Dental Care for Dogs

Did you know that dental disease is the #1 health problem for dogs?

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is the result of plaque and tartar accumulation. When left untreated, it can cause severe pain, tooth loss, and infection. Furthermore, it’s estimated that 80% of dogs will show signs of gum disease by age three. However, with the right combination of professional attention and at-home care, you can help your pet maintain a healthy mouth throughout his or her life.

Professional Dental Cleanings

Just as you likely go to the dentist every 6 months, pets need regular dental cleanings to remove the build-up of plaque and tartar from their teeth. Most veterinarians advise a professional dental exam and cleaning every 1-2 years. During your pet’s exam, your can expect your veterinarian to examine the entire oral cavity for any signs of a problem. If your veterinarian finds a buildup of tartar, it can be removed by a professional dental cleaning accomplished under anesthesia. At the end of your dental visit, your veterinarian will provide you with instructions for at-home care.

At-Home Care

Good at-home dental care is based on proper nutrition and regular toothbrushing. Feeding your dog dry food helps break down plaque build-up before it can harden into tartar. Also, avoid table scraps because they increase plaque and tartar formation. You can also give your dog chew treats, such as rawhide chews, to help remove plaque and stimulate the gums. The key to a healthy mouth, however, is daily toothbrushing. Dogs need to have their teeth brushed regularly to remove the plaque that can lead to gum disease. Ideally, you should begin a daily brushing routine when your puppy is 6-8 weeks old, but even older dogs can be trained to accept toothbrushing.

Here is a method for introducing toothbrushing to an adult dog:

  1. Dip your finger in beef bouillon and rub it gently over your pet’s gums and one or two teeth to help your pet become accustomed to the feeling.
  2. Once your pet seems comfortable with this, begin gently scrubbing the teeth with a gauze-covered finger.
  3. Next, you can begin using a toothbrush. Use a special pet toothbrush or a finger brush, which is a rubber finger covering with bristles built in at the tip.
  4. Once your pet is used to the brushing, you can start using toothpaste. Be sure to use pet toothpaste, because human toothpaste can upset your pet’s stomach.