Dental Guide for Dogs

Dachshund with a tooth brush

Did you know that February is National Pet Dental Health Month? The American Veterinary Medical Foundation has made this month a designated time to raise awareness of periodontal health in our pets.

It’s a common belief that dogs always have bad breath; however, with a few changes to their diet and dental routine you can improve not only your dog's breath, but its overall oral health as well!

By age three, more than 80% of pets in the United States have experienced gum or periodontal diseases. Most pet households admit that they do not regularly brush their dog's teeth, and most pet parents believe that dental treats alone are sufficient for keeping plaque and tartar off their pups teeth (they certainly help, but should only be one part of the routine).

There's an old myth that crunchy food is better for your pet's teeth than a wet diet; however, kibble contains many carbohydrates that end up sticking to your dog's teeth and cause plaque buildup and decay. 

Red Flags

Warning signs, such as bad breath, excessive drooling, or pawing at the mouth, can indicate an oral issue, but don't wait until a problem arises to start practicing better dental health with your pet.

Preventative measures can make a huge difference in your vet bills later on. The mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body and many medical professionals believe that a healthy mouth can lead to better overall health in all mammals!

What You Can Do At Home

There are a few different methods for cleaning a dog's teeth, some more time-consuming than others. The most direct method of cleaning your dog's teeth at home is using a toothbrush and dog-safe toothpaste. Human toothpaste often contains fluoride and foaming agents that can be harmful to a dog's system, so steer clear of using what you already have at home.

It may take several slow and positive introductions for your dog to allow brushing and resist the urge to treat the brush like a chew toy! For some pet parents, small and flexible finger toothbrushes offer a more direct route and are less intimidating to many animals.

Getting your dog used to the toothbrush before it goes in its mouth will help create less stress in the situation. Let your dog investigate the brush or finger toothbrush through sniffing and even licking it, but do not allow biting. Dog-approved toothpaste comes in flavors such as chicken, mint, or peanut butter, so you can find the right flavor for your pet.

Be sure to start slowly and always stop if your dog shows any signs of stress or discomfort. You can keep lengthening the amount of time you can brush over weeks or months. Always reward your dog with positive attention and even some treats! Check out this video for more information how to give your dog's teeth a proper brushing!

Other methods for cleaning your dog's teeth at home include:

  • Water Additives
    • Water enzymes are often only active for a few hours, so be sure to replace as needed. Many will fizz when put in the water initially and settle after a few seconds.
    • If you notice your dog avoiding the water bowl when the additives are present, try switching to an alternative method. Dogs should always have water available that they are actively drinking.
  • Food Additives
    • Brands like Vetriscience, Plaque Off, and Dentatreat have different textures and ingredients but all work towards the same goal of breaking down the plaque and tartar in their mouth. Sprinkle some on top of their meal and let the enzymes do their thing!
  • Dental treats
    • Chew treats are a great helper for keeping teeth healthy, but keep in mind that they often can't get in between the teeth and do little to clean the upper part of teeth.
    • Treats that have knobby parts can add extra texture and help scrape a bit more off of a tooth than a flat bone.
  • Bones and other Chews
    • Marrow bones are what wolves use to strengthen their teeth in the wild, and today’s modern dogs reap many of those same benefits from bones.
    • Check out our guide on raw bones for more info on how to feed these super healthy and helpful treats!
    • Synthetic options, such as the Nylabone, make chews specifically designed to help with dental health.

Nothing can replace an annual dental cleaning at the vet to help keep your dog's mouth on track. Your vet can check the gums for any signs of gingivitis or bacterial buildup that we often miss.

Ask your vet about their options when it comes to dental care. While some vets offer a basic cleaning, others offer a wider range of services, such as dental radiographs (x-rays), that will allow them to assess the bone level around the teeth.

It is never too late to start improving your dog's dental habits! Remember, consistency is key. Short bursts of brushing or adding enzymes to food or water will not be as beneficial in the long run.

Ask any of our Pets On Broadway staff for other tips and tricks to get your dog's smile bright and healthy.