As humans, we understand the importance of brushing twice a day and visiting the dentist twice a year for checkups. We also floss, use mouth wash, and occasionally pop breath mints. Our oral health depends on our hygiene habits. The same goes for dogs! Many owners think that a dog’s mouth is “self-cleaning,” but the reality is far from that. Dogs need our help in order to keep their mouths healthy and clean.
Without proper dental and oral care, dogs can suffer a variety of diseases and infections—just like humans! Gingivitis, a type of gum inflammation, is common, along with periodontitis which encompasses many different oral cavity diseases. Plaque can build up over time, and calculus occurs when tartar gathers; both of these can lead to more damaging diseases, as well as tooth discoloration and bad breath. Signs of serious problems include loss of appetite, loss of energy, unwillingness to play with toys, and excessive drooling. If veterinarian help is not provided, the dog can suffer severe pain, develop infections, and the toxins associated with oral diseases can spread throughout the internal organs (most notably to the brain, heart, and kidneys).
You should visit the vet about twice a year for overall checkups, and make sure that these include oral examinations. If you notice excessive drooling, a change in breath, missing/cracked/bloody teeth, swollen/bleeding/discolored gums, or bumps inside the mouth, notify the vet right away. Dental problems can lead to costly medical bills and severe discomfort for you dog. Unfortunately, dental problems can also shorten his or her life. In order to make sure your dog has a long, healthy, and happy life, you should not ignore your dog’s dental health.
There are several things you can add to your dog’s routine to help. Brushing your dog’s teeth may sound odd, but with practice and patience, it can make a huge difference. Try to brush your dog’s teeth with a canine toothbrush and made-for-dogs toothpaste. Human toothpaste contains fluoride which is poisonous if ingested by dogs, and many dog toothpastes are flavored to make them more enticing. If your dog won’t let you use a toothbrush, you can try fingertip-cover brushes or wipes made specifically for canine dental cleaning. Chew toys can help clean the surface level of the teeth. Try toys specifically designed to maintain oral hygiene and make an effort to play with these toys once a day. Dry food is better for a dog’s teeth than wet food. Also, certain treats or chews are specially made to help clean your dog’s teeth and freshen his or her breath.
When considering your dog’s overall health, don’t forget the mouth!