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Caring for your dogs teeth is a vital part of his overall health and maintenance. Sure, you may feel funny brushing Fido's pearly whites every night before bed, but good dental care for dogs is much more than just having white teeth and good breath.
Dental disease in dogs can cause serious health issues as the bacteria from infected gums and teeth can "spread" to other parts of the body and affect vital organs such as the heart, kidneys and intestines. Tarter or dental calculus starts off soft but can harden on the dogs teeth. Once hardened, it cannot be brushed away but requires a dental scaling just like you get in the dentist chair! If the teeth are left untreated, the buildup can cause the gums to become inflamed and can also cause serious infections.
Does Your Dog Have Bad Teeth?
To tell if your dog has bad teeth, lift up his lips and check his teeth at the gumline - can you see tarter? Are the teeth white or discolored? Does his breath smell? Are there broken teeth?
All of these can indicate the need for better dog tooth care. Your veterinarian will probably do a dental check as part of they yearly checkup and can advise you as to the extent of the problem, if any.
Providing Better Dog Tooth Care
Chewing on raw bones can be a good way for your dog to remove built up tarter. I would advise against cooked bones as they can splinter and cause damage to the gums or intestine if swallowed. There are also some manufactured bones that are specially formulated for dental care.
Brushing Your Dogs Teeth
Brushing is a vital part of dog tooth care and should be done at least once a week. There are plenty of flavored toothpastes formulated for dogs that your pet will love the taste of. You can use a finger brush (a rubber piece that fits on the end of your finger with bristles), a hand held brush that looks much like a human tooth brush, or a little brush that fits on the end of a "ring" which you put on your finger. I have a tiny dog with a small mouth and I find the "ring" brush works best for me.
This procedure is done by your veterinarian and is pretty much the same thing as the scaling you get at the dentist. The teeth are scraped and polished and any loose or badly damaged teeth are removed. Your dog is put under anesthesia for this procedure and it is quite costly. Proper brushing will limit the need for this to be done.
Getting Your Dog Used To Brushing
While it's best to start when he is a puppy, it's not too late for your older dog to get good dental care! Start off slowly, maybe with just a dab of the toothpaste on your finger so he can lick it off (my dog loves the taste!). Be sure to use a special paste for dogs and not human toothpaste - get a paste from your vet that has enzymes that will help fight the bacteria. Also, you'll want a soft brush so you do not damage the gums.
Take it one day at a time and gradually get the dog used to you touching his head and opening the mouth. Each day try to go one step further - open the mouth, then touch his teeth, then his gums. Use your finger at first and introduce the brush later. This can be a a bonding time for you and your dog - eventually your pet may even look forward to his nightly brushing!
You should try to brush your dogs teeth every day or at least every other day so that the plaque will not have a chance to harden. While this may seem like a chore, think of it as an important medical need for your pet. Frequent brushing and proper dental care can add years to your pets life!
Lee Dobbins is a pet lover and webmaster of ePet Pet Center where you can find out more about the care of pets. Be sure to check out the new dog breed guide.
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