HEALTH & CARE

Dental Disease in Dogs: What You Need to Know About Dog Dental Health

Dog with brush
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Dog dental health has a significant impact on your dog’s overall health. Not only will it determine how long he or she can live, it can also affect the quality of life that they will experience in the future. Although their dental needs differ than humans, the amount of care is almost equal. Just like humans, they also need the care of a dental professional to clean and maintain their gums and teeth. And just like us, they also need a healthy lifestyle which includes engaging in a healthy diet and physical activity.

Remember that the overall well-being of your dog will contribute to their dental health as well and that their dental health can affect their general health in turn.

A lot of dog owners tend to neglect a dog’s teeth just because they are supposed to have a cleaner mouth due to the absence of certain types of bacteria in their mouth as well as their more alkaline nature. But the fact is, dogs can get dental diseases just like us and mostly, the determining factors can be controlled by the owner.

This is especially true when the owner does not pay much attention to their pet’s food and neglects their physical needs. It is important to remember the added value that our dogs provide for our lives. Not only are they good companions, they also serve as our staunch protectors and guards of our properties when the situation demands for it.

What types of dental diseases can dogs acquire?

Just like humans, dogs can get a lot of dental diseases if left uncared for. Although most dogs would not get tooth decay as most humans do, they can incur other types of problems that are also common in humans. First, they can experience bad breath. We all know that dog breath is not that pleasant but you will be able to tell if it is something more than that such as a very acidic smell or if it has a rotten smell to it.

The other most common dental problem that dogs have is periodontal disease. Just like in humans, they start with a bad diet and bad dental habits. The disease starts with the buildup of tartar or plaque and which goes on to affect the gums as well. The presence of periodontal disease will lead to loose teeth, toothaches, cracked teeth, swollen gums, and it can even lead to the damage of your dog’s dental organs such as the kidneys, heart, and lungs.

Periodontal disease is considered to be an irreversible condition and what you can actually do is to prevent it from happening in the first place. You can actually help your dog to avoid this kind of condition provided you seek the appropriate advice and information with regards to dog dental health. This means you will have to consult your local vet instead of relying on what your friends or families say about it.

A lot of people assume that since dogs have a better mouth, due to the misinformation that dogs have fewer bacteria in their mouth but the fact is it all depends upon the environment that they are in and how healthy their diet and physical activities are. Yes, dog’s mouths can be cleaner than humans but it doesn’t mean that they don’t require any maintenance and human intervention at all.

What affects a dog’s dental health?

There are a lot of factors which can affect a dog’s dental health but some of the more common factors are diet, physical exercise, breed and dental hygiene. As you can see, these factors can be controlled by the owners themselves. It is therefore important to be a keen observer and to have the patience to deal with the small details if you really want to protect your dog’s health.

More often than not, it is the presence of certain types of bacteria which can lead to the deterioration of their health and the successful elimination of these microorganisms from their immediate environment can be one of the largest factors that can determine their health outcomes. So, if you are a really careful owner you can help minimize the occurrence of such dental problems.

The first most important factor in your dog’s dental health is their diet. A healthy and balanced diet will contribute much to the development of healthy bones and teeth as well as the regulation of the presence of parasites and bacteria in the mouth. Their diet should include meats, fruits, and vegetables such as spinach, beans, pumpkins, and even cantaloupe.

Raw meat with bones is advisable as well since it helps to clean their teeth and also helps to improve their jaw muscles threw chewing. Your dog should have sufficient amount of water in order to help remove and wash off any remaining particles in their mouth. It also helps in the production of saliva which is a dog’s main material for cleaning their mouth.

Dogs diet

The next, and often most neglected aspect of a dog’s dental health, is physical exercise. A dog that is less active is more likely to have weaker bone and teeth structure than one who is regularly engages in physical activities. This also includes the act of chewing on toys or semi-hard food which works the jaw muscles and provides some resistance to the teeth. This resistance helps the growth of the bone material which is similar to that which happens with human teeth.

The lesser that these jaw muscles are put to work, the weaker will they become as the dog ages and grows older. It is extremely important for dogs to develop a strong set of teeth especially since it is what they use to break down food. Having weak teeth can result to the poor nourishment of your dog as well.

The third factor that can affect your dog’s dental health is their breed. This is something that will be harder to tackle especially since you cannot change the natural traits of your dog. It is well known by dog enthusiasts that the smaller the dog, the larger is the potential for it to have dental problems which is often caused by the overcrowding of teeth.

Overcrowding can be caused by the failure of the first set of teeth to fall out naturally, the relatively larger size of the teeth compared to the body of the dog, as well as the unnatural angles at which teeth can grow out of the gums. This can lead to the improper grinding of teeth against each other and lead to the deterioration of the outer enamel and expose the dentin together with the nerves. If this happens, your dog will be more susceptible to infections and pain once it comes into contact with food particles and even air.

Dogs teeth cleaning

Last, but not the least, your dog’s dental hygiene can play a major role in the health of their teeth. Just like you, they also need to get their teeth brushed at least once a day. Dogs have a special type of toothpaste and toothbrush that has to be used if you really want to have their teeth cleaned. You cannot just use any ordinary type of brush and toothpaste that you use. These can actually harm your dog’s health.

If you’ve never brushed your dog’s teeth before, please read our article to learn the step-by-step process of brushing your dog’s teeth.

Chew toys especially those which are made of rawhide can help remove any leftover food particles from their teeth. It is important to make sure that the chew toy is of the right toughness for your dog’s age or capacity otherwise it could break their teeth. Without proper cleaning, a dog’s teeth will contain a lot of bacteria which can lead to the tooth damage.

Not sure which chew products would be best for your dog? Take a look at our great article listing the best dog chew toys to consider for your pooch.

What can you do to protect your dog’s teeth?

The best way to address your dog’s dental concerns is to be more attentive to them and to carefully bear in mind that their teeth’s health is a key factor in maintaining their health. Some of the few basic steps that you can do to protect their teeth are the following: regularly clean or brush their teeth, provide some food which will require some significant chewing process, give them some chew toys, and give them a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Although you can do some research on your own, it is always the professional who will know best. They have the background and the experience to deal with this issue and so it is important to seek their advice.

The first and perhaps most important thing to do in taking care of your dog’s teeth is to have cleaning materials at hand so you can clean their teeth at least once a day. You can ask your vet about their recommendations regarding dog toothbrushes and toothpastes before making any purchase. These are available in double-headed angled toothbrush which helps to brush both the inner and outer sides of a dog’s teeth with one stroke.

You can also ask your local pet stores about the right type of toothpaste to use. Regular human toothpaste is not recommendable since they come with fluoride which is toxic to dogs. It is important to teach your dog early on about having their teeth cleaned as it can be more difficult to do when they are older. Giving your dog some meat-flavored toothpaste will also help them to love the activity. You can also opt for finger brushes which help to give the stroke a better aim and more cleaning surface.

Dogs teeth cleaning

The next step is to avoid giving your dog foods which are quite mushed down or are very soft for them to chew. This is due to the fact that softer and “wet” dog foods often stick to their teeth and may not be easily removed by the dog’s tongue and saliva. Aside from that, these foods often come with added sugar which is definitely not a good thing to have in their diet especially if you give it to them regularly.

The sugar content provides a good breeding ground for bacteria and for the formation of plaque.  The second reason why it is better to avoid these soft foods and to give them something that they can actually “chew” is that it provides their jaw muscles some exercise. This in turn will help the proper growth of their teeth as well as strengthen its structure by building up new bone materials.

The third step is to provide them with chew toys which will help remove any food particles from their teeth. Chew toys are not only important for adult dogs, they are also necessary for teething dogs. When your puppy reaches the age in which they need to shed their old teeth or are growing new ones, they are most likely to need these chew toys either to help remove the old ones or to blunt the edges of the new ones since they can be very sharp.

Chew toys are the best alternative if you can’t brush your dog’s teeth regularly. They help increase the production of saliva which in turn helps to clean a dog’s mouth.

Lastly, try to maintain a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle for your dog. This includes giving him a well-rounded diet which provides for their nutrient needs. Giving your dog fresh foods is actually better than relying on canned and instant dog treats to provide for dietary needs. Aside from the natural enzymes that are present with fresh food, they also do not contain preservatives which are known to cause some serious health damage to dogs.

How can you tell if all this hard work is paying off? You can learn about the signs and symptoms of bad dental health in our article about periodontal disease in dogs.

You also need to provide them with sufficient physical activities which will help strengthen their bone structure. These include running and walking, and try exposing them to natural sunlight regularly as well. It would be best to bring your dog outdoors in parks and beaches so they can breathe in fresh air as well. The lack of proper exposure to sunlight can leave your dog sluggish and can also affect their bones especially if they are not getting enough vitamin D from their diet.

But whatever you do, make sure that your dog gets regular visits to their vet. This is to provide for dental cleaning services which are more thorough and can effectively determine whether there are dental problems arising in your dog’s teeth.

A vet can also give you the necessary prescription if there are any problems already existing such as broken tooth, exposed roots, decaying teeth, swollen gums, etc. You may not be able to tell whether your dog is suffering from toothaches but the vet can and they can also teach you how to care for the damaged tooth.  Always look for a professional’s advice whenever you are dealing with your dog’s health.

What are the things to avoid?

In order to help further the longevity of your dog’s teeth and to prevent damaging it, here are some tips that any owner can do:

  • If you are going to buy chew toys, trying digging your nail into it. If it gives then it is good for your dog. If it doesn’t, try to find another one as it can damage your dog’s teeth.
  • Use some flavored dog toothpaste to help your pet get used to tooth brushing.
  • Don’t use your own toothpaste for your dog as it contains fluoride which is highly toxic to dogs.
  • Don’t give up if at first you don’t succeed in having you can’t brush your dog’s teeth entirely. Take a few steps at a time. Your pet will soon get used to it and the process will be easier.
  • Don’t take steps without consulting your pet’s veterinarian first. Every dog is different and yours may need some type of special care compared to other dog’s dental needs.

Just like other types of investments, your dog’s dental health will require time and patience if you want to gain excellent results. Your dog’s mouth is the only way with which he would be able to acquire the nutrients that they need naturally so it is best to take care of it while irreversible damages had not yet been made. It is quite easy to maintain their dental health actually as long as you stick to the rules. Your dog may not like you fussing with their mouth for the first few weeks, but they will eventually learn that it is part of their daily regime.

First, have the necessary tools that you will need to clean their teeth at least once a day. Then, provide them with some chew toys which will help to strengthen their jaw muscles and teeth structure aside from helping remove food particles from their teeth.

Next, try giving them food which they would actually need to chew unlike canned and other pre-made dog foods. As much as you can, try to provide freshly cooked foods. Lastly, give your dogs a healthy diet and lifestyle which is the key to overall health. A healthy body will provide the necessary materials that are needed to build a good set of teeth for your dog.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Charlotte Queens

    I started dental hygiene for my dog just recently. She’s a terrier so it was quite difficult to reach those tiny teeth, unlike my Lab. Do you know of an organic or natural toothpaste for dogs that’s highly recommended?
    There’s quite a few in the market but would want to know the experiences of dog owners here.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Nowadays, there are a lot of organic toothpaste brands in the market. But for starters, I would recommend using the traditional dog toothpaste first to establish a good foundation in oral health. I would also recommend a quick consult to the vet first, as he or she may have a recommended brand or strength.

  • Leny Brown

    I brush my dog’s teeth with an enzymatic toothpaste and give her raw bone to chew on for 30 minutes after her meals. Although recently, I just smelled something awful in her breath. What could I be doing wrong? Anything that I’ve forgotten to do? Or does this call for professional help?

    • Wyatt Robinson

      There might be a decaying tooth forming inside that is not visible on initial inspection. It can also be a digestive problem that may require a visit to the vet.

  • Emily Pearson

    The moment our vet informed us of the high change of infection spreading someplace else from a dental disease, we immediately put our mind into having a healthy oral regime for our dogs. We basically brush their teeth daily (if not every other day) and provide them nylabones which helped so far in their oral health. We’re looking to invest in something better in terms of oral care, any suggestions?

    • Wyatt Robinson

      The best investment, in my opinion, is consistency in brushing and providing dental chews. You don’t need a sophisticated or super expensive brush or solutions, you just have to do the regimen consistently.

  • Christopher Mills

    As it turned out, the right toothpaste is very important for dogs. Our dog was allergic to some of the components, so we had to change it. Now I bought organic and no problems yet. Will see what happens.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Let us know what happened after your usage of organic toothpaste for your dog, Christopher. I agree that we should be picky when it comes to toothpastes that will be used by our dogs.

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