How to Care for Your Dog’s Dental Health (and Why It’s Important)
February is Pet Dental Health Month, and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is reminding pet owners to care for their pets' teeth just as they care for their own. And Woof Report has just the resources to make caring for your dog’s teeth and gums as easy as possible.
Why should you be concerned with your pet’s dental care? According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, more than 80% of dogs and 70% of cats develop periodontal disease by the age of three years, and it’s the most common dental condition affecting our pets. And it’s not just an issue of doggie bad breath; your dog’s oral health has an impact on his or her overall health.
According to Dr. Brook Niemiec, a board-certified veterinary dental specialist, ”Periodontal inflammation and infection have been linked to numerous problems including heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, emphysema, liver disease, osteoporosis, pregnancy problems and diabetes.”
The American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS) recommends bringing your dog to a veterinarian for a dental exam and then scheduling regular checkups so your vet can monitor the progress of your dog's dental health routine. In addition, the AVDS recommends beginning a dental care regimen at home to keep your dog’s teeth clean and free from plaque and tartar.
Speak with your vet to see which of the following preventative treatments he or she recommends for your pup's pearly whites.
Brush Up. Most people brush twice daily without ever brushing their dog’s teeth. Brush your pup’s teeth at least weekly to keep them clean. (Yes – you, your dog, a toothbrush.) Look for brushes designed for dogs, including those that fit on your fingertip that may be accepted more readily, and don’t forget toothpaste for dogs. It’s unsafe to share your Crest since dogs do not spit out the paste, and chicken and beef flavored paste will make brushing much more appealing to your dog anyway. Be sure to press the paste down into the bristles, so your dog doesn’t simply lick it off the brush.
Introduce brushing to your dog by massaging your dog’s gums with your finger; next do the same with pet toothpaste on your finger. When your dog accepts or even begins to look forward to this routine, introduce a toothbrush to his teeth, starting with short intervals and working up to about 30 seconds a side. Offer plenty of praise afterward and make it part of your dog’s daily or weekly routine.
Beyond the Brush. If your dog resists a toothbrush, there are a variety of products available to make cleaning your dog’s teeth easy. These include anti-plaque water additives, which are added to your dog’s water bowl, dental clensing pads, which are wiped on your dog’s teeth and gums, and oral hygiene gels which are placed on your dog’s gums. A gauze pad wrapped around your finger and rubbed gently on your dog’s teeth also works!
Serve Up the Crunch. Foods and treats with a crunchy abrasive texture and dental chews or bones help control plaque and tartar buildup, so include them in your dog’s diet. Look for products that have received the Veterinary Oral Health Council's seal of acceptance, which shows they meet standards for reducing plaque or tartar.
Play Away Plaque. Chew and rope toys not only entertain your dog, but also promote dental health by stimulating gums and keeping teeth clean. Look for toys specifically created to promote dental health, such as Kong dental toys.
Visit the Pet Dental website for tips and interesting FAQs from veterinary experts on pet dental health.
See step-by-step instructions on how to teach a dog or cat to accept a daily tooth brushing in this video from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
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Thank you to Vicki on flickr for the photo of Logan.
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Helping pets in need doesn’t always mean adopting a dog or even donating money (although these are always good too). Fostering a dog is wonderful way to support overcrowded shelters and rescue organizations and get a pup ready for finding his forever home. It’s the perfect opportunity for you to help dogs in need without taking on the commitment of a lifelong pet adoption or to see if another dog is just what you need. Learn more about fostering in Woof Report's past tip, Give a Dog a Second Chance by Fostering.
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