10 Steps to your dogs dental health
Did you know that regularly brushing your dog's teeth and providing her with a healthy diet and plenty of chew toys can go a long way toward keeping her mouth healthy? Many pooches show signs of gum disease by the time they're four years old because they aren't provided with proper mouth care—and bad breath is often the first sign of a problem. Give your dog regular home checks and follow the tips below, and you'll have a very contented pooch with a dazzling smile.
1. The Breath Test
Sniff your dog's breath. Not a field of lilies? That's okay—normal doggie-breath isn't particularly fresh-smelling. However, if his breath is especially offensive and is accompanied by a loss of appetite, vomiting or excessive drinking or urinating, it's a good idea to take your pooch to the vet.
2. Lip Service
Once a week, with your dog facing you, lift his lips and examine his gums and teeth. The gums should be pink, not white or red, and should show no signs of swelling. His teeth should be clean, without any brownish tartar.
3. Signs of Oral Disease
The following are signs that your dog may have a problem in his mouth or gastrointestinal system and should be checked by a veterinarian:
4. The Lowdown on Tooth Decay
Bacteria and plaque-forming foods can cause build-up on a dog's teeth. This can harden into tartar, possibly causing gingivitis, receding gums and tooth loss. One solution? Regular teeth cleanings, of course.
5. Canine Tooth-Brushing Kit
Get yourself a toothbrush made especially for canines or a clean piece of soft gauze to wrap around your finger. Ask your vet for a toothpaste made especially for canines or make a paste out of baking soda and water. Never use fluoride with dogs under six months of age—it can interfere with their enamel formation. And please do not use human toothpaste, which can irritate a dog's stomach. Special mouthwash for dogs is also available—ask your vet.
6. Brightening the Pearly Whites
Taking these steps will make brushing a lot easier for the both of you:
7. Brushing Technique
Yes, there is actually a technique! Place the brush or your gauze-wrapped finger at a 45-degree angle to the teeth and clean in small, circular motions. Work on one area of your dog's mouth at a time, lifting her lip as necessary. The side of the tooth that touches the cheek usually has the most tartar, and giving a final downward stroke can help to remove it. If your dog resists having the inner surfaces of her teeth cleaned, don't fight it—only a small amount of tartar accumulates there. Once you get the technique down, go for a brushing two or three times a week.
8. Know Your Mouth Disorders
Getting familiar with the possible mouth problems your dog may encounter will help you determine when it's time to see a vet about treatment:
9. Chew on This
chew toys can satisfy your dog's natural desire to chomp, while making his teeth strong. Gnawing on a chew toy can also help massage his gums and help keep his teeth clean by scraping away soft tartar. Ask your vet to recommend toxin-free rawhide, nylon and rubber chew toys.
P.S.: Gnawing also reduces your dog's overall stress level, prevents boredom and gives him an appropriate outlet for his natural need to chew.
10. Diet for Healthy Teeth
Ask your vet about a specially formulated dry food that can slow down the formation of plaque and tartar. Also, avoid feeding your dog table scraps, instead giving him treats that are specially formulated to keep canine teeth healthy.