Monday, September 7, 2009


Anyone who has owned a number of dogs over the years will have lived with one or two that seems to have chronic bad breath. Nothing is more “yucky” then when your dog comes to give you a big slobbery kiss and his breathe just about knocks you out! We shouldn’t be surprised. If we can have bad breathe, so can our dogs and they eat a lot more unsavory “tidbits” than you or I do. For some reason when it comes to the care of our dogs, many of us forget to take care of our dog’s teeth. How often do we check his mouth and look at his teeth?

I had a big hunky male one time that had a stinky mouth. When he sat down next to me, which was often because he thought he was meant to be a lap dog, the smell that assaulted my nostrils was far from pleasant. He was a gentle giant so opening his mouth and looking at his teeth was no problem. He would get a brown stain on the top of his teeth running along his gum line. Looking back at what he liked to chew, his favorite toy was his Kong toy. Those toys are not good chew toys because they really can’t chew down on them like they can a bone. He didn’t like Nylabones, so that wasn’t an option. He was ball obsessed. So I had to take him to the vet to have his teeth professionally cleaned. They would knock him out and he’d come home with his “pearly whites” and all would be fine for awhile. But the stinky mouth returned and we would have to take him in to the vet periodically to have his teeth cleaned.

So what do you do to insure that your dog has good oral health? It’s very important to check your dogs’ mouth and teeth to make sure they are healthy. Red, swollen gums and tarter build up can produce gingivitis and disease. What can happen if your dogs’ teeth are not taken care of? The tarter build up can push the gums away from the teeth. This can allow food particles to get trapped and the tooth can become loosened and fall out. If tarter is not removed from the teeth, infection can occur. If not treated the infection can get in to the blood stream leading to disease of the kidneys and infection of the heart valves.

Sometimes the dog will have mouth problems not due to tarter build up. If you have a dog who loves to chew on sticks and stones and whatever else he can wrap his jaws around, it is the wise owner who checks on this type of dogs mouth more than usual. It is not unheard of that a dog will get a piece of the stick caught in between his teeth and infection begins.

There are a few different ways to help insure that your dog has good canine health. Training him at a young age to have his teeth brushed is wise, but let’s face it; it can be difficult with a squirming youngster. But like everything else, it all comes down to training the dog. Giving your dog bones to chew on helps with tarter build up. Also, like I had to do with my dog, taking him to your vet to have a professional cleaning will insure that he is getting the most thorough cleaning and inspection of his mouth. The drawback with this is that he’ll need to be put under anesthesia. Also it's very expensive. Then, there is the dog that is fed a raw diet. Many people believe that a dog fed this kind of diet has the healthiest teeth and gums because a raw diet consists many times of bones.

If you decide on your vet cleaning your dogs’ teeth and mouth, it will normally consist of four steps: scaling – removes the tarter above and below the gum line, polishing – smooths the surface to help prevent plague formation, flushing – removes dislodged tarter and the bacteria that accompanies it and fluoride for teeth sensitivity, strengths the enamel and future plague formation.

There are many stores and websites that carry canine toothbrushes, paste, gel, etc. to use for your dog. Check with your veterinarian what he suggests you use for your animal. Preventative care is the smartest thing we can do when taking care of our dogs and also the least expensive. It’s the problems that can arise when preventative care isn’t part of our dogs’ regular check up.

Expenses surrounding our dog’s teeth and mouth can be relatively inexpensive when purchasing the brushes, paste and gels. It’s when your dog runs into trouble and his teeth haven’t been checked and infection sets in. Then you can be looking at thousands of dollars in medical bills.

In doing research for this article, I’ve learned that there are dog vet dentists who specialize in the oral care and surgery of the dog’s mouth. Let’s hope that we never have to call upon their services.

My rating: importance of oral health care: (4) preventative treatments: bones (3) brushing(4) vet cleaning (4) raw diet (4)

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