Dogs and bad breath may be an old joke, but it’s not part of your pet’s charm. Rather, bad breath is a sign that your dog’s teeth need attention. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), owners most often neglect their dog’s at-home oral care, yet nearly 60% of dogs show periodontal disease signs by age 3. Following are some tips to help you take care of your dog’s teeth, which will improve her breath and help her stay healthy overall.
Brush your dog’s teeth
- Daily brushing is best for your pet’s oral health, but any brushing has a positive effect. Training pets to tolerate brushing, like trimming nails, is not difficult. Keep the first sessions brief and positive. Start with your finger, and slowly progress to using a pet toothbrush. Most dogs grow to like the taste of their pet-specific toothpaste.
- Never use human toothpaste, which is toxic for pets. Use toothpaste made especially for dogs, which comes in tempting flavors like chicken and peanut butter.
- A variety of dog- and cat-specific toothbrushes are available. They are generally smaller and softer than human toothbrushes, and some will fit over your finger tip to facilitate navigating your pet’s mouth.
- If your dog won’t let you brush her teeth, you can use dental wipes and water additives, which help control the bacteria in the mouth, but do not prevent plaque in the same way as brushing.
Give your dog dental treats
Between brushings, use dental treats to encourage your dog to help care for her own teeth. Many products are developed specifically to freshen breath and promote cleaner teeth, although they do not replace brushing.
Give your dog chew toys
Chew toys, especially non-nutritive toys, can help your dog maintain healthy teeth. Toys come in many sizes, shapes, colors, smells, and tastes, and some are made of nylon or long-lasting rubber for gnawing, which can help scrape plaque off your dog’s teeth. Always monitor your pet while she is chewing and throw away any damaged chew toy or a toy small enough to swallow, because they can cause serious intestinal problems if ingested.
Get your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned
It’s important that our veterinary team looks at your dog’s teeth during her annual wellness exam. If she has periodontal disease, we may recommend a professional cleaning under general anesthesia. Treatment will begin with X-rays and a thorough cleaning by our trained staff, followed by a thorough oral examination by your veterinarian. Prior to the procedure, we’ll conduct blood tests to ensure your pet is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia. A professional cleaning’s benefits outweigh anesthesia risks, because periodontal disease affects not only a dog’s mouth but is also strongly linked to cardiovascular disease, and has been linked to kidney, liver, and heart muscle changes. Some pets may also need diseased or damaged teeth extracted. If that’s the case for your pet, our team will guide you through that process.
Watch for signs of trouble
Signs of dental trouble may be hard to spot, but can be easy to smell. If your dog’s breath makes you gag, you should call us to schedule an appointment. Other signs of dental distress caused by periodontal disease include:
- Broken teeth
- Trouble chewing and dropping food repeatedly
- Discolored teeth
- Diminished appetite or refusal to eat
- Bleeding and swelling in the mouth
- Rotting teeth
- Cysts or tumors in the mouth
Pet owners want to take the best possible care of their pets, but they often do not consider dental health a big deal, or they overlook it entirely. Starting your pet’s regular dental care when she is young will help it become a daily routine—but it’s never too late. Disciplined dedication to oral hygiene at home can keep your pet’s breath fresh and her oral and overall health in tip-top shape. Contact us to set up a dental evaluation and to make an at-home oral-care plan for your pet.