Contributed by Dr. Alison Birken, owner and DVM of Victoria Park Animal Hospital.
Dogs never brush their little dog teeth, and certainly do not floss or rinse. As a result, your pet can develop severe dental disease over time. Poor dog dental are can result in heart disease, an increased risk of cancer and diabetes, pancreatic disease, and other serious pet health issues. So what can we do to improve our pups’ dental health and afford them longer, healthier and happier lives? Routine dog dental care, such as healthy dog treats and annual, or biannual, dental cleaning appointments with your veterinarian are vital to your dog’s health and well-being.
Your dog’s diet plays a significant role in maintaining his optimal dental health. Older studies have found that feeding your pet dry pet food, rather than canned (wet) pet food, was more effective at reducing dental tartar formation and periodontal disease. A large study from 1996 found “few apparent differences” in levels of dental tartar, gingivitis and periodontal bone loss between pets that ate only dry food and pets with a diet that included wet food. In a more recent study done in 2007 with 40 Beagles, it was found that increasing the kibble size by 50% resulted in a 42% decrease in the accumulation of dental tartar. Further studies have shown that regularly adding a daily dental chew to your pet’s dry-food-only diet can result in better oral hygiene.
Recommendations for Optimal Dental Health
Prescription Dental Diet
Specially formulated prescription dog food for dental health has larger kibble pieces that scrub the tooth’s surface. This helps decrease the amount of plaque and tartar that forms on your dog’s teeth, which can help prevent serious pet health illness down the road. A dog with healthy teeth is an overall healthier dog.
Dog Dental Chews
One dental chew a day keeps the veterinarian away! (Try these dog dental chews: Greenies Regular Dental Dog Treats or Castor & Pollux Good Buddy Dental Chews Medium Bones Grain-Free Dog Treats).
Avoid treats that are high in sugar, as sugars increase the chance and severity of dental pet health problems.
In addition to diet, here are some other steps that you can take to keep your dog ’s teeth clean and periodontal health at its best:
At-Home Dog Dental Care
The single most important measure you can take to prevent periodontal disease and practice good dental care for dogs is brushing their teeth. Whenever I see new puppies, I encourage their pet parents to start a dental health care routine early on to teach their pooches to look forward to cleanings.
Although adult pets can pose a greater challenge when it comes to oral care, positive reinforcements will get them more comfortable and less stressed out. Choose a soft-bristled dog toothbrush with a pet-safe toothpaste, as they will be swallowing it, and follow up with a pet-safe rinse. Though brushing once a day is ideal, twice weekly will still increase your dog’s dental care dramatically and put him on the road to better oral health.
Dental Rinses and Wipes
Use dental rinses or wipes daily. Try Earthbath Specialty Tooth & Gum Wipes for Dogs.
Veterinarian Dental Check-Ups
Visit your veterinarian for a thorough dog dental cleaning and examination, either annually or biannually. I need to stress that even if you are brushing your pets’ teeth regularly, it is still important to get them in at least once a year for a proper teeth cleaning under anesthesia with an ultrasonic scaler and polisher.
Just like us, pets need an in-depth cleaning that removes the plaque and tartar under the gumlines that you cannot reach with a toothbrush. The oral examination is imperative to check for disease and to ensure dental and overall pet health.
We love our pets and want them to live long and healthy lives. Promoting dog dental care should be part of our daily routine in order to keep our dogs’ teeth healthy, and ultimately, prevent disease down the road.