Tips for Doggy Dental Health

There’s nothing like a big whiff of foul doggy breath to mess up a beautiful moment between owner and pet. And if you’ve ever smelled the sweet scent of puppy breath as a comparison, there just is no comparison. Give me puppy breath all day long!

To Promote Dog Dental Health, You Should: 

Brush Daily

I know, brushing daily for a dog seems a tad excessive. But it makes perfect sense when you really think about it. A dog’s mouth isn’t much different from your own, and just like yours, clean and healthy is the name of the game.

Daily brushing can keep your fur kid’s mouth free of food debris, plaque and tartar build-up, and gum disease. Just remember to focus most brushing to the cheek areas, which is where plaque on the teeth builds up the heaviest.

Buy a Good Doggie Tooth Paste

Obviously, you don’t want to brush your dog’s teeth with your toothpaste. Not only will he not like it, but it could be toxic because of the fluoride content. Instead check out your local pet store for toothpaste made just for dogs. You’ll find pastes with flavors such as peanut butter and chicken, much tastier than your wintergreen. Your furry friend will thank you.

Use the Right Tools and Proper Technique

Ideally you should probably just start with your finger and toothpaste. Rub along your dog’s gum line and against his teeth. This should be a daily routine so that your dog gets used to it and submits peacefully.

When your dog has become used to your finger, you can transition to an animal toothbrush and begin to gently brush your dog’s teeth. You can also use a child’s toothbrush in a pinch, or even try one of the little rubber finger brushes. Those could be even more ideal, since your fur kid will already be used to your finger in his mouth. Brush and massage your dog’s gums and teeth for at least a minute or more and remember to pay special attention to the areas alongside your dog’s cheeks.

Use small, circular motions, and lift your fur baby’s lips where needed. If your dog is opposed to you brushing the insides of his teeth, don’t sweat it. Most build up happens on the outside. 

Consider Whole Foods

Again, dogs aren’t terribly different from humans. They thrive under good conditions, with good food. Whole foods are healthy and nourishing, which is great for your dog’s teeth as well as his body. Try grain-free, as grains tend to stick to the teeth more, and feed your fur baby foods made from real meat, veggies, and fruits. Sound familiar?

Offer Veggie and Fruit Snacks

Speaking of good food, try offering your dog real fruits and veggies as a snack. Dogs tend to love people food, and more often than not will eat just about anything. Offer your pooch healthy options like apples, pumpkin, squash, and even carrots.

Foods like this can also help remove some excess food from your dog’s teeth because of the ‘crunch’. Just don’t overdo it with snacks and the treats, as your dog still needs his normal healthy balanced meals.

Chew Toys

Believe it or not, those rubber chew toys your fur kid loves can help support his dental health! Offer them a small rubber chewing ball or other toys made of hard rubber.

These are good for helping keep teeth clean, but they aren’t so hard it will cause damage to your dog’s teeth or break fragile bones.

Routine Professional Dental Cleaning

It might be a no-brainer, but you should take your dog for regular professional cleanings, even though you brush them yourself every day. This is especially important if your dog shows any signs of gum disease, because you want to do everything you can to prevent its progression. If your dog does not yet have gum disease, prevention is the name of the game, and regular oral exams and cleanings are one of the best ways to do so.

Tartar Control Treats

Sometimes you can find canine dental treats that help control tartar build up in your pup. Just be diligent because not every product claiming to control tartar does the job.

Also keep in mind that these products should not replace regular, daily brushing. You can’t rely on food, treats, and toys for healthy teeth and gums.

Regular Gum Checks and Breath Assessments

Every week, check your dog’s teeth and gums. Healthy teeth and gums should be white and pink. Unhealthy teeth and gums will be discolored to yellow or brown, and gums may look white or red. Sometimes they may look swollen.

This is the start of gingivitis and it’s important to get your fur baby on a treatment plan right away so that it doesn’t progress. You should also do the sniff test of your dog’s breath. Some odor is fine, but if your dog’s breath is especially foul, and if there are other signs like appetite loss or vomiting, it’s time to get him checked.




How Often Should You Brush Your Dog’s Teeth?

This question probably depends more on who you ask, but keep in mind that the more often you brush your dog’s teeth, the healthier his mouth will be. Think of how often you brush your own teeth, and how yucky your mouth feels when you don’t do it often enough.

The inside of a dog’s mouth really isn’t that different from yours, and it’s susceptible to all the same health problems… bad breath, gingivitis, periodontal disease, cancers of the mouth, ulcers, and more. And if a dog’s mouth is unhealthy, it can affect the rest of his body, leading to things like liver disease, kidney disease, and heart disease.

A Few Fun Facts About Doggy Dental Health

Your dog has 42 teeth. Count ‘em, yes, 42! And it doesn’t matter their size, they still have the same number of pearly whites. Which means smaller breeds and pooches with small snouts suffer from ‘tooth crowding’. Consider tooth crowding a breeding ground for potential bacteria. Bacteria creates disease.

Unfortunately, dogs that have poor dental hygiene are at high risk for gum disease. Gum disease occurs when bacteria-laden plaque proliferates, mixing with food and saliva to create tartar on your dog’s teeth. When that tartar is left there, it builds up and houses even more bacteria, creating a nasty cycle of bacterial growth and unhealthy mouth conditions for your fur baby.

Finally, if you think your dog could never suffer from things like gum disease, think again. About 80% of all dogs suffer from some form of gum disease, whether it’s mild or severe. Typically signs of poor oral health begin to rear their stinky head around age three and up. Don’t worry though, there is plenty you can do to help keep your fur baby’s teeth healthy. Regular brushing happens to be one of them.

So How Often Should You Be Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth Anyway?

Ideally you should strive to brush your dog’s teeth daily. Not only is daily brushing good for your fur kid and the health of his teeth, but daily brushing helps establish a routine that he will become used to. When a dog gets used to a routine, it makes things much easier for everyone and much less stressful.

If you don’t make it a routine and only brush your fur kid’s teeth sporadically, life becomes much harder for you both. You may find yourself fighting your dog because he is weirded out by the whole experience, and that makes it difficult to do a thorough job.

If absolutely necessary, you could brush every 2 or 3 days. It’s still frequently enough that a routine can be established with your pet, and it can become an experience they submit to willingly. However, I would still recommend daily if it’s within your power to do so, simply because daily is brushing is good for anyone, including your pooch.

Tips to Make Brushing Your Fur Kid’s Teeth Enjoyable… For Both of You

Track down a yummy peanut butter or chicken-flavored toothpaste made especially for dogs. Your furry friend will begin to think of brushing time like ‘treat time’ because it tastes so good.

You can use the toothpaste on your finger at first to help ease him into the experience.

Try to brush at a time when your dog is already relaxed. Right after a lazy nap could be ideal, or perhaps after vigorous exercise when your dog is about to conk out to recharge.

Train your fur baby to accept your touch to his mouth. Again, this falls back on making it routine, but it takes practice. Flip his lips, run a finger along his gums, try wetting a warm wash cloth to rub along his teeth to get him used to the feeling.

Talk to your pooch. Use a calm, soothing voice, and try not to get frustrated if he resists. Offer a tasty, healthy dental treat when he submits.

Regular and frequent brushing will keep your fur kid’s mouth clean, healthy, and sparkling. Bonus points if you can coax a doggy smile from him!



What Are the Signs of Periodontal Disease in Dogs?

It might surprise you to learn, but just like you, your dog can suffer from periodontal disease. Canine periodontitis is a bacterial infection raging rampant inside your dog’s mouth. It is an insidious disease that is largely silent (especially at onset) but extremely destructive if left unchecked.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the disease, many fur parents may not even notice the signs and symptoms at first. When you do begin to notice something is amiss, most often it is in an advanced stage with significant damage already present.

Once it reaches an advanced stage, periodontal disease in dogs can be chronically painful. It can erode your fur kid’s gums, contribute to missing and broken teeth, and cause significant bone loss.

Dog periodontal disease progresses through four stages, beginning with plaque build-up and mild inflammation. From there it turns into gum disease (or gingivitis), and as time goes on can progress into mild periodontal disease.

If the disease isn’t treated right away, mild can evolve into severe periodontal disease, which is when you will begin to notice your dog losing teeth and experiencing bone loss.

According to some sources, your fur baby’s risk factors for periodontal disease increase by 20% for every year that passes. Four out of five dogs will show evidence of gum disease at age three and beyond.

What Is Gum (Periodontal) Disease?

Gum disease is a bacterial infection that leads to severe decay. It must be treated right away, or your dog will be at risk for many other health issues. When a dog suffers from periodontal disease, the supporting structures of his teeth become weak and eroded from a build-up of plaque and tarter. The disease eventually results in bone loss and tooth loss, along with many other nasty and uncomfortable symptoms and related health problems.

Your furry friend’s risk for kidney, liver, and heart disease increases exponentially if he suffers from periodontal disease. Heart disease is especially a big concern, as it has been shown to be linked to periodontal disease in dogs. This is because bacteria in your dog’s mouth will enter your canine’s blood stream and attach itself to the arteries surrounding the heart, creating build-up and interfering with healthy heart function.

The sad thing is that dog dental disease is quite preventable with proper care and a fastidious oral hygiene routine. However, many fur parents are not consistent in caring for their dog’s teeth, so many dogs suffer from gum disease needlessly.

Signs of Periodontal Disease in Dogs

As stated, it can sometimes be easy to miss the onset of dog periodontal disease until it has reached a more advanced state.

Once past that initial stage however, some signs and symptoms to be on the alert for are:

¥ Red and/or bleeding gums
¥ Loosened teeth
¥ Stinky breath
¥ Issues with picking up food
¥ Mouth bumps or lumps
¥ Saliva that looks bloody
¥ Saliva that looks ‘ropey’
¥ Mouth chewing (often on one side)
¥ ‘Head shyness’ (when your dog ‘shies’ away from you touching their head)
¥ Noises when your dog yawns or eats
¥ Nasal discharge and sneezing
¥ Discolored enamel (yellow or brown)
¥ Loss of appetite
¥ Trouble chewing (food, bones and chew toys)
¥ Weight loss
¥ Anti-social behavior
¥ Irritable behavior
¥ Depressed behavior
¥ Pawing at the mouth
¥ Pus around the teeth
¥ Blood in their water bowl or on their chew toys
¥ Digestive and stomach problems can sometimes also be an issue

Risk Factors of Dog Dental Disease

Risk factors for periodontal disease is often related to breed and genetics. Smaller dogs are more prone to gum disease simply because they have smaller mouths with less space. This causes their teeth to crowd together, making them difficult to keep clean.

Although any dog can suffer from periodontal disease, the breeds that appear to be genetically predisposed to gum disease are:

¥ Shetland Sheepdogs
¥ Maltese
¥ Papillion
¥ Yorkshire Terriers
¥ Standard Toy Poodles
¥ Pomeranians
¥ Dachshunds
¥ Havanese
¥ Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

Diet can also play a role in whether your pooch will develop gum disease. Your fur baby’s age and general health will contribute, as well as his tooth alignment. Tooth alignment is related to breed.

Again, smaller dogs will suffer from improper tooth placement and crowding. Grooming habits can contribute to gum disease, chewing behaviors can play a role, and obviously, your dog’s overall dental hygiene is a big indicator of whether your pooch will eventually develop periodontal disease.

Stages of Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Stage 1

Unfortunately, stage one of dog periodontal disease is easily missed. Sometimes bad breath may be the only discernible sign. You also may see mild inflammation and redness along the gum line. This stage is called gingivitis.

Stage 2

In stage two of gum disease, your dog’s vet may notice little pockets between the gums and the teeth called periodontal pockets. When your vet finds these pockets, she will measure them. If they are more than 3mm’s deep, they are considered abnormal and treatment needs to begin immediately.

Stage 3

In stage three of periodontal disease, your dog’s vet will look for periodontal pockets that measure more than 5mm’s deep. It is in stage three that bone loss begins to occur, which is why you want to address this condition before it reaches this stage, if possible.

Stage 4

Stage four is when you begin to see up to 40 to 50 percent bone loss in your fur baby’s mouth. Extensive tartar buildup will be evident, as well as a receding gum line.

Causes of Gum Disease in Dogs

Gum disease, at its core, is related to bacteria. When food, saliva, and bacteria all mix together, they form plaque. Plaque then coats your fur kid’s teeth in a sticky film. When this plaque sits for several days, usually around day two or three, it starts to combine with other minerals and turns into tartar.

Once tartar builds up, your dog’s immune system steps in, trying to fight off the all the bacteria. This immune response is what causes the redness and inflammation in the gums and along the gum line.

When your fur child’s body is unable to fight off the bacteria contained in the plaque, it continues to set and calcify. As the tartar builds upon itself, it pushes the gums away from the teeth, creating little pockets between the teeth and gums that become a dream home for bacteria.

Those little pockets create a ripe breeding ground for more bacteria, which eventually results in abscesses and destroys tissue and bone. This is the stage where your dog’s teeth begin to break and become loose, and the bone erodes entirely. This stage can be quite painful for your pooch.

Another complication that occurs when the disease has spread this far is destruction in the bones, as even the slightest pressure could fracture the jaw of a small dog.

Preventing Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Just like people, your dog needs to see a vet on a regular basis for routine cleanings and exams. Exams with x-rays are your best course for prevention, because x-rays allow your vet to see a more complete picture of what may be going on in your dog’s mouth, especially below the gum line.

Again, just like with people, daily brushing of your dog’s teeth is vital. You already know that it is good for you, so why wouldn’t it be equally as good for your furry friend?

With some practice, some patience, and a little instruction from your vet, you can train your dog to allow you to brush hiss teeth without too much fuss. Just make sure you have the right tools.

Remember that food quality is also important in preventing many health conditions, including periodontal disease. In the same way a poor or incomplete diet can affect your dog’s overall health, it can also impact your dog’s teeth. Also, some vets may recommend foods that help scrub your dog’s teeth as they eat. You can also give your dog special foods and treats that contain additives to prevent plaque from hardening. This is often called the ‘dental diet’.

Another great way to help prevent gum disease in your pooch is to provide them with plenty of healthy dental treats, goodies, and safe toys for chewing every day.

The best treats and toys you can give your furry friend are:

¥ Thin rawhide strips
¥ Daily superfood dental chews
¥ Little rubber toys you can hide treats inside of
¥ Rubber balls

You don’t want to give your fur baby any treats or toys that are too hard. Treats and toys that are hard, such as nylon bones, pig or cow hoofs, and animal bones, can all contribute to broken teeth and fractures.

Sometimes you can find treats that are treated with enzymes to help reduce the formation of tartar. Obviously, this is not to take the place of regular brushing, but it can be an enjoyable and helpful way to contribute to keeping your dog’s teeth healthy.

One thing to keep in mind is that even with your best efforts, depending on the breed, your pet could still develop periodontal disease, simply because it’s in his genes. In those cases, reducing the potential for decay is the best thing that you can do to keep your dog’s mouth as clean and healthy as possible.

Another thing that is noteworthy—if you brush your fur baby’s teeth daily on your own, you could find that professional cleanings aren’t necessary quite as often.

How to Treat Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Unfortunately, the damage caused by periodontal disease in dogs is irreversible. However, you can treat it and prevent future pain and decay by using the preventive methods recommended above.

As far as treatments go, it can get costly. The stage of your dog’s teeth and the progression of the disease will determine what treatments are necessary. Professional dental cleaning, including scaling and polishing is common if large amounts of plaque coat your dog’s teeth. Most treatment procedures will require general anesthesia, so often blood work will be the first step.

Antibiotics could be given as part of the overall treatment protocol before a procedure to help keep bacteria from spreading. Remember that a complete oral exam with x-rays and probing can only happen if you are willing to put your dog under anesthesia.

The x-rays will help your vet determine the extent of the damage and what can be done to mitigate it, and whether there are any teeth that need to be extracted. Typically, all the exams and treatments needed will be done at the same time, so that your dog is only put under once.

Once a treatment plan is decided upon, your vet will thoroughly clean your fur kid’s teeth, removing plaque both below and above the gum line, and removing tartar as well using a tool called an ultrasonic scaler. Then your vet will polish the surface of your dog’s teeth and fill in any crevices to prevent future bacteria and plaque from building up. Sometimes an antibiotic gel may be used.

Once a dog is in stage three or four of gum disease, not only is cleaning and scaling necessary, but other treatment actions such as extraction, periodontal surgery or splinting, sub gingival curettage, and bone replacement procedures could become necessary.

Your vet may recommend or use sealants, as well as growth stimulants to promote regeneration of tissue, and slow-release antibiotics to help with healing. In the case of extractions, your vet will remove cracked, loose, or dying teeth to prevent the disease from spreading any further.

Remember that it is up to you to keep your fur kid healthy and happy. With regular attention to your canine’s oral hygiene, there’s no reason for your dog to suffer from such a preventable disease as periodontal disease in dogs.


Stages of Pet Periodontal Disease