Dental Health

What did you do last night? I sat on the floor with my dog, watched television and brushed my dogs teeth!

I did not get him as a puppy, so did not have a chance to start touching his teeth and gums from the time he was learning how to accept touch. Fortunately he was a conformation dog and was touched often and all over, but probably not his teeth. Your dog may or may not like having its teeth touched. If not, be patient, it is worth the effort.

I use a doggie toothbrush and doggie toothpaste that is supposedly beef flavored.  Human toothpastes need to be avoided as they often contain abrasives and high-foaming detergents that should not be swallowed or inhaled by dogs. Toothbrushes designed for dogs are soft and angled to assist in brushing the back teeth. Some dogs prefer finger brushes. A variety of “dental wipes” containing different products are available. The single-use wipes are rubbed daily on the outside of the teeth to remove plaque.

How important is your dog’s oral hygiene to his overall health? The answer is that it’s very important! In fact, if you don’t maintain your dog’s oral health, it can have a direct impact on your dog’s vital organs like his heart, kidneys, liver and digestive system. And it’s a two-way street: organs like the kidneys can be affected by poor oral health … but your dog’s oral health can also suffer if he has kidney disease.

Aside from the fact that a healthy mouth is good for your dog’s overall health, there’s another strong incentive to keep your dog’s mouth healthy…you’ll avoid having to put him through dental cleanings under anesthesia. Some dogs go through this every year. It’s expensive and it’s risky.

Unfortunately, the problem with my being a real person is that what I know to be “the best thing” and what I actually do at home are occasionally not the same. I know exactly how dental disease affects pets. I know that the dental tartar you see slowly building up is about 80 percent bacteria and that it damages the gums, the bone beneath and the ligaments that hold teeth in place. These bacteria can gain access to the blood stream. Even with this knowledge I do not regularly brush my dog’s teeth.

What is the right thing to do for your dog’s best possible oral health? Sorry, no answer from me. I researched several writings by veterinarians and other pet experts and there does not seem to be any true agreement. Some say raw bones, others say no raw bones and at least one said to feed rawhide bones.

I think the best thing we can do for our dogs (and cats) at minimum is be aware of the importance of oral hygiene and try our best to provide appropriate dental care. That includes asking the veterinarian’s opinion at every wellness visit.

What are you doing for your pets’ oral hygiene? Share your ideas, I know we all could learn from each other on this topic.

There is nothing truer in this world than the love of a good dog.—Mira Grant

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