In many ways, caring for an animal is just like caring for ourselves. We need to think about diet, exercise, and basic hygiene in order to live a long, healthy life. Along with all that comes dental care. Just as we need to brush regularly and get routine professional cleanings, so too does your furry friend. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about dog dental care, from how often to brush their teeth to the best chews for removing plaque buildup.
WHY CANINE DENTAL CARE MATTERS
Although their dental care is often overlooked, dogs are at risk of many of the same dental health problems as we are. In fact, periodontal disease (gum disease) — a progressive gum disease that damages the gums and bones in the mouth — is the most common infectious disease in adult dogs, affecting over 87 percent of them. But proper dental care can keep periodontal disease at bay and prevent bacteria buildup, gingivitis, bad breath, pain, tooth loss, and more serious health complications.
BEYOND BAD BREATH
Not taking care of your pet’s teeth can cause them a lot of pain and discomfort, which they may not show. Broken, loose, and damaged teeth can cause severe pain and even prevent your dog from eating. Of course, the inability to eat can lead to more serious troubles, including malnutrition. But before things get this serious, pet parents often notice that dental problems cause excessive drooling and bad breath. Yellow, stained teeth can also indicate poor dental care.
In humans, the link between good oral health and good overall health is becoming increasingly more clear, and the same is true for pets. The bacteria that builds up in your dog’s mouth can lead to serious health complications. Although more research is needed, canine gum disease has been linked to heart problems that could lead to heart attack and stroke. The experts say that dental bacterial buildup may also increase the risk of diabetes and kidney disease in dogs.
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BASIC DENTAL CARE SCHEDULE FOR DOGS
As you can see, taking care of your four-legged family member’s teeth is a great way to help support them and encourage a longer, healthier life, and we all want that! But how do you do that? It all comes down to providing the right chews, brushing your dog’s teeth, and scheduling them for occasional cleanings. Here’s how often these things are necessary and what they entail.
Daily: Provide a Dental Chew — By far the easiest and most enjoyable way to remove plaque from your dog’s teeth is to provide them with a tasty chew each day or a few times per week. We recommend giving your dog bully sticks on a weekly basis. These durable treats help manually scrape away plaque and tartar through your dog’s chewing action, which can help prevent the development of periodontal disease and other complications. In addition to dental treats, you can supply dental health toys that will help mechanically remove plaque and tartar buildup in the same way.
Twice Weekly: Brush Their Teeth — Although it seems a little bit strange, you should get into the habit of regularly brushing your dog’s teeth. While daily brushing is ideal, brushing two or three times a week is an excellent way to help remove bacteria and buildup that leads to gum disease, bad breath, decay, and more. Luckily, there are toothbrushes and toothpaste designed specifically for dogs to make this task a bit easier. Read our guide below on how to brush your dog’s teeth.
Annually: Schedule a Deep Cleaning — Taking your dog in for a professional deep clean is the best way to remove plaque buildup and address any potentially serious dental problems, like broken teeth and decay. Typically, your vet will put your dog under general anesthesia in order to thoroughly clean and inspect the teeth, gums, and mouth. For this reason, dog teeth cleanings can be expensive and a bit risky for some dogs. With that said, having it done once or twice a year is a fantastic way to keep your dog’s teeth in great shape.
As Needed: Dental Rinses — There are a number of pet dental rinses and solutions you can add to your dog’s water that will help kill oral bacteria and keep smelly breath and plaque buildup at bay. While you may not need to add these to every bowl of food or water, this is a great way to boost your pet’s dental health if you notice it’s starting to deteriorate.
THE BEST CHEWS FOR DENTAL HEALTH
Improving your pet’s oral health may be as simple as giving them a chew once or twice a week. Not only will they love it, but they’ll also come away with healthier teeth and better breath. Choosing the right chews can also help you support your dog’s health by providing an extra serving of protein and other nutrients, such as glucosamine, collagen, or chondroitin.
You know that not all bones and chews are right for every dog. Which dog chews are the best for safely scraping away plaque? In general, you want to look for options made from natural ingredients that’s long-lasting enough to do some serious work on your dog’s plaque buildup. Longer-lasting treats, such as those listed below, will also work better than treats that degrade quickly because they’ll provide more of that valuable scraping action.
Bully Sticks — Bully sticks are a natural rawhide alternative that your dog can actually digest. They’re made from high-protein beef muscle, specifically the pizzle (penis) of the bull. In addition to helping clean their teeth, bully sticks are great for enrichment, as they can last longer than other beef chews like ears or trachea. They come in a wide variety of sizes for all dogs
Collagen Chews — Another great way to clean your dog’s teeth is to provide them with tasty collagen chews. These treats are made from beef and are packed with healthy collagen that gently scrapes away the debris from the surface of your dog’s teeth. Collagen chews can also help promote healthy skin, fur, muscles, ligaments, joints, and nail growth.
Gullet and Trachea Chews— Another healthy rawhide alternative, gullet chews will help gently clean your dog’s teeth without worry. They’re made of delicious beef gullet (esophagus) and are packed with nutrients such as chondroitin, a naturally-occurring substance in the body that helps build collagen production. Trachea Chews are larger, and tend to be hollow in the middle. They also contain glucosamine, a natural compound that helps reduce the negative effects of cartilage degeneration, helping to rebuild your dog’s joints and reduce pain.
WHAT TO AVOID FOR GOOD DOG DENTAL HEALTH
In addition to knowing which dog chews are best for sprucing up their oral health, it also helps to understand which chews, treats, and toys are best to avoid. Certain treats should be off-limits because they can actually cause more plaque buildup, while others come with a risk of choking and broken teeth. Here are the kinds of dog treats to avoid if you want your dog to have a vibrant, healthy smile.
Rawhides — In general, it’s best to avoid giving your dog rawhides because they can pose a risk to certain dogs. Specifically, according to the AKC, dogs who tend to be more aggressive chewers are at risk because they can break off larger chunks that could cause choking or become an intestinal hazard. Treats such as bully sticks and collagen chews make great rawhide alternatives because they’re delicious and easier to digest.
Biscuits and Wet Treats— There are many other kinds of treats that are perfectly safe and even healthy for your pet, but not all of them are ideal for teeth-cleaning purposes. If your dog is prone to plaque buildup or has smelly breath, keep the wet treats and biscuit-style treats to a minimum and make sure to always brush their teeth after the occasional indulgence.
Hard Toys and Sticks— If you’ve got an aggressive chewer, you know that everything from shoes to water bottles to tree branches can become chew toys in those high-energy moments. While these do a great job at keeping your dog busy, they can cause your dog’s teeth to chip or break. Be sure to provide your dog with plenty of soft but durable toys.
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HOW TO BRUSH YOUR DOG’S TEETH
If you’ve got a pet who won’t sit still for more than a few seconds or one who can get aggressive when bothered, tooth brushing can seem like quite a daunting task. Indeed, you don’t want to put yourself in harm’s way or upset your furry friend. This is why a proper teeth-brushing technique is crucial to your success. Make sure to brush their teeth at least once, but preferably twice, per week.
Here’s how to do it for the best results.
Prepare Your Dog — If your dog isn’t used to having their teeth and gums touched, it’s helpful to warm them up by gently touching and massaging around their mouth. Of course, you should never put your fingers in a dog’s mouth if the dog has shown signs of aggression. Always make sure to pay attention to your dog’s reaction and adjust your actions accordingly.
Make Sure They’re Calm— Choosing the right time to brush your dog’s teeth is crucial to success. Make sure to choose a time when your pet is fully relaxed and calm, such as before bedtime. Energized and riled-up dogs are less likely to sit still during cleanings, which will make it tough to do a good job.
Use a Dog Toothbrush — Dog toothbrushes, as you might imagine, are specifically designed for canine teeth. They come in a variety of different styles, such as those with long, curved handles for reaching the back teeth as well as styles that slide onto the finger for easy maneuvering. If you can’t find a dog toothbrush, a soft baby toothbrush will work as well.
Use Dog Toothpaste— Never use human toothpaste on your dog. While it’s perfectly safe for us, human toothpaste often contains high levels of sodium and xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. Plus, dog toothpaste often tastes like beef or chicken, which makes it a more pleasurable experience for your dog. Before you begin brushing, give your dog a small taste of toothpaste so they’re excited for what’s to come.
Brush the Canines and Molars— Start by brushing your dog’s incisors and canines (the teeth in the front) before working your way back to the molars. Your dog may be a bit less comfortable with you opening their mouth and reaching for the back teeth, so it’s best to get them comfortable with the more accessible chompers first. If possible, keep your pet’s mouth closed and simply lift up the side of their lips while cleaning the molars. This will help you reach those tough spots without too much discomfort for your dog.
A CANINE HEALTH ESSENTIAL
Taking good care of your pet’s teeth is crucial to ensuring that they live a longer, happier life with minimal pain and discomfort. Luckily, it’s relatively easy to tackle once you know what to do. Best Bully Sticks is here to help you care for your canine’s canines with top-notch teeth-cleaning chews that your dog will love.