Periodontal problems such as periodontitis is very painful to dogs and the damage very often is irreversible. It is therefore extremely important to have a good canine dental care program to make sure that your dog’s dental and oral health is in top condition.
A good dental care program for dogs should include:
- Daily home dental care
- Regular oral check-up by a veterinarian
- Veterinary dental cleaning if necessary
This page focuses on what we can do to provide good daily home dental care to our dogs.
Canine Dental Care – Brushing Dog Teeth
Many veterinarians recommend brushing our dog’s teeth at least twice a week, but of course daily brushing is better.
Ideally, you should get into the habit of daily or regular brushing when your dog is a puppy. If you start training an older dog to have his teeth brushed, it is more difficult but not impossible.
If your dog is pregnant or lactating, it is all the more important to brush her teeth daily because hormonal changes in her body make the teeth more vulnerable to bacteria.
In addition, small dogs such as chihuahuas are more prone to dental problems because of the size of their mouth.
A smaller mouth means less jawbone for the roots of the teeth. The roots are therefore more shallow, and the teeth are less stable. Even a little gum disease can cause tooth loss in small dogs. Therefore, if you have a small dog, brushing his teeth daily is highly recommended.
Canine Dental Care – Regular Oral Examination
Canine dental problems, such as tartar build-up and gingivitis, are reversible and treatable if found early. It is therefore important to have regular at-home examination on your dog’s teeth and gums.
To open your dog’s mouth, slip a thumb into the space behind the canine tooth and press upward on the roof of the mouth. As the mouth opens, press down on the lower jaw with the opposite thumb.
Once the mouth is open, carefully examine the teeth for any plaque or tartar build-up around the gum-line.
Look to see if there are any missing or broken teeth. Check the color and condition of the gums. Are they red and swollen? Gently press on the gums to see if there is any bleeding or even pus oozing out. When touching your dog’s mouth or the gums, does he show any pain? Smell his breath. Is it foul-smelling?
If you notice any signs and symptoms of canine dental problems from your examination, take your dog to the vet without delay.
Canine Dental Care – Diet
A healthy natural diet plays an important role in preventing dental problems in our dogs.
Dry food such as high-quality kibbles are preferable because kibbles are abrasive and can keep the teeth clean. If you prefer to feed moist food, give some dry hard dog biscuits to your dog to help prevent plaque and tartar build-up.
Alternatively, give a hard uncooked vegetable (e.g. pieces of carrot) to your dog regularly. This will also help clean his teeth.
Minerals like calcium and phosphorus can fortify and strengthen dogs’ teeth, especially if given together with vitamins C and B complex. A good source of calcium and phosphorus is brewer’s yeast.
Other food sources rich in calcium and/or phosphorus include cheddar cheese, kelp, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts, wheat germ, and wheat bran.
Avoid snacks or poor-quality foods rich in starch and sugar. Also avoid giving any foods to your dog that are harder than his teeth because dogs’ teeth can actually break rather easily.
Hard knuckle bones and ice cubes, for example, can easily break a dog’s teeth. Chicken bones and long bones can splinter easily and should be avoided as well.
Canine Dental Care – Toys
Some toys are good “tools” which help remove plaque and tartar mechanically. Rope toys, nylon chew bones (especially ones with ridges), etc. are some good dental toys.
Do not use toys that are too hard and abrasive – toys too hard may break your dog’s teeth; abrasive toys can wear down the teeth.