Has anyone ever told you that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s? Unfortunately there is no real way to compare the two. Dogs and humans have species-specific bacteria in their mouths. For example, caries disease caused by S. mutans, prevalent in almost 90% of school children, only plagues 5% of our canine companions. S. mutans, which feed on sugar, are much more likely to reside in our mouths than a dog’s due to our high sugar diet and acidic oral environment. On the other hand, P. gingivalis, the culprit to human periodontal disease, has a sibling strain found in dogs called P. gulae. Periodontal disease can be found in more than 60% of domesticated dogs, and that percentage can be as high as 90% in senior small breeds. Dental abscesses and periodontal disease can be life threatening to dogs. It is important that we take care of their oral health starting at a young age! Here are some tips to get started.
Start ’em off young.
Make teeth brushing a fun and pleasant experience for your dog beginning at a young age. Start by playing with their lips and touching their teeth whenever you can. Reward them with a goop of this chicken-flavored tooth paste.
Once they allow you to freely manipulate their lips, move on to a soft finger tooth brush then eventually a conventional one. Always give lots of praise. When I tell Cooper to sit on the bathroom mat, he knows what time it is and gets super excited for a taste of his favorite chicken goop.
Consistence is key.
It is important that you make this part of your dog’s routine. They learn by consistence, just like with a new trick. With that said, if you have an older dog it is definitely still possible to train them to tolerate brushing teeth. It may take a little longer for them to get used to but be consistent and ease them in slowly! Try to do it once a day around the same time of day. Once they get used to the daily brushing, if you get lucky, they may even let you scale a little.
Watch what they eat.
Diets high in wheat and starch will often stick onto your dog’s teeth. Avoid canned foods if possible, as dry kibble is much better for their teeth. The most ideal diet for a dogs’ oral health is actually raw meat and uncooked bones. If you have a dog with multiple allergies, your veterinarian may recommend they go on a raw diet. Be aware that a raw diet may be more costly than a traditional kibble diet.
Treat them right.
Look for teeth-friendly treats such as Greenies and Dentastix. These are especially good for when you are on the go and do not have time to brush your pup’s teeth. Stay away from antlers and horns, as they can cause tooth fractures and excessive attrition.
Be picky about toys.
Dogs are mouthy creatures, especially when they’re puppies. That is why it’s important to watch what they chew on. If your dog loves to play fetch like mine, use a rubber ball instead of tennis balls. Believe it or not, the outer covering of the tennis ball is abrasive enough to cause significant wear of your pup’s enamel.
Consult a professional.
Even if you avidly brush your dog’s teeth every day, it is still recommended that you visit the vet annually for a professional cleaning. They will be able to give your pup a thorough calculus and tartar removal, even from the hard-to-reach areas.
Let’s make routine dental care a fun and a paw-sitive experience for our furry best friends!
~Yige Zhao, Pacific ’15