When we think about all of the factors in caring for our dogs, we sometimes forget the importance of dental care! Not only is bad breath unpleasant, but the underlying reasons for it can also have significant implications for the overall health of our dogs. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, we have to consider that when our pets have unhealthy teeth, “in addition to causing receding gums, tooth loss, and significant pain, bacteria in the mouth enters the bloodstream, potentially affecting the heart, liver, and kidneys, which can be life-threatening”. Because of these factors, dental care is truly a critical component in providing complete care to our canine companions.
Bad breath most commonly occurs because of bacteria in the mouth that is a result of plaque buildup and tartar. Plaque is the sticky, gooey film that builds up on teeth and gums as a result of residue from food. If plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar, which is significantly more difficult to remove. Once tartar has formed, it cannot be removed by brushing and will typically require a dental cleaning performed by your veterinarian.
Factors that affect your dog’s dental health
While there are many factors that affect our dog’s dental health, including diet, genetics, the formation of plaque and tartar, structural problems, cysts or tumors in the mouth, and others, the best way to approach supporting our dog’s dental health is by working to prevent issues from arising in the first place. Daily brushing with a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste is the best way to go about this. Many dogs will not be comfortable with brushing initially and will need support with becoming comfortable with it. Start off by allowing your dog to lick the tasty toothpaste off of the toothbrush and over the course of days or weeks, work up to brushing just a few teeth at a time. If your dog becomes nervous or tries to move away from you, stop and allow them to take a break. As their comfort increases, slowly work up to brushing all of their teeth. If a dog is especially nervous about its toothbrush, using a finger brush can be a great alternative.
Dental chews can also be a helpful complement to your dog’s dental care routine! The idea is that as they chew, plaque and potentially tartar will be removed from their teeth. There are a wide variety of dental chews available on the market today. Some of the important factors to consider with any chew are that the size and hardness are appropriate for your dog so that you can avoid the dangerous possibility of your dog choking on a chew. Overly hard chews, or chews that are so small that they may try to swallow them rather than chew on them, should be avoided. Be sure to supervise your dog the first time that you give them a brand-new chew until you confirm that they can consume it safely.
While your veterinarian will typically check your pet’s teeth at their yearly physical, there are a few indicators that you may need to consult with your veterinarian sooner regarding your pet’s dental health. These include noticeable bad breath, an increase in the odor coming from their mouth, a change in eating habits, blood, swelling or growths, changes in color or texture of any of the structures of their mouth, sensitivity about your handling or opening their mouth, and others. If you notice any of these symptoms, consult with your veterinarian about whether a veterinary exam and further medical support may be needed.
Interested in beginning your dental care journey with your pet at home? Check out some of our favorite products from our friends at Chewy:
Toothbrush and paste – www.chewy.com/virbac-cet-oral-hygiene-dog-kit/
Finger Toothbrush – www.chewy.com/vets-best-dental-finger-dog/
Whimzees Dental Chews- www.chewy.com/whimzees-variety-pack-grain-free/