4 Dental Tips For Your Dog!
While we may dread visiting the dentist and being asked how often we floss, it is inherently understood that we need to take care of our teeth in order to avoid losing them. Well, the same applies to our furry friends! According to Dr. Jason McClellan, DVM of Hampton Veterinary Hospital, proper dental hygiene can prolong your dog’s life! So, where do you start? These 4 Tips will help outline the basics and explain why taking care of dogs’ teeth is important to their overall health.
Tip 1: Start Early, Brush Late!
Dr. McClellan recommends starting to brush puppies’ teeth at 5 months of age or once all of their adult teeth are in. Everything is new and exciting to puppies, so by introducing brushing early they won’t be as phased by it, and who knows, they may even like it! It’s much easier to teach young pups new tricks. Routinely brushing their teeth is a habit that will lead to a healthy life!
While it is never too late to start brushing your dog’s teeth, the process can be very confusing for older dogs. I mean, would you be able to distinguish a toothbrush from a toy? Maybe so, but for some the flavor, scent, and appearance of a toothbrush can be misleading and hard for a dog to distinguish between the two.
The unforgiving truth is dental disease can show its face much earlier than most people may expect. “In some cases, it can start as early as 9-months of age” says Dr. McClellan. “According to the AVMA, by the age of 2, up to 80% of pets actually have dental disease.” So are all dogs doomed? No, as said by Dr. McClellan, “Just as it is in people, dental disease is highly preventable” so START EARLY!
So what about the “brush late” part? If you brush your dog’s teeth before their bedtime, not only will they be “zoomied out” and more receptive to you brushing their teeth, but it will be easier to follow as a routine for both you, and your canine. Brushing their teeth shouldn’t feel like pulling teeth. The beauty of brushing a dog's teeth is they don’t have to spit, well at least my dog doesn’t, so your routine can take place in a comfortable place; like on a couch or a doggie bed
Tip 2: Schedule Regular Cleanings!
While they are not inexpensive, regular dental cleaning will not only save you money in the long term, but will literally add years to your dog’s life!
While early to moderate dental disease can be reversible by periodontal scaling, there is a point of no-return, where veterinarians are forced to extract teeth, which is not cheap! “Overtime, food and saliva mixed together forms plaque and then tartar. Eventually the plaque and tartar will get below the gumline and will loosen the connection between the tooth and the ligament that holds the teeth. Once you get to the point where that ligament loosened or damaged enough you cannot make that solid again” explains Dr. McClellan.
Wondering when your dog should get their first cleaning? “It really depends on the breed” says Dr. McClellan, “I refer to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), which says dogs should have their first cleaning by age 1 for small breeds, and by age 2 for larger breeds”
But my puppies teeth are whiter than mine? While that may be the case, it is important to understand that only a portion of a dog's teeth are visible. Digital X-rays help veterinarians see what is going on under the gumline. “Even when there are no visible dental problems after taking x-rays, I’d say around 20% of patients have some sort of teeth lesions or other complications that you wouldn’t ordinarily see” says Dr. McClellan.
Step 3: No Sugar, No Problems!
Diet is huge factor in your dog’s dental health. When it comes to giving your dog treats, picking low sugar and low calorie snacks will not only reduce plaque and tartar build up, it will also help with weight management. When it comes to treats, Dr. McClellan’s recommendation is “don’t over do them, and stay away from the sweets!”
Healthy dog treats don’t have to break the bank, either. Baby carrots, celery, and green beans are just a few examples of dog friendly vegetable that you can pick up at your local grocer, that are low in sugar and calories.
Step 4: Find the right toy!
Chewing has numerous health benefits. For starters, it is mentally stimulating, so it helps reduce both stress and anxiety. It also helps scrub away unwanted food and plaque build up.
When it comes to finding chew toys with dental benefits, you will want to find durable toys with slight abrasive qualities to them. This will help actively scrub the dog’s teeth as they chew. This is one of the qualities we stress the most about the CocoChew and CocoBall. The coconut fibers are coarse and bristly, which helps scrub dogs’ teeth as they chew...just like a natural toothbrush!
Make sure the toys you are buying are not too hard. We use the fingernail test. If you press your fingernail on the toy and it has no give, chances are it is too hard and can actually chip or damage your dog’s teeth. The CocoChew and CocoBall are made from coconut fibers that are coarse yet pliable, giving the toy the ability to bend and move as the dog chews. Ultimately, getting the thumbs up from vets. “Unlike most chew toys, The CocoChew products are effective to help reduce tartar onset yet sustainable and natural” says Dr. McClellan, “I recommend the CocoChew and CocoBall over bones and other hard chewing toys as they are soft enough not to cause tooth fractures and ingestion of small portions of the coconut husk over time will not cause GI upset or worse."“. McClellan.
Chewing increases saliva production which is important because “saliva helps reduce tartar onset,” says Dr. McClellan. One fun way to add flavor and scent to the CocoChew is by soaking it in coconut water. In addition to increasing saliva production, coconut water is antibacterial which is great for the gums.
Good dental health starts at home by routine tooth brushing, is enhanced by regular cleanings, and prevented by rewarding your dog with healthy treats and the right chew toy! Master these 4 dental tips for healthy and a happy dog!
Dr. Jason McClellan is the owner of Hampton Veterinary Hospital in Hampton, NH. He completed his undergraduate work at Boston College and veterinary degree at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine.
More Information about dental cleaning
Tooth brushing tutorial video