By: Debbie Reynolds, DVM
The most important thing you can do to add years to your dog's life is to keep their teeth clean. This is so important in order to keep your dog healthy. Tartar builds up daily on your dog's teeth. You can even sometimes see the tan/brown buildup at the gum line caused by layers of bacteria.
This leads to gingivitis or gum inflammation/infection. When this occurs - the bacteria in the tartar have access to your dog's capillaries under the gum line. Once this bacteria is flowing through the bloodstream it starts wreaking havoc. The two places that it loves to "lodge" is in the tubules of the kidneys and on the valves of the heart. This is why we often tell patients and clients that not cleaning the teeth can cause heart or kidney problems.
The next stage is periodontal disease and this occurs when more time goes by with no dental cleaning. It leads to bone loss and loose teeth. Needless to say, the breath gets pretty bad at this point. Chewing and eating become more difficult and even painful.
Most of my dog and cat patients need their teeth cleaned professionally about once a year. Some pets can go a bit longer and some cannot go that long. In general, shorter nosed dogs have more crowded teeth and develop tartar more quickly. Genetics also play a role - same as in people.
In between the cleanings you should be providing routine dental care at home. Ideally, their teeth should be brushed daily. Even if you get a professional cleaning by a veterinarian, tartar starts rebuilding in 24 hours. Brushing eliminates the problem faster than anything else. You will need to use toothpaste made for dogs, and any toothbrush will do. Human toothpaste has some dangerous ingredients for our pets and the dog toothpaste is made to be tasty for our pets with meat or peanut butter flavors.
Short of that, there are a plethora of dental products on the market. Not all of them work well and some pets refuse certain products. There is everything from bones & chews to water & food additives or even goo you can put in the mouth. At Veterinary Home Healthcare and The Blessed Pet Shop we have a few favorites.
For the more natural minded person, we recommend frozen Primal marrow bones. These bones are fresh and frozen and full of marrow. The marrow contains natural enzymes to inhibit tartar buildup. The small pieces of meat on the outside of the bone encourage chewing in such a way that it mechanically scrapes the surfaces of the teeth. We recommend one fresh bone per week.
For the more medically minded person, we use Oravet Chews. These chews are given once daily. It will take most dogs about 5 minutes to ingest one of the chews. Oravet works in two ways - the chewing action works to loosen and dislodge plaque to help it break away from teeth. In addition, it also protects by forming a barrier to help protect against the bacteria that leads to tartar buildup for a cleaner mouth and fresher breath. This is because Oravet Dental Chews contain a special ingredient, delmopinol, which works to form a preventive barrier that blocks bacteria, and the future formation of plaque and tartar that builds up over time. OraVet Chews are the first and only dental hygiene product for dogs that contain delmopinol.
In addition, we recommend that you add "Dog Breath" every other day. This is an essential oil you place on the gums, on a favorite chew toy, in with their toothpaste, or even in their water. It has a holistic approach of improving oral health the natural way. Dog breath contains a combination of essential oils including copaiba, helichrysum, peppermint, myrhh and coconut. These oils have a variety of properties including antimicrobial, deodorizing and anti -inflammatory.
In short -
1. Make sure you are cleaning your pet's teeth, as best as you can. Choose the method that works best for your lifestyle.
2. Flip that lip - move your dog's lip up and look along the gum line. Especially on the teeth in the very back. If you see brown discoloration - it's time to see your vet for a dental cleaning.
3. Schedule annual dental cleanings with your veterinarian. No matter how much you brush, this is still a much needed procedure. Same as in humans- we brush twice a day and still make sure to get our teeth cleaned professionally.
A healthy mouth is of the utmost importance for your pet to live a happy, healthy, thriving life.
Please leave me a comment below if you have any questions.