Dental Care for Your Dog: Four Steps to Success

As dog owners, many of us take our canine’s teeth for granted. Relatively few owners brush their dog’s teeth or inspect their pet’s mouth regularly, and this neglect often leads to cavities, gum disease and other health problems. Additionally, cavities and broken teeth can also be extremely painful, causing your dog to refuse food or become depressed.

Fortunately, keeping your dog’s teeth healthy is relatively simple. You’ll just need to embrace the following four steps:

1. Feed your dog dry kibble.

Most veterinarians agree that while many dogs prefer wet or semi-moist foods, dry kibble is much better for their dental health. Wet foods provide everything bacteria need to thrive and they often create a film over your dog’s teeth; conversely, dry foods do not coat your dog’s teeth in the same way. Additionally, as your dog chews kibble, it breaks into tiny pieces, which then go on to scrape some of the plaque from your dog’s teeth.

It is wise to select kibbles made with pieces specifically designed to clean your dog’s teeth. Many of the leading brands include such pieces as a matter of practice, so these types of foods are not particularly difficult to find.

2. Brush your dog’s teeth regularly.

A good kibble will help keep your dog’s teeth relatively clean, but you’ll still need to brush your dog's teeth on a regular basis. For the best results, give your dog’s teeth a good cleaning after dinner each night, but if your dog will not tolerate such frequent brushings, an every-other-day schedule will suffice.

There are a number of different types of tooth brushes for dogs on the market. Some look just like human tooth brushes, while others take the form of a soft “cap” that fits over your finger. Either style will work, just pick the type that suits you and your dog best. You’ll also want a good toothpaste, designed specifically for canines, as they’ll likely swallow most of the paste that goes into their mouths.

3. Give your dog plenty of plaque-scrapping treats.

There are a number of dental treats available that are designed to help scrape your dog’s teeth clean as he chews on them. These types of treats take on many forms, but the best ones are usually resilient enough to last 5 minutes or more, thereby maximizing the amount of treat-tooth contact.

Some treats are formulated with breath-freshening ingredients, but this is solely for your benefit – not your dog’s. While it is a good idea to provide dental treats to your dog on a regular basis, you should always be mindful of the extra calories these treats represent.

4. Visit your veterinarian regularly, so he or she can inspect your dog’s teeth.

You’ll need to visit the veterinarian any time you suspect your dog is having a dental problem, but it is also important to take your dog in for regular checkups, even when he appears completely healthy. While you may not notice the subtle signs that indicate an underlying problem, your vet’s trained eye is quite likely to spot even minor issues.

By identifying problems early and beginning treatment promptly, you can help your dog avoid a great deal of pain and suffering. Early action will also help you to keep the costs associated with your dog’s dental care lower.

Start Early for the Best Results

It is important to start taking care of your dog’s teeth as early as possible. This will often enable you to avoid cavities and gum disease completely, and it will also help your dog feel more comfortable having his teeth brushed and mouth inspected.

Don’t rush the process at the start – let your dog sniff the toothbrush and toothpaste, before gently inserting it into his mouth. Don’t worry about being thorough the first few times, it is more important to teach your dog that tooth brushing time is a positive experience, and that he has nothing to fear.

It’s also important to begin brushing your dog’s teeth when he is young for your own safety. You don’t want to stick your fingers in a large, frightened dog’s mouth!

Have you managed to keep your dog’s teeth clean and gums healthy? What types of products have you used? Does your dog seem to like having his teeth brushed, or does he fight you the whole time?

Let us know all about your experiences in the comments below.

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