Lack of Dog Dental Care Causes Pain & Suffering
Have you ever seen a dog with a bad dental infection? It’s not a pretty sight! The animal’s face swells significantly, and pain is clearly present. Redness and distortion of an eye may also present an issue. In working with my animal non-profit, we often encountered such cases.
Peppy was a small Min-Pin that belonged to an elderly gentleman living in a Florida trailer park. The man survived on a Disability pension, receiving only a small amount of money each month. His meager living expenses took most of that, leaving barely enough to pay for food for his 9-year-old dog.
When his owner called us, Peppy’s little face was swollen beyond belief! Our organization took care of his veterinary expenses, extracting 2 molars, followed by two rounds of antibiotics to rid the little guy of infection.
Danger Lurks Inside Your Dog’s Mouth
Veterinarians report than an estimated 85% of dogs over 4 years old suffer from some form of periodontal disease. According to Dr. Jeff Young (of television fame), this can lead to tooth loss and infection. Tartar build-up on teeth and plaque lead to more serious issues. Left untreated, your dog’s dental health is at great risk.
Surgery was Peppy’s first experience with dental care of any kind, and it was not a pleasant one. His owner had never brushed his teeth, nor taken the little dog for regular vet check-ups. Because dogs are so good at hiding pain, Peppy’s problem did not become obvious until the dental infection advanced to critical stage. So what could have been done to avoid this?
February is Pet Dental Health month and the perfect opportunity to encourage regular dental care habits with your dog. His overall health and well-being depends on such care of his teeth and gums. Those consistent dental habits will also result in a pet with better breath.
Nasty, Smelly Doggie Breath
Coby, my Blue Great Dane, came running to me in our yard one day. As only a Dane can do, he greeted me with a big, slobbery tongue kiss. Coby’s bad breath almost knocked me to my knees! The big boy obviously had a problem.
Yes, I cleaned his teeth regularly – or thought I did. Further examination revealed a questionable tooth that the vet found to be mildly infected. I don’t know how I missed it but miss it, I did. Quick work by our vet took care of Coby’s problem, and he healed up with one less molar in his mouth. In his case, that infected tooth showed up, courtesy of the dog’s bad breath.
Causes of canine bad breath include poor oral hygiene and periodontal disease. Sometimes, bad breath stems from something the dog ate. We all know that dogs will eat the nastiest things they find in the yard. If your cat uses a litter box and the dog can access it, yes, he will find some cat cookies to add to his foul-smelling aroma.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) says if your dog’s bad breath also contains a slight fruity scent, get him to the vet as soon as possible. This may be a sign of canine diabetes. Bad breath in dogs may signal other diseases, so don’t ignore it. Ask your vet!
The best way to prevent bad breath in your dog is to clean his teeth regularly, using products designed for doggie teeth.
Supplies Needed to Care for Your Pets’ Teeth
Never use a human toothbrush or paste on an dog! Purchase a brush made specifically for canine teeth. Canine toothpaste is safe for dogs to swallow and won’t harm their digestive tracts. In fact, if you look for the VOHC (stamp of approval on any dental cleaning product for your pet, you can feel confident the product is safe for your pet. The AKC website offers a free booklet on tooth brushing basics for your dog. You may download it on their site.
You’ll find all kinds of dog dental products online, as well as in retail pet stores. I like these dental wipes. A kit made by Nylabone contains exactly what you need to brush your dog’s teeth. You can click on these links or on the Chewy.com link on the right sidebar to check out these and many more dog dental products.
(This site is an affiliate partner of chewy.com and benefits with a small commission from sales through our links. The Savvy Pet Owner donates to various animal rescue groups through the commissions earned, and we only recommend products we use on our own pets.)
How to Keep Your Dog’s Teeth & Gums Healthy
The following 4 tips will help you maintain optimum dog dental health.
1. Brush your dog’s teeth daily. It would be easier to begin this process with a puppy, but even adult dogs will get used to a daily routine, if it’s followed with a special treat or playtime.
To teach a puppy or dog to tolerate your hand working in his mouth, use your finger as a brush and add peanut butter to it. Work your finger around his teeth, inside and out. He will quickly grow to enjoy that process and allow you to switch to a canine toothpaste.
2. Wipe around his gums with a clean, soft cloth or gauze. This will remove any excess food or debris from his mouth.
3. Once a week, examine your dog’s mouth for anything abnormal. Look for cracked or broken teeth, bad breath, discolored teeth, bleeding or swelling or any signs of pain. Your veterinary professional can decide if any treatment is needed.
4. Make sure the vet includes a dental exam with your pet’s annual examination. Your veterinarian may find issues that you missed. A good vet knows that a dog’s dental health has a lot to do with his overall well-being and will look for any abnormalities that may not be obvious to you. In a post on Dogster.com, the writer suggests scheduling an annual cleaning with your veterinarian for February of each year. Because February is consider Dog Dental Health month, many vets offer discounted cleaning services at that time. It won’t hurt to ask your own veterinary professional about this.
Experts Disagree about the Effect of Diet on Canine Teeth
What your dog eats may contribute to his dental health or problems. Some say crunchy food, or kibble, helps clean the teeth. Or maybe soft food might eventually contribute to cavities. Pet.webmd.com recommends several tips to keep your dog’s teeth healthy:
1. Some dry dog kibble and treats scrub your dog’s teeth as he chews. Ask your vet if a special dental diet is needed to protect your pet’s teeth and gums.
2. Consider special mouth rinses. Again, ask your veterinarian if this is necessary for your dog.
3. Avoid hard chews such as hooves, nylon bones, or hard rawhide. They can break your dog’s teeth. Avoid animal bones for the same reason.
Some Experts Disagree with that Reasoning
“Dogs Naturally Magazine” suggests that meaty animal bones are good for dogs’ teeth:
“Veterinary dentists report that large types of raw bones, such as marrowbones, rarely cause broken teeth. This contrasts with small and thin long bones and similar shaped objects which are common culprits in damaging teeth.”
Ask your vet his opinion and then decide together if meaty animal bones are right for your dog.
What about the Carbs in Kibble?
Dogfoodadvisor.com suggests another side of the doggie dental health issue:
“Since most kibbles contain a higher percentage of refined carbohydrates, dry dog foods could ultimately increase plaque and tartar levels — and thus cause more dental problems than they supposedly prevent.”
The site also says that the only scientifically proven way to decrease plaque and tartar is the same for dogs as it is humans: “daily brushing combined with routine tartar removal by a health professional.”
Are Antioxidants and Vitamins the Answer?
“Dogs Naturally Magazine” recommends that antioxidants added to your dog’s diet contribute to his dental health. They mention COQ10 and Nrf2 as antioxidants to consider and also suggest adding Biodent to your dog’s diet:
“Standard Process Biodent (available through your veterinarian) contains a combination of cold-pressed ground bone, minerals, adrenal gland and other organ meats to support strong and healthy teeth, jawbone, connective tissues and immune system function.”
Establish a Routine for Your Dog’s Optimum Dental Health
The suggestions listed for dog dental care should help your pet avoid major dental problems. Set up a daily routine for caring for your dog’s teeth and gums. Keep your veterinarian involved in the dog’s overall health, along with daily care of the animal’s teeth at home and follow a diet approved by your vet to preserve your furry best friend’s pearly whites. Following those suggestions will assist you in maintaining your dog’s dental health.