Dental health is a hugely important, yet often overlooked, aspect of pet ownership, especially for those of us with small dogs. Just like in humans, bad dental hygiene leads to all kinds of nasty problems that not only affect the month, but the heart, kidneys, intestines, joints, life threatening infections and many other issues. Not to mention that teeth full of plaque just look gross! A sad fact is that over 96% of dogs and cats have some kind of dental disease by age three. Here are some signs of periodontal disease to look for in your dog.
Just a few benefits of brushing your dog's teeth:
- Better overall health
- Longer lifespan by up to two years
- No doggy breath!
- Saves money; dental cleanings are expensive, and don't even get me started on how much you'll be paying for more extensive work!
- This is a totally cosmetic advantage, but white teeth are so much better to look at than the brownish yellow most pets have!
There are several things you can do to help prevent problems with your pet's teeth and mouth, including:
- Raw, home cooked (when I use this word, "cooked" implies to the meat only) and high quality kibble (in that order). Raw feeding includes lots of bones that scrap plaque off the teeth, home cooked is free from sugars and has the benefits of natural and mostly unaltered foods, and high end kibble has less of the sugars and artificial ingredients common in low and mid grade kibble.
- Water additives may help reduce plaque and freshen breath.
- Carrots, antlers and raw meaty bones all help scrape plaque off.
But the single most important and most vital thing you can do for your dog's (or cat's) dental health is brush at least every two days, ideally once a day. Any less than that, and you may as well not be brushing at all.
People groan and think that brushing their pet's teeth will be this huge and time consuming ordeal, but it's really not. I brush Nola's teeth every night before I do my own bedtime routine, and it takes anywhere from 15-30 seconds. That's it. Obviously it would be a little more for a larger breed, but that's no excuse not to do it. ;)
It's also not hard to get your puppy or dog accustomed to getting their teeth brushed. Puppies are pliable little things, and it's easy to introduce them to teeth brushing as a positive and fun experience. Depending on your adult dog, working slowly and using counter condition will be your best bet.
A note on dental treats and dental kibbles: They don't work. Plain and simple. It's a marketing gimmick that people pour so much money into it's insane.
Another note on kibble vs. wet food and dental health: So long as it's a high quality food, kibble vs. wet has absolutely no effect on your dog's teeth. I used to be one of the thousands of people to think that it did, in fact, matter, until someone gave me the perfect example of why it didn't: would your teeth be cleaner if you ate only crackers as opposed to soup and didn't brush your teeth? No!
Now, with low end foods, wet food can be worse for your dog's teeth because of the high sugar content. But if you're feeding a low end food that's the least of your worries.
Dachshunds are a breed that has a notorious reputation for bad teeth, but not nearly as bad as other small dogs like Chihuahuas, Pugs, Chinese Cresteds, ect. Small dogs have less space between their teeth, and consequently plaque builds up much quicker. Dogs like Chihuahuas and Pugs have such oddly proportioned mouths that their teeth are often crowded, grow in at odd angles, and in many cases are missing several. So small breed owners, it's extra important for our lil bits that we keep their teeth clean!
Nola is now 3 years old (still can't believe that!), and has been getting her teeth brushed every single night since she was 12 weeks old. Her teeth are incredible. Not to brag, but it's true! There isn't a single stain, chip or speck of tarter or plaque anywhere in her mouth. Her gums are healthy with no redness or inflammation, and she doesn't have doggy breath. Her vet always compliments her teeth, and has said they're the best he's ever seen on a dog over 1. Heck, I've seen 1 year olds with worse teeth than Nola!
You can often guesstimate a dog's age based on their teeth (happens all the time with shelter intakes); how much staining and plaque, wear and tear, ect. It's a useful tool for sure. But it's not always accurate; if you were to guess Nola's age by her teeth she'd be placed at anywhere between 10 and 15 months, and not the three years she is!
|She's a freak. Super freak, actually.|
What do you do for your dog's (or cat's) teeth? Any tips for us?