Dental care for dogs
Dental problems in dogs are more common than you might think. Despite veterinarians advising dog owners to clean their pets' teeth regularly, only a small percentage follows this advice. Research has also shown that 80% of dogs over the age of 3 has dental problems, but only 23% of dog owners will actually consult their vet about these issues. Dental care is not only necessary for humans but also for pets. Aside from trauma (the breaking of teeth), dental plaque and tartar cause a lot of dental problems in pets. Good dental care helps you to prevent serious dental health issues.
Dental problems in young dogs
While it’s not very common, puppies or young dogs can experience dental problems. The most common conditions for young dogs are dental fractures (often caused by over-excited behaviour) and misplaced teeth. If this results in clinical symptoms, your furry friend will have to be treated accordingly.
Plaque and tartar
In most cases, dental problems are caused by the build-up of plaque and tartar. Plaque is a barely visible layer that is constantly formed on the teeth. It consists of food remains, saliva and bacteria. In this state, it can still be easily removed. If the layer stays on too long, however, the various minerals and pH-value of the saliva can harden and calcify into tartar. This is a yellowish-brown stain on your dog’s teeth and as bacteria accumulate, it gets firmly stuck onto the teeth. Eventually, this this can result in gum infections and further dental problems.
As your pet gets older, the risk of dental problems increases. If you neglect the problems for too long, it can lead to pain and it can have serious consequences for your pet's health. Symptoms will vary from bad breath, infected gums and exposed molar roots to loose teeth and the loss of teeth. What's even more serious is that the dental issues can have an adverse effect on the overall health of your pet. Seriously neglection can lead to inflammation in vital organs and other related health issues.
These days there are a great number of possibilities within veterinary dental health, and there are veterinarians who specialise in this area. It can sometimes be necessary to further diagnose the dental issues by using a special X-ray machine. Treatments range from braces and crowns to root canal treatments and extractions. The treatment will only be done if it improves your dog’s overall wellbeing, to avoid unnecessary pain.
Of course, prevention is always better than cure! Brushing your pet's teeth is the best preventive measure for cleaning its teeth. If your dog hates this or if this isn’t possible for other reasons, there are effective alternatives as well.
Brushing your dog's teeth
Brushing your dog's teeth is usually pretty easy, as long as you start doing this when he is a puppy or young dog. If you adopted an older dog, it might be a bit more difficult. Let your dog get used to the toothbrush first and then gently ease him into getting his teeth brushed.
There are special toothbrushes developed for dogs. For smaller dogs, these can be quite big, so a finger toothbrush or a piece of gauze might be a good alternative. It is important that you only use doggy toothpaste. Not only are these safer to use, they often have a special meat flavour as well. This makes it a lot easier to brush your dog’s teeth!
The dog does not have to open its mouth fully in order for you to brush its teeth. In most cases, you just need to lift up the dog's lips and then clean all of the visible parts on the outside of the teeth and molars. You don't really need to brush the inside of the teeth.
Daily brushing is preferred, but if this isn’t possible we recommend that you brush your dog’s teeth at least twice a week.
Please note: it is important that you don’t brush your dog’s teeth if he already has dental issues or has recently undergone dental treatment. In these cases, the teeth will be incredibly sensitive and your dog might experience pain if you do brush the teeth.
If it’s impossible to actively brush your dog's teeth, there are various alternatives available. For example, you can use a tasty sticky toothpaste can be used. Apply this to the inside of the cheeks, and then massage the outside of the cheeks to remove plaque and stimulate the production of saliva.
Dental diets have a special formula that helps keep the teeth healthy. This dry food typically consists of rather large kibble with an adjusted structure. While chewing the food, the structure cleans teeth. Carefully selected ingredients also ensure that the build-up of plaque and tartar is reduced. For instance, a lack of calcium and minerals decreases the formation of plaque.
Special dental chew sticks can help clean the teeth, making them the perfect combination of practicality and tastiness! There are even suitable chews for dogs with food allergies. Do keep in mind that treats should make up no more than about 10% of your dog’s diet.
Food or water supplements
To neutralise and eliminate bacteria and bad breath, you can choose to add a supplement to your pet's food or drinking water. Liquids often contain chlorhexidine, and food supplements are usually based on algae.
Other oral care
Who said that dental care and fun can’t go together? There are various that can help clean your dog’s teeth as well. For an even better effect, you can combine the toys with toothpaste.
How do you find out that your dog has dental problems?
Bad breath is not normal!
It is a common misconception that all dogs have bad breath. Most of the time, this is actually an indication of dental problems. That’s why it’s important to take care of your pet's teeth daily and to get regular check-ups.
A good appetite does not mean that your dog does not have dental problems!
People often claim that as long as a pet keeps eating, he doesn’t have any health problems. This is completely wrong! If a pet has inflamed gums or a couple of bad molars, it will still keep eating to survive. The pet will be in pain, however, pet owners might not always recognise this. It's even possible that a dog with bad, rotten and loose teeth appears to eat normally.
If in doubt, you should always consult your veterinarian to ask them to examine your dog's teeth and indicate what your dog needs.