Question: Do you brush your dog’s teeth, or take them for professional teeth cleaning?
If you answered yes, then you’re ahead of the game as part of the 10% of pup parents that do clean their dog's teeth, and if you're like us, we never we needed to! How wrong we were...
For us and our fluff-balls, it was only when Petal and MIlo’s hooman ‘sister’ worked in a vet surgery that we realised what a huge paw-blem teeth can be for our four legged family members.
Tooth trouble is one of the most common canine health problems with 12.5% of dogs experiencing teeth-troubles followed by dog ear infections (7.3%) and dog obesity (7.1%). We humans may have ‘canine’ teeth, but we can’t compete on the sheer 42 teeth dogs have in comparison to our 32.
Most of us dog mums and dads get to know just how many teeth our pups have during the nippy stage our dogs go through as puppies, testing their needle-sharp pegs out on our fingers and our furniture! Luckily, their adult teeth come in fairly soon and then we really need to take some simple steps to care for them. The teething process in dogs tends to start when puppies are two weeks old and usually ends at around eight to nine months. By this time their adult teeth would have all come through.
There's a very good reason why dogs have way more teeth than us humans, they simply need their teeth for more functions than we do. They not only need to tear, grind and chew their food (and of course their toys) but to also lift and carry things. Ever seen a dog carrying a humungous stick using only their 'gnashers' - this just shows us how strong their teeth and jaws really are.
It also hardly needs saying that a lot more of the 'iffy' kind of stuff passes time in your dog’s mouth; earth, stones, infected things, and even faeces - yep, sorry for that reminder! Which makes it even more important to keep them fresh.
What is interesting though, is that dogs don’t get cavities the way humans do. Instead dogs just lose teeth, and some dogs are especially prone to tooth loss, but it's important not to ignore this. Dogs shouldn't actually lose teeth. If yours does, there may be a dental problem and your dog will possibly be feeling pain and discomfort. If one tooth goes it’s likely there will be more, so while it is best to start good tooth hygiene when they're pups, it is also never too late to improve matters.
Checking Out That Mouth
It's advised to check your dogs teeth regularly; every 2-4 weeks is a good routine to get into for toothy checkups, but how do you conduct a mouth check at home?
The key is to get your dog used to you checking inside their mouths through positive encouragement like (healthy) treats to give them after each at-home check up. If your dogs clearly don’t like this and you can see that it is stressing them out, then approach mouth-checking slowly and just touch their lips. Then offer a healthy treat, repeat, and gradually get round to your finger lifting the lips so you can see the full teeth and gums.
Most of the time they’ll probably have some plaque, but if the gums are red then there could already be periodontal disease happening. Other signs of periodontal disease and general dental problems can be:
- Dropping food
- Blood in the water bowl
- Favouring one side of the mouth
- Pawing at their mouth and face
If you notice any of the above happening, it is important to book an appointment with the vet to avoid further tooth and mouth damage while relieving your dog of any tooth-pain.
If there’s just plaque visible, then ask your vet about their tooth cleaning service. Some groomers even offer ultrasonic cleaning which is very successful with long-lasting results.
Day To Day Care
85% of dogs have dental disease by the age of 3, so the verdict is that we absolutely should be brushing their teeth. Teeth brushing on on our fur-babies can be tough to get started, especially if your dog is fully grown. Similarly to conducting an at-home check up, try to approach the process very gradually.
Step 1: Try touching the lips
Step 2: Try touching and striking your finger or toothbrush on the teeth briefly
The Goal? To build up their willingness and confidence so that they don't see teeth cleaning as a stress-related activity
When it comes to equipment, there are various types of canine toothbrushes and toothpastes on offer that can also be recommended by your vet. If you choose to not use these, then keep an eye on things and consider periodic professional cleaning which is also a popular option among dog mums and dads.
Tasty, Healthy Toothy-Treats
This may come as a surprise but Dentastix are actually terrible for dogs and pups to chew on. There are ‘good’ dental chews that contain freshening herbs, but some of the biggest sellers actually contain sugar and don't do much good for our pups - I know, hard to swallow! These sugary dental chews can also impact their weight if given too often, so while dental chews are marketed as part of canine tooth care they are not a substitute for proper teeth cleaning.
A great, natural aid instead of a dental chew is a simple raw carrot. Luckily our pup CEOs Milo and Petal love a carrot to chew on and look forward to it just as much as if it were an actual dental chew! This is a great hack if you're looking to steer your pups and dogs away from dental chews like Dentastix, and onto something much more tooth and weight-friendly.
While intreated dental issues can cause bad breath and a painful mouth, it can also lead to kidney, liver and heart problems, so we hope that this has been a useful guide on how to look after our dogs teeth health while making it seem a little less daunting or stressful for our fluff-balls.
Petal and Milo over here are giving carrots a paws-up and we will certainly be looking after those toothy-pegs regularly. For more tips, check out the RSPCA's guide to cleaning your dogs teeth here.
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Nicky, Caroline & The Pups @ PupRepublic