Puppy breath is sweet. The breath of a dog that has dental problems? Not so sweet. When a dog's teeth, gums and mouth are not properly cared for, bad breath is just one of many conditions that can arise.
According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, "more than 80 percent of dogs develop periodontal disease by 3 years of age." The ASPCA says, "Many pooches show signs of gum disease by the time they're 4 years old because they aren't provided with proper mouth care -- and bad breath is often the first sign of a problem." When teeth and gums don't get the care they need, your dog can develop tooth loss and receding gum, caused by tartar buildup on unbrushed, untreated teeth that have been ravaged by built-up bacteria and plaque. "The bacteria not only cause disease in the mouth -- they can also affect other parts of the body, like the heart and kidneys," says About.com-featured veterinary technician Jenna Stregowski.
No matter how old your dog is, and whether or not you're seeing signs of dental issues in your dog; such as excessive drooling, inflamed gums, brown or yellow tartar visible on teeth at the gumline or overall, resistance to chewing on toys or crying out in pain while chewing toys, that telltale bad breath, or other symptoms, it is a wise idea to bring your dog to your veterinarian for an overall dental checkup. If signs of periodontal disease are present, perhaps a referral to a canine dental specialist is also needed. A medical expert's in-depth look at your dog's mouth can reveal signs of impending dental problems for your dog, which can cause him pain and potentially cost you a fortune in pet care. Just like good dental care is important for you, it's important for your puppy or dog as well.
Here are five important tips for taking excellent care of your dog's teeth and mouth:
1) Brush your dog's teeth daily. The Veterinary Oral Health Council recommends daily brushing for optimal effectiveness, twice daily is even better. Use a veterinarian-recommended dog teeth-brushing kit that includes a toothbrush and toothpaste formulated especially for dogs. Never use human toothpaste, which can upset a dog's stomach; and don't use fluoride toothpaste without a veterinarian's approval, since fluoride can interfere with enamel production in dogs less than 6 months of age. Ask your vet, too, for a lesson on how to acclimate your dog -- and yourself -- to the tooth-brushing process. It can take a few tries since your dog will be unused to the sensations, but you'll get the hang of it, and your dog may even grow to enjoy the pampering. Don't brush too hard; a gentle brushing on a regular basis helps keep your dog's mouth healthy. You may find that dental wipes work well as part your dog's dental care routine, but it's a dog toothbrush that reaches those important back teeth.
2) Only give your dog approved foods and treats. The VOHC puts their stamp on edibles that are safe for a dog to chew on and ingest, ones that are proven effective in decreasing tartar. Non-approved treats such as bones, hoofs, nylon toys and other items can cut the dog's gums or break teeth.
3) Once a week, lift your dog's lips and examine his teeth and gums. Gums should be pink, not red or white, and there should be no swelling, nor brown-colored tartar on teeth.
4) Choose the right chew toys. The ASPCA suggests asking your veterinarian for recommendations of approved chew toys that keep teeth clean by scraping away soft tartar. Ideal chew toys are toxin-free and may be nylon, rubber or rawhide. Dogs have a natural need to chew, and working on a safe chew toy can also help relieve dog stress or anxiety.
5) Feed your dog the right foods, again, food that is specially formulated for dogs. Avoid giving your dog table scraps, which can add to plaque buildup and may scrape the gums.
The ASPCA recommends monitoring your dog while he's chewing on a treat or toy, since sections may break off and pose a choking hazard. When you make your dog's dental care an important part of his wellbeing, just like exercising him and keeping routine veterinary appointments, your dog will be healthier, happier and perhaps a lot more fun to cuddle with, given his improved breath and the elimination of excessive drooling.
Consistent effort and investment in specially formulated dog dental care products makes all the difference.