If you wouldn’t neglect to clean your own teeth, you shouldn’t ignore the teeth and gums of your dog either. A dog’s oral health has more significant implications than fresh breath. Proper oral care, including regular brushing and access to chew toys, can help your dog enjoy a long and healthy life. Unfortunately, many dogs already show signs of gum disease within the first five years of life. Fortunately, gum disease is entirely preventable and relies simply on proper oral care. Let’s take a moment to identify oral health problems and then good oral hygiene for your dog.
Signs of Poor Oral Health
One of the first signs that your dog’s teeth and gums need attention is bad breath. Normal dog’s breath isn’t minty fresh, but you need to take action if you notice an especially foul odor. As your dog’s mouth health deteriorates, other serious problems, including loss of appetite, vomiting, excessive drinking, or urinating, may develop. If your dog is already showing these signs, you should visit your veterinarian immediately.
Other symptoms of mouth or gastrointestinal disease (a veterinarian should check that) include:
- Inflamed gums
- Drooling excessively
- Cysts or tumors under the tongue or in the gums
- Loose teeth
You should also inspect your dog’s lips as they are a crucial indicator of oral health. Your dog’s gums should be pink, but if they are white or red or show signs of swelling, visit your veterinarian.
Preventing Tooth Decay
As with humans, bacteria cause the formation of plaque on a dog’s teeth. Eventually, the plaque will harden into tartar, leading to gingivitis, gum disease, and tooth loss. Regular cleanings by a veterinarian in combination with regular home brushings prevent receding gums and tooth decay.
So, you should get yourself a canine tooth-brushing kit from your or your veterinarian. Your veterinarian should be able to recommend an appropriate toothpaste for your dog, or you can make toothpaste from baking soda and water. Fluoride-treated toothpaste should never be used for dogs under six months, and human toothpaste should never be used.
Here are some brushing tips to make the process easier for you and your pup!
- Ask your veterinarian to evaluate your dog’s teeth to check for inflammation of the gums and lips. Inflamed gums may make brushing uncomfortable, so you’ll want to be gentler with your dog.
- Gradually introduce brush to your dog’s grooming practices. Start by rubbing your dog’s lips with one figure in a circular motion for approximately 60 seconds. Try a few times a day for two weeks and then progress to the teeth and gums.
- As your dog becomes more comfortable, introduce toothpaste by applying a small amount to the lips so that he becomes accustomed to the taste.
- Now you’re ready to introduce the toothbrush by gently rubbing your dog’s teeth and gums.
- Finally, you’re ready to brush – add toothpaste to the toothbrush and brush in small, circular motions. Start in one area of your dog’s mouth and gradually move around your dog’s mouth, lifting her gums as necessary.
There are other alternatives to brushing your dog’s teeth. One such option is dog chews or Kongs which are explicitly designed to help with teeth cleaning. Some will contain enzymes to help break down plaque, while others feature tiny bristles that act upon the teeth through chewing. Most dogs will enjoy hours of chewing, and it may just save them from chewing the sofa instead.
In conclusion, take your dog’s dental health seriously, and it will not only give your dog a brighter smile (if it could smile) but will also reward you with far less pungent breath.