We schedule regular dental cleanings to keep our gums and teeth healthy but often overlook our dog’s dental health. Dogs are susceptible to dental issues just like us humans. These can lead to pain, discomfort, and potential health complications if left untreated. As a responsible pet owner, it is crucial to understand the significance of dental hygiene for your dogs and actively work towards ensuring their oral health.
We explore the importance of dental hygiene in dogs, emphasise the benefits and provide actionable steps for effective doggy dental care in this useful guide.
Dog dental health explained
Dog dental health refers to the state of a dog’s oral cavity, including their teeth, gums, and overall oral hygiene. It includes various aspects related to maintaining a clean and healthy mouth for dogs. Good dental health in dogs involves promoting oral hygiene to combat dental diseases such as periodontal disease, tooth decay and gum infections.
The number of teeth a dog has varies on the breed and individual characteristics. On average, adult dogs have 42 teeth. This includes incisors, canines, premolars and molars. Puppies have fewer teeth, usually around 28 deciduous or “baby” teeth that are eventually replaced by their permanent teeth as they mature.
A dog with good dental health typically has:
- Clean teeth
Healthy teeth free from excessive plaque and tartar build-up. They should appear white or slightly off-white without any visible signs of decay or damage.
- Healthy gums
The gums should be pink (or pigmented based on the dog’s breed) and firm, without any signs of inflammation, redness, swelling, or bleeding. Healthy gums fit snugly around the teeth.
- Fresh breath
Dogs with good dental health usually have fresh breath. While their breath may not be entirely odourless, it should not have a foul smell or be offensive. Persistently bad breath can indicate underlying dental issues.
- Comfortable eating and chewing
Dogs with good dental health can eat and chew without signs of pain, sensitivity, or difficulty. They can effectively chew their food and enjoy appropriate chew toys without discomfort.
- Absence of dental diseases
A dog with good dental health should be free from common dental diseases such as periodontal disease, gingivitis, tooth decay and oral infections. Regular dental check-ups and cleaning play a role in preventing and addressing these conditions.
Why is dog dental health important?
As a pet owner, you want the best for your furry companions. While you may often focus on providing them with nutritious food, exercise and love, you may overlook a crucial aspect of their well-being, dental care.
Dental care is vital for maintaining your dog’s dental health. You can ensure your furry friend enjoys the benefits of a clean and healthy mouth by implementing a regular dental care routine. This includes brushing teeth, providing appropriate dental chews and seeking professional veterinary guidance.
Dental care for your dog is important and has many benefits:
- Prevents dental disease
Neglected dental hygiene can lead to plaque and tartar build-up which can cause inflammation, infections and tooth loss. By implementing preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of painful and potentially serious dental conditions.
- Promotes overall health
Good dental health goes beyond just the mouth. It directly impacts their health. The bacteria in dental infections can enter the bloodstream and spread to vital organs including the heart, liver and kidneys, potentially leading to severe health complications.
- Prevents bad breath
Have you ever been greeted by your furry friend’s less-than-pleasant breath? Bad breath in dogs is often a sign of dental issues, such as gum disease or tooth decay. Brushing their teeth and providing appropriate chew toys can help combat bad breath.
- Enhances comfort and quality of life
Dental problems can cause significant pain and discomfort for dogs. Toothaches, gum infections, and other oral issues can make eating and chewing painful, leading to decreased appetite and weight loss. By prioritising their dental care, you help alleviate their discomfort, allowing them to eat and chew comfortably.
- Saves on veterinary costs
- Investing in regular dental care can result in long-term financial savings. Preventive dental hygiene measures can help minimise the risk of developing severe dental conditions requiring costly treatments or extractions.
Common dental conditions in dogs
Dogs are susceptible to various dental conditions that can affect their oral health.
Some common dental conditions that dogs can develop include:
- Periodontal disease
This is the most prevalent dental condition in dogs. It is caused by the accumulation of plaque and tartar on the teeth, leading to inflammation and infection of the gums. If left untreated, periodontal disease can progress, causing tooth loss that affects the surrounding tissues and bone.
Gingivitis refers to inflammation of the gums, often caused by plaque build-up along the gum line. It can cause redness, swelling, and bleeding of the gums. If not addressed, gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease.
- Tooth decay
Dogs can develop tooth decay, particularly on the surfaces where plaque and tartar have accumulated. This can lead to cavities, which may require dental treatment or extraction.
- Oral infections
Bacterial or fungal infections can occur in the mouth of dogs, causing painful sores, abscesses or inflammation. These infections can develop as a result of untreated dental conditions or other factors that compromise oral health.
- Oral tumours
Dogs can develop benign or malignant tumours in the mouth, including on the gums, tongue, or other oral tissues. Tumours that grow slowly and do not spread are known as benign, whereas tumours that grow aggressively and spread elsewhere are known as malignant. These tumours can affect oral function and may require surgical intervention.
Three ways to keep your dog’s teeth clean
1. How to clean plaque off your dog’s teeth with a toothbrush
Regular brushing is the cornerstone of at-home dental care for dogs. Here’s how to remove plaque from your dog’s teeth with a toothbrush:
- Choose the right tools.
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush or a finger brush that fits over your finger.
- Introduce the toothbrush gradually.
Start by letting your dog sniff and lick the toothbrush to get him or her get accustomed to it.
- Use toothpaste formulated for dogs.
Human toothpaste contains ingredients that can be harmful. Use toothpaste specially made for dogs, available in flavours they enjoy.
- Get them comfortable.
Gently lift your dog’s lips and brush in circular motions, focusing on the gum line. Start with a few teeth and gradually increase the number of teeth over time.
- Gradually increase brushing frequency.
Aim for daily brushing sessions, but even a few times a week can make a difference.
Scheduling routine dental examinations and professional cleanings with a veterinarian helps ensure comprehensive dental health management. Veterinary dentists often recommend doing professional teeth cleanings once a year for most breeds. Smaller breeds may need two visits per year to prevent loss of teeth. After a cleaning, your veterinarian can recommend the appropriate cleaning interval for your pet.
2. How to clean plaque off your dog’s teeth without brushing
While brushing at home and professional dental cleanings by a veterinarian are the most effective way to remove plaque, there are other steps you can take at home to help minimise plaque build-up. Here’s how to do it:
- Dental chews and toys
Chewing on appropriate dental chews and toys can help reduce plaque build-up. Look for products specifically designed to promote dental health, such as those with ridges or textures that aid in mechanically removing plaque. Avoid objects that may damage your dog’s teeth.
- Dental wipes or pads
Dental wipes or pads are convenient alternatives for dogs resistant to toothbrushing. These wipes or pads contain dental cleaning solutions. Gently rub the wipes or pads over your dog’s teeth and gums to remove plaque.
- Water additives
Certain water additives can help prevent plaque and tartar build-up in your dog’s mouth. These additives are mixed with your dog’s drinking water and provide an antimicrobial action that help control bacteria in the mouth.
- Dental sprays
Dental sprays are another option for maintaining oral hygiene. These sprays are applied directly onto your dog’s teeth and gums, helping to reduce bacteria and plaque. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer for proper application.
3. Natural ways to clean a dog’s teeth
Cleaning a dog’s teeth naturally can be done using a few methods that help promote good dental hygiene. Here are some natural approaches to cleaning your dog’s teeth:
- Raw bones
Feeding your dog raw, meaty bones is a natural way to clean their teeth. The chewing action and texture of the bones can help scrape off plaque and tartar build-up. Choose appropriate bones for your dog’s size and breed, such as raw beef marrow bones. Always supervise your dog during chewing to prevent any choking hazards or dental fractures. Cooked bones should always be off-limits. They become brittle and easily break into sharp shards that can do a lot of damage when they pass through the gastrointestinal tract. Never feed your dog cooked bones.
- Raw carrots or apples
Crunchy fruits and vegetables like raw carrots or apples can serve as natural teeth cleaners for dogs. The firm texture helps to mechanically remove plaque and stimulate saliva production. Offer these treats as occasional snacks or incorporate them into your dog’s meals. Be cautious with apple seeds and cores, as they can be a choking hazard or contain traces of harmful compounds.
- Coconut oil
Coconut oil possesses antimicrobial properties and can be beneficial for oral health. You can use a small amount of coconut oil and gently rub it on your dog’s teeth and gums using your finger or a soft cloth. The oil helps inhibit bacterial growth and promotes healthier teeth and gums. Remember to use pure, organic coconut oil without any added ingredients.
- Herbal mouthwash
Some herbal rinses or mouthwashes formulated for dogs can help freshen breath and support oral health. Look for natural and safe products made specifically for dogs. So, how do you actually use dog mouthwash? Each product is different, so it’s always important to read the instructions before you begin. Most dog mouthwashes will require you to pour a small amount of the product into your dog’s drinking water and let them drink it up. You’ll need to supervise your dog as they may notice something different about the water and not drink it right away.
- Dental gel or powder
There are natural dental gels or powders available that contain ingredients like enzymes or herbal extracts, which can help reduce plaque and support oral hygiene. These products are often applied to your dog’s teeth and gums and can aid in combating bacteria and freshening breath.
Good immunity and dental hygiene go hand in hand
Regular dental care, including professional cleanings and at-home oral hygiene practices, can help prevent and detect these dental diseases in dogs. To support your dog during recovery, use Anima-Strath.
Anima-Strath, a nutritional supplement, can play a supportive role in the recovery of a dog with dental disease. While it is important to note that dental illnesses in dogs typically require veterinary intervention and professional dental care, Anima-Strath can complement the treatment by providing support.
Here’s how Anima-Strath supports the recovery of a dog with dental disease:
- Immune system support
Anima-Strath contains a unique yeast plasmolysate that can help strengthen the immune system. This support can enhance the dog’s ability to fight off infections and promote healing in the oral cavity.
- Nutritional support
Dental disease can affect a dog’s appetite and ability to eat properly. Anima-Strath can help bridge nutritional gaps and support the dog’s well-being during recovery.
- General health promotion
Anima-Strath can contribute to the dog’s overall health, which is vital for their recovery from dental disease. It can promote healthy digestion and aid in the absorption of nutrients.
Taking care of your dog’s dental hygiene is like giving them a fresh breath ‘high-five’ and a wagging tail of good health! By brushing their teeth, providing dental chews, and scheduling regular vet check-ups, you prevent dental diseases, promote overall health, and enhance your dogs’ quality of life. Not only will your furry friend have a dazzling smile that can light up a room, but they’ll also enjoy the benefits of pain-free chewing and reduced risk of dental diseases. Remember, good oral hygiene goes beyond maintaining fresh breath, it is crucial for a healthy and pain-free mouth.
This article originally appeared on Anima-Strath and can be found here. Imbed link https://anima-strath.co.za/how-to-provide-the-best-dental-care-for-your-dog/
References and additional reading:
- Enhance and optimize immunity with Anima-Strath® (no date) Anima. Available at: https://anima-strath.co.za/
- Catawba Animal Clinic (no date) Rock Hill Vet. Available at: https://www.catawbaanimal.com/site/blog/2022/11/15/how-many-teeth-dogs
- Company Of Animals, office@wearecoa. com (2022) Why is dog dental health so important?, Company Of Animals UK. Available at: https://companyofanimals.com/uk/why-is-dog-dental-health-so-important/
- Union Lake Veterinary Hospital (2020) How to prevent and remove plaque from your dog’s teeth, Union Lake Veterinary Hospital. Available at: https://unionlakeveterinaryhospital.com/blog/how-to-prevent-and-remove-plaque-from-your-dogs-teeth
- Dog dental care: 6 ways to keep a dog’s mouth clean (no date) PetMD. Available at: https://www.petmd.com/dog/general-health/dog-dental-care-6-ways-keep-dogs-mouth-clean
- Saunders, C. (2022) 10 ways to clean your dog’s teeth naturally / petspyjamas, PetsPyjamas. Available at: https://www.petspyjamas.com/blog/10-ways-to-clean-your-dogs-teeth-naturally/
- insurance, N. pet (2021) Top 5 dental conditions for dogs and cats, American Kennel Club. Available at: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/top-5-dental-conditions-dogs-cats/ (Accessed: 05 July 2023).
- Oral tumors in dogs – an overview: VCA Animal Hospitals (no date) Vca. Available at: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/oral-tumors-in-dogs-an-overview