Our dog's mouth is extremely important. It tastes, chews, drinks, barks and even controls our pup's body temperature. But often, most dog owners are greeted with the slobbery, smelly, warm breath of their pet – leaving us reaching for the trusted doggy dental sticks!
You may be surprised to know that dental hygiene is as important to your dog’s health as exercise and diet. When we don’t look after our dogs’ teeth, it can cause more problems than just painful gums – it can, in fact, lead to serious health issues that can be life changing... Or in some situations, life-threatening.
The main problem facing dental health is gum disease, with the most common symptom being gingivitis. Gum disease effects 80% of all dogs in the United States, which means there are a lot of dogs with unnecessary pain in their mouths!
But gum disease can cause an array of other health issues if it’s not treated. The infection can get into the blood stream and reach the organs, which stops them from functioning properly. Such infections can cause heart disease, liver disease or kidney disease. It’s important to assess your dog’s mouth regularly to look for any abnormalities, as a spread of the infection could cause catastrophic consequences.
Diseases that affect the gums and the organs can usually be treated when found early on – which is why it is so important to check your pup's mouth regularly. If you’re unsure whether your dog suffers from gum disease, here are some symptoms to look out for:
The first symptom to look out for is bad breath. You might presume that bad breath is just something a lot of dogs have due to their protein-rich diets and grass-eating habits, but it’s not as normal as you may think. Bad breath is a sign that your pup has excess bacteria growing in their mouth, which is an instigator for not only gum disease, but also internal health problems like digestion issues, and even heart disease.
Other symptoms to look out for include:
- Loose teeth
- Discoloured teeth or excess plaque
- Inflamed gums (gingivitis)
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Loss of appetite
It may sound simple, but a lot of pet owners don’t clean their dog’s teeth as much as they should! Once your pup reaches around 6 months old, and they have most of their adult teeth, you need to get into a routine of brushing their teeth regularly.
Vets suggest you brush them every day, using a toothpaste that is formulated for dogs. Do not use human toothpaste on dogs, as it may contain ingredients that are harmful to their digestion! You can start by using your finger, and then upgrade to a doggy toothbrush once they’re used to the sensation.
Learn how to brush your dog's teeth below!
If you've had your dog from a young age, it is easier to get them used to having their teeth cleaned, as they will be much more familiar and comfortable with you, and the act itself. For those who have adopted a dog from an older age – especially one that is not accustomed to having their teeth brushed - it may be more difficult, but you will get there! You can start by using an “invisible” finger brush, which your dog won’t find so frightening. This is a transparent brush that sits on the end of your finger – clever, right?!
What you feed your dog will help their dental health, as well as their general wellbeing. Keeping them in good health by controlling their weight and balancing their energy levels will be good for their mouths and their bodies, but here are some specific ways to help prevent gum disease:
Tasty but dangerous! You see, a lot of shelf bought pet foods add sugar to their products to add flavour, at a low price. But they may not list it as sugar, instead disguising it as glucose, fructose or corn syrup. And what does sugar do for oral health? Well, it damages the enamel, which will, in turn, cause the teeth to weaken. Just like for us humans.
The other way you can use diet to help dental health is by choosing foods that actually work to keep your dog's teeth clean! Certain raw fruit and vegetables, such as carrots, apples and celery, are great for a natural way to clean your dog’s teeth. The hard, raw texture helps to remove the plaque that builds up in and between the teeth. Dice them up and add them to your dog’s food bowl. (Plus, it’s a healthy treat for them).
Petlab Co. Pro Tip: You can also try adding coriander or parsley to their food – they’re great for freshening up their breath, making it more pleasant for you to play with them too. However, it's important to only give your pup Italian parsley and NOT the seed or spring parsley (wild carrot) due to their toxicity.
But be careful, don’t just feed them anything! Some foods and ingredients can be toxic to dogs. For more information, read our blog 5 Weird Human Foods That Are Toxic For Dogs.
There are a myriad of toys and chews for your dog, but knowing which ones are good for their teeth, and which ones are damaging them, is extremely important. Unfortunately, it could be some of their favourite toys that are causing the most harm.
When dogs chew on things such as bones or corn starch chews, they are prone to chipping their teeth. Limiting how often your furry friend plays with these harder toys may save them from brittle teeth, which can become painful if infected. A good alternative could be a rope bone, which is slightly softer and is actually beneficial to dental hygiene – the ridges can help to scrape and remove plaque and tartar, keeping your pal's teeth cleaner!
Dental chews are designed especially for your pet's teeth, as they remove the plaque and oral debris as the dog chews them. Not only that, but they can provide your dog with nutrients, which is beneficial to both their oral and overall health. Chews should never be used instead of brushing, but they’re an excellent add-on to your dog’s daily dental routine.
A handy little tip for a natural preventative. Coconut oil has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties which can fight off bacteria in the mouth that leads to plaque build-up and gum disease.
You can use the coconut oil to brush your dog's teeth with, as a natural alternative to dog toothpaste. The lauric acid found in coconut oil kills the pathogens (dangerous bacteria), which causes decay of teeth and gums. It also improves the stench of bad breath by removing the bacteria and balancing the pH levels!
The other way you can use coconut oil, is by putting a spoonful of it in their food. As with brushing, it will freshen their breath and fight bacteria.
Consuming coconut oil also does wonders for their immune and digestive systems, and also improve the quality of their skin and coat due to the levels of essential fatty acids.
Good dental hygiene does more than just give your pal fresh breath, it will benefit their overall health, too – good news for both of you!
The risks that come with bacteria growing in the mouth can cause both emotional and financial trauma for the family, so taking these steps to give your dog better oral health should be without question!
Along with these tips, you should be taking your dog for check-ups at the veterinarian at least once a year, to check that there isn’t bacteria growing underneath the gums, where you can’t see. Let’s get you and your dog that glowing smile, now!