Your pet counts on you for protection|
With major advances in treating serious infectious and other pet diseases, oral
disease – most importantly periodontal or gum disease caused by the buildup of plaque
and tartar – has become the number-one health problem for dogs. It’s estimated that
without proper dental care 80% of dogs will show signs of oral disease by age three.
With your help, your pets can have healthy teeth and gums throughout their lives.
You simply need to provide them with a few things:
Good dental health begins with the proper diet
- A nutritious diet
- Chew treats recommended by a veterinarian
- Regular brushing at home
- Yearly dental checkups by a veterinarian
The wrong kinds of food can cause dental distress in pets. Feeding your dog a dry
food rather than a moist, canned one will, through its mild abrasive action on the
teeth, help remove the bacterial plaque that can harden into tartar. Dry food also
provides adequate chewing exercise and gum stimulation. Avoid giving your pet sweets
and table scraps as they may also increase plaque and tartar formation. Your vet
may recommend the use of special dry foods designed to reduce plaque and tartar
buildup, especially if your pet is prone to dental problems due to his breed or
individual genetic history.
Brushing your pet’s teeth
Dogs need to have their teeth brushed in order to eliminate the dental plaque that
can cause tooth decay and the formation of tartar, which can lead to gum disease.
You should begin a regular, daily brushing routine when your puppy is between six
and eight weeks of age. Even older dogs can be trained to accept having their teeth
brushed. You simply need to introduce the activity gradually and make the experience
a positive one for your pet. Reassure and praise him profusely throughout the process
and reward him with a very special treat when it’s finished. Here’s how it can be
• Start by dipping a finger in beef bouillon for dogs.
• Rub this finger gently over your pet’s gums and one or two teeth.
• Repeat until your pet seems fairly comfortable with this activity.
• Gradually, introduce a gauze-covered finger and gently scrub the teeth with a
• Then, you can begin to use a toothbrush, either an ultra-soft model designed for
people or a special pet tooth-brush or finger brush, which is a rubber finger covering
with a small brush built in at its tip.
• Finally, once your pet is used to brushing, introduce the use of pet toothpaste
in liquid or paste form. Most of these contain chlorhexidine or stannous fluoride
– ask your veterinarian for his recommendations. Don’t use human toothpaste, as
it can upset your pet’s stomach. Your vet may also advise the use of an antiseptic
spray or rinse after brushing.
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Don’t forget a yearly dental checkup
Doing your best to ensure that your dog receives the proper diet and regular brushing
at home will help maintain his or her teeth and gums in top condition. To provide
optimum dental care at home, you need to start with a clean bill of dental health.
That’s where your pet’s veterinarian comes in.
He or she will give your pet a thorough examination of the entire oral cavity to
determine whether there are any underlying problems and, especially important, tartar
buildup. Brushing removes plaque but not tartar, so if your pet’s teeth do have
tartar, your veterinarian will have to remove it with a professional cleaning and
polishing, usually accomplished under anaesthesia. After removing the tartar above
and below the gum line, your veterinarian may treat your pet’s teeth with fluoride
and will provide you with instructions for home care and follow-up.
A few tips:
A few statistics:
- Chew treats, including hard meat-protein biscuits and rawhide chews for dogs, can
help remove plaque, and provide stimulation for the gums.
- Watch out for wood – throwing sticks to dogs can result in splinters and gum damage.
- Don’t let your pet chew on hard materials like bones or stones. They can wear down,
even break teeth, damage gums and lead to infection.
- Puppies develop their deciduous teeth at 2 weeks of age, with their 42 permanent
teeth starting to appear at 3 months.