As with any animal, good oral health is crucial to the overall health of your dog. Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly will not only prevent bad breath, but could also reduce the risk of serious health concerns, such as abscesses. Worryingly, bacteria from an abscess can quickly travel through the body and affect the heart, kidneys, liver and brain via the bloodstream. Therefore, it is crucial that the dental health of your dog is cared for correctly. Below, are tips on brushing a dog’s teeth and other methods of caring for canine dental health.
Effects of Poor Dental Care
Unlike humans, dogs rarely have cavities. Instead, the most common problems in a canine mouth are gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums, and plaque, which is a build-up of bacteria caused by food debris between the teeth and along the gum line. Of course, as mentioned above, this can lead to an abscess, which can have extremely harmful and even fatal effects.
Obviously, brushing, which helps to remove plaque, is the best measure to prevent these potential health problems.
Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth
It is advisable to begin brushing a dog’s teeth from early puppyhood, partly because it will allow him, or her, to become accustomed to the activity, but also because it is a good idea to be mindful of your dog’s dental health from the very beginning.
There are toothbrushes specifically designed for canine use, which you can find in most pet stores. However, a soft bristled child’s brush will work equally as effectively. Human toothpaste, however, should never be used for your dog. Canine toothpastes are available from pet stores or your local veterinary’s office.
Some dogs are reluctant to allow their teeth to be brushed, hence the need to train them to be handled in this way from a young age. When training your dog, start with small steps, for example opening his, or her, mouth. Be sure to offer lots of praise for allowing you to do this. Then, begin brushing the sides of the teeth, again lots of praise should be awarded. When your dog is comfortable, increase the area and amount of time you spend brushing. If, at any point, your dog becomes distressed, stop and allow him, or her, to calm down before beginning again.
It is a good idea to pay particular attention to your dog’s upper back teeth, as these will provide the first sign of plaque build-up.
Dental Care Treats
Crunchy treats, and those specifically designed to improve the dental health of your dog, are great for removing food from between the teeth and leaving gums healthy. Typically, crunchy foods are better for your dog’s dental health then soft, canned or pouched, foods, so you may like to add a mixer to wet food. Alternatively, ensure that your canine companion has a crunchy treat after every meal.
Prophylaxis is a thorough cleaning that is done under anesthetic. A veterinarian will take X-rays, examine each tooth carefully and remove any abscessed or infected ones. Then, the teeth and gums are meticulously cleaned.
This treatment may be necessary when you adopt a rescued dog, as their dental health is often poorly cared for. In addition, older dogs are likely to experience problems with their teeth and gums and may need prophylaxis. However, as prophylaxis requires an anesthetic, and anesthetic always carries risk, it should not be used as an alternative to regular brushing and dental care in the home.
Although your dog may not enjoy it, it is crucial that you clean his, or her, teeth regularly. If you are having difficulties with training your dog to accept brushing, seek the assistance of a veterinarian or an obedience trainer.