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If you are like most dog lovers, you have a memory of that one dog with the worst breath you’ve ever smelled. While it often seems that some dogs (especially puppies!) have naturally sweet breath and white teeth, our pets need a dental care routine just like we do. Healthy teeth are very important for a dog’s overall health – bad dental hygiene can lead to everything from difficulty eating to serious diseases. This is even more important in older dogs, whose oral health more susceptible to disease.
Just like with humans, having a regular dental care routine is the best way to keep your dog’s teeth in great shape. Fortunately, you don’t have to follow your dog around with a toothbrush after every meal. My Janice wouldn’t let me anywhere near her if I did that, and yours may have the same reaction. Instead, a few changes to your regular doggie routine can help you care for your dog’s teeth without much fuss.
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First thing’s first: it is imperative to brush your dog’s teeth. While it’s not the most fun part of a DIY dental routine for your dog, it is the best way to prevent the majority of dental health concerns. Brushing your dog’s teeth will get easier over time, as they get used to having their mouth invaded.
While you can choose to have your pup’s teeth brushed at a vet or professional groomer, these cleanings often run up to $700 or more due to the use of anesthesia during the process. To make your dog’s DIY dental care routine affordable, choose dental care tools that work for you and your dog, and just take it one day at a time.
One of my favorite tools is a finger brush, like this Pet Republique brush. Instead of having to convince your dog that a foreign object belongs in their mouth, you can use your hands. They are more likely to be familiar with you and are likely trained not to bite you. These are also perfect for dogs with very dainty muzzles, who balk at the feeling of a giant toothbrush in their mouths.
If you do have trouble with biting during dental care, or your dog has a very long muzzle with hard-to-reach teeth, you may want to check out a standard pet toothbrush. I like these extra long double-sided brushes by RoundPaw for that purpose. For dogs that fall somewhere in between, a simple infant or toddler toothbrush can work just fine. Be sure to choose a brush with soft bristles to protect your dog’s gums.
When choosing the right toothpaste, simply go for something specifically created for dogs, like Petrodex. Their teeth do not need the foaming detergent in human toothpaste, and pet-friendly toothpaste usually comes in flavors that dogs like. This can make it easier to get your pup to sit still for the experience. If your pup struggles with toothpaste and a brush at first, you may also find dental wipes helpful. These are simply disposable cloth wipes soaked in a dental hygiene solution. Wipe the sides of your dog’s teeth as best you can till they get used to more thorough cleanings.
Because plaque build-up returns to teeth within 24 hours, it is best to brush your dog’s teeth once per day for optimal hygiene. However, as you and your dog are learning how they prefer having their teeth brushed, remember that anything is better than nothing! If brushing is a difficult task, there are other things that you can do to protect your dog’s teeth. But keep in mind that brushing should always be the top choice for keeping your pup’s teeth healthy.
One of the biggest dental concerns for dogs is plaque build-up. Brushing takes care of preventing build-up, but getting rid of existing build-up can be tricky. A dental rinse is an excellent tool for helping break down plaque over a longer time period. With a dental rinse, the chlorhexidine solution can be applied two ways: First, the solution is squirted into the cheeks on either side of the mouth. This then releases slowly throughout the entire mouth, breaking down plaque via longer exposure.
The second method for using a dental rinse is to put a small amount to your dog’s drinking water. If you find it difficult to get a good grooming session in every day, or know you’ll be away for a longer period of time, this is a fantastic way to keep your dog’s teeth healthy in the meantime.
This can be particularly useful for pups who aren’t trained to endure brushing, as it just takes a quick squirt on either side. Most dental rinses are made in both flavorless and flavored versions, like my favorite alcohol-free dental rinse by Pet Kiss.
Dental rinses are an excellent way to supplement brushing, but they can’t substitute it completely. Scrubbing at plaque and food particles is the only way to truly get rid of build-up. Additionally, rinsing can’t help remove build-up from under the gum line, where it can cause serious health concerns.
Another way to care for your dog’s teeth is to apply a topical gel. This works very similarly to a dental rinse. The chlorhexidine gel will slowly break down plaque and help prevent oral diseases in your pet. If your dog simply will not get used to the feeling of brushing, but is okay with their muzzle being handled, this could be a good solution for you.
Like the rinse, it’s easy to find dental gels that come in a flavorless version, so dogs aren’t tempted to lick it all off. I like Tropiclean’s gel because it is all-natural and takes almost no time at all to use. Some dental gels do have to be applied directly to the teeth and gums, but brands like this one are designed to be squirted into the cheeks just like arinse.
The gel option may be easier if you’ve tried rinses, but your dog spits or slobbers it out. Once again, gel should be used alongside brushing for the best results, not in place of it.
Establishing a daily dental care routine for your dog that includes brushing the teeth, rinsing, or using a gel, is one of the best ways to ensure that your dog never experiences severe dental issues. But there are things you can do in your daily life that work with your routine to protect your pet’s teeth even more.
One of those things is offering your dog the right kind of chewy snacks. Dental chews, like the always-popular Greenies, are an excellent way to keep their teeth healthy. VeggieDent chews are also very popular and can be purchased in different sizes for different breeds. But there are many DIY recipes for dental chews that can work just as well.
I think I’ve mentioned before that carrots are an excellent treat for dogs because they may help prevent plaque build-up. In addition to being full of vitamins, the crunchy treats are great for increasing saliva production, which helps flush out bacteria. Any type of fresh vegetable or crunchy fruit can have a similar effect – just watch out for overly sugary or acidic fruits. Another great idea is adding cinnamon to homemade doggie treats. Cinnamon is perfectly healthy for dogs to ingest, and can help kill the bacteria that causes bad breath and poor oral health. Rawhide chews and meaty bones (just not chicken bones!) are other popular choices for crunchy treats that can help keep teeth polished and clean.
Whether you choose to purchase dental chews or make them yourself, remember that hard and crunchy chews are better than soft ones for teeth. The latest craze for feeding your dog dehydrated sweet potatoes only works if the potatoes are very crunchy, for example. The rough surface of the chew helps scrape away plaque and polish teeth naturally.This shouldn’t be used as a replacement for brushing, but it is a great way to add some grooming to your day without having to be involved. Just toss your buddy a treat and go!
The final consideration for your DIY dental routine for your dog is their food. Just like dental treats, dog food that is crunchy is best for helping scrub away plaque. Soft food or food with gravy can actually add to dental issues, by leaving behind food particles that cling to the teeth and gums.
The brand or flavor of the food you choose hasn’t been shown to have any effect on your dog’s oral health. Simply choose the crunchy kibble version of the brand you already use, and you will be good to go. Many pet owners start young puppies on soft food to wean them off of milk. However, if your pup is naturally weaning, there’s no evidence to support the idea that soft food helps them “get used” to dog food. The crunchy kibble can be easily digested by puppies and is much better for their young teeth.
As with the rest of these tips,it’s important to realize that crunchy food alone does not offer adequate dental hygiene. As part of your routine, it is a very good idea to choose a hard kibble. But this only works to remove surface-level plaque on the teeth themselves. Brushing and using rinses or gels helps to break down tartar, scrub away build-up in the gum line, and more.
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Have you ever seen a senior dog that can only eat wet dog food? It is very likely that this dog has poor oral health, and is forced to eat soft food because of painful chewing. This leads to poor nutrition, less energy, and a variety of health issues associated with being a senior dog. This is only one of the many reasons why protecting your dog’s teeth is so important.
Without a daily dental routine for dogs, your pets can experience everything from tooth loss, bad breath, and pain when chewing, to much more dangerous things such as problems with their heart, liver, or kidneys. Bacteria that is left under the gums quickly travels to these organs, causing infections and other serious medical conditions.
In addition to worrying about your dog’s health, there is also the concern of veterinary bills. Regular dental cleanings are often a good idea for a deep cleaning that scrubs away tartar; but many vet visits for corrective treatment can be avoided if your dog’s oral health is cared for from the beginning, resulting in thousands of dollars saved for you. Finally, every pet owner wants their dog to live a happy life. By ensuring that your pet can eat without pain, and helping them avoid serious medical issues, you’ll get to have your best friend around for as long as possible.
The best way to avoid these concerns is to begin caring for your dog’s teeth as soon as you can. Starting from a very young age, puppies can be taught to tolerate or even enjoy grooming time, which makes it much easier for you to keep them healthy and happy for their lives. A daily routine of brushing, rinsing or applying gel, crunchy dental chews, and crunchy, dry dog food, is the best method for DIY dental care that the experts have discovered. I have found with my dogs that a few extra minutes a day is all it takes to complete this routine, and it makes them much happier – they can eat all their favorite treats with no complaints!
Just like cleaning your dog’s ears, care of your pup’s dental health is a quick part of grooming has a much bigger effect on health than many realize. Add just a few moments a day to your routine, and your furry friend will thank you in the long run.