Have you looked inside your dog’s mouth lately? I mean a really good look. If your dog’s breath is so bad you run from him every time he yawns, it’s probably time you did have him open up and say “ahhh.” According to veterinarians, many of their patients (as many as 80%) who are brought in for routine shots or minor problems have significant oral disease of one kind or another. And it’s usually because the pet owner was completely unaware. Oftentimes, people with dogs think about their overall health, brushing their coats till they shine, making sure they get their shots, but somehow their teeth get forgotten. We are used to our dogs having less than fresh breath. However, if their breath is actually foul, that’s a sign of a more serious problem. A dog’s warm, moist mouth is the perfect incubator for all kinds of bacteria. Many are normal and natural, but under certain conditions, some nasty pathogenic organisms can take over and wreak havoc in our beloved pet’s mouth. Here are some tips to help us keep a careful watch on our dog’s oral health:
- Once a week, gently lift your dog’s lips and examine his gums and teeth. They should be pink – not white or red. Look for areas of swelling around the gums, and make sure there is no brownish residue (tartar) on his teeth.
- Bad breath is one sign of oral disease, but there are others, all of which require a trip to the veterinarian. They are: Red, swollen gums; loose teeth; excessive drooling; tumors in the gums; and cysts under the tongue.
- Tooth decay starts out with a build-up of plaque and bacteria on the teeth, and then hardens into tartar. Then the trouble starts – with swollen, receding gums, and loose teeth.
- Put together a tooth-cleaning kit for your dog: You will need a special type of toothbrush just for dogs (it is smaller than a human toothbrush and has softer bristles), and don’t use human toothpaste which can cause upset stomach in your puppy. Ask your vet about a specially-formulated toothpaste for dogs or make your own from baking soda and water. A piece of gauze would also be handy to have.
- Some dogs are scared by the whole process of teeth-cleaning if not eased into it. So start out by massaging your dogs lips with your finger in a circular motion 1-2 times a day for a couple of weeks. When your dog seems comfortable with this, try rubbing a little of the toothpaste or baking soda and water mixture onto her lips to get her used to the taste. Next, introduce the toothbrush and gently massage the gums with it (or the gauze if your pooch doesn’t like the brush). Finally, introduce a little toothpaste and brush her teeth thoroughly but gently in a circular motion, finishing with a downward stroke to remove the tartar. This should be performed at least three times a week, though some vets recommend every day.
- Natural chew toys can not only relieve your dog’s stress. They can also rub away plaque and help keep his teeth clean. Choose something non-toxic such as a rawhide or hard rubber toy. Or you might prefer to ask your vet to recommend something.
- Last but not least, find a dry dog food that is formulated to reduce plaque and tartar build-up, and resist the urge to feed him table scraps.
Some veterinarians go so far as to say keeping your dog in good oral health will probably also extend his life by several years. That’s how important doggie dental hygiene is!