Dental hygiene is just as important for dogs as it is for human beings! Plaque builds up on dogs’ teeth just as it does on ours. After plaque builds up, it hardens to become a coarse brown substance called tartar. Tartar eventually accumulates and works its way under the gums, causing painful infections and gum disease. You probably brush your teeth every day – what do you do to help your dog’s teeth stay in good shape?
Why Brush Your Dog’s Teeth?
Vets recommend that dog owners brush their dog’s teeth at least twice a week to minimize the buildup of tartar. Most pet supply stores carry specially designed toothbrushes and toothpaste just for dogs. Remember that a dog’s sense of taste and smell is far more acute than that of a human and the zesty, tingly, mint taste of your toothpastes will be terrible to your dog. Most regular toothpastes also contain fluoride, which is highly poisonous to dogs. Use the specially designed doggie toothpaste instead to avoid a surprise trip to the vet!
You say you don’t have to time (or patience) to brush Fido’s teeth on a regular basis? There are other ways you can help take care of his choppers. A dog’s natural tendency to chew is a built-in dental care mechanism. There are a couple of ways you can take advantage of this. Some dog diets and dental treats can reduce plaque by up to 70% as measured by the Veterinary Oral Health Council* (VOHC). Find some things that you can do for Fido’s dental health below.
What Food is Best?
Dry food is always better than wet food in helping to keep Fido’s teeth clean – however, the size of your kibble can be important. One study by the VOHC found that increasing the diameter of kibble by 50% led to a 42% reduction in tartar. Kibble breaks into small chunks when chewed, then rub against the teeth, providing a cleaning service. There’s no substitute for brushing your dog’s teeth, but if you can’t do that, make sure he has access to at least one of the options below on a regular basis to slow the buildup of plaque and tartar.
Make sure your dog has plenty of safe chewing options so their teeth get extra scrubbing. These may include safe synthetic bones, toys and rawhide – these reduce plaque and tartar and come in various shapes and sizes. Some great examples are Kong® toys, Plaque Attackers®, or Gumabones® – these synthetic options are especially good for dogs that swallow rawhide whole or chew through it too quickly.
There are a number of edible treat options for the dogs that the VOHC has recommended, including Greenies®, Del Monte Tartar Check® Dog Biscuits, Bright Bites, and Vetradent Dog Chews. If you simply give one after meals once or every other day, these can help keep Fido’s teeth clean and bright.
Mouth Diseases in Dogs
Dogs that do not receive proper dental care run the risk of several mouth diseases. These can range from mild gingivitis (a gum disease that results in swollen, inflamed gums) to a serious bacterial infection that can spread through the dog’s bloodstream causing damage to vital organs. If necessary, dental services are available for dogs in a vet’s office – a dog’s teeth can be filled, capped, and extracted if necessary, just like a human’s. Dogs routinely die from effects of the lack of dental care. You owe it to yourself and your dog to take care of his teeth – it’s a simple way to prolong his life, avoid painful and costly treatment, and take care of your best friend.
* the VOHC is an organization that evaluates pet products to see if they meet standards for reducing plaque or tartar. Approved foods, treats, and chews must reduce plaque or tartar by at least 10% to achieve the VOHC seal of approval