It may come as a surprise to learn that dogs, like humans, have both baby and adult teeth. Most dogs, unlike humans, have all of their adult teeth by the time they are seven months old, so it’s time to start looking after their dental health when they are still puppies.
While dogs generally don’t develop cavities, periodontal disease is the one of the most common diseases affecting dogs. Periodontal disease starts when the bacteria in your pet’s mouth form plaque. The plaque can harden into tartar, and, if plaque and tartar spread under the gum line, can be responsible for a number of serious problems. Veterinarians warn that tooth loss, tissue damage, bone loss and infection can be the result of periodontal disease. Professional dental treatment is important if your dog is suffering from periodontal disease, and your vet can describe the options available to you. But the time to act is before disease develops. Let’s bone up on some preventative care!
There are brushes and toothpastes designed especially for your dog. Train your puppy from an early age to open his mouth to allow you to examine his teeth and gums. (This will also come in handy if you ever need to give him medicine.) Most dogs will accept brushing, and toothpastes come in dog-friendly flavors. Human toothpaste should never be used because it contains cleaners and abrasives that should not be swallowed by your pet. There are also dental wipes available that can be used once and thrown away. Your vet can advise you how to ease your pet into a brushing routine.
Gels and Rinses
Whether you rub an antiseptic gel on your dog’s teeth or squirt an antiseptic rinse into his mouth, these formulas can reduce the build-up of plaque. Not all dogs take to the taste of these solutions, but in general they are safe and effective. Ask your vet for recommendations if you would like to try this method.
Several dietary products offer anti-plaque ingredients or a kibble shape designed to reduce the formation of plaque. Talk to your vet for the best possible diet and nutrition suggestions for your unique pet.
Chewing can help reduce plaque build-up if done consistently, and chew toys should be chosen for tooth and digestive safety. Some animal-based products and hard plastic toys are so rigid that they can cause damage to teeth or gums, so be sure to look for safe toys. Dogs shouldn’t be left alone with toys due to choking or swallowing hazards—if the chew toy becomes small enough to cause choking, or your dog is swallowing large chunks that might not be digestible, time to replace it.
Your veterinarian is the best resource for maintaining your dog’s health and developing a dental routine both you and your pet can live with. When your four-legged friend goes for his next check-up, ask your vet what you can do to keep him and his smile fetching for a long, long time.