Dental problems are among the most common medical issues that plague our dogs' lives. More than 80% of dogs over the age of three show symptoms of active dental disease. Whether it is periodontal disease, halitosis (i.e., a strong odor emanating from the dog's oral cavity), or missing teeth, oral health issues put a significant damper on your dog's quality of life, and it is the dog parent's responsibility to notice any symptoms of dental problems and alleviate them through effective methods.
We frequently forget the role played by the oral cavity in the canine (and human) body. The mouth is a gateway to the entire body, communicating with numerous vital organs, such as the heart, kidneys, and liver. Unfortunately, due to precarious oral hygiene, the bacteria found in food turns into a sticky biofilm called plaque and travels, via the bloodstream, to these essential organs, leading to organ damage and even heart disease. Therefore, dental issues do not limit themselves to the oral cavity. On the contrary, they can escalate and become life-threatening to your dog!
Having considered the multiple health hazards caused by inadequate oral hygiene, we decided to lend a helping hand and teach you all about proper dental care in dogs. By reading this blog, you will learn how to accustom your dog to toothbrushing, how to avoid habits harmful to your canine's teeth, and how to enhance your dog's diet with tooth-friendly foods!
Dog Teeth Cleaning Requires Time and Attention
As a dog parent, you are in charge of your canine friend's dental health. Unlike humans, dogs have fewer and less sophisticated teeth cleaning methods, such as chewing bones and eating foods with dental enzymes, which are not always effective. Furthermore, not all dogs exhibit dental disease symptoms, so it's your responsibility to take care of your dog's teeth. Look for inflammation, infection, or decaying tooth, and ask your vet to double-check your dog's mouth during wellness exams.
Canine dental care does not limit itself to checking your dog's mouth once in a while. It is a continuous process, beginning from the dog's puppy years and continuing throughout his life. So let us guide you towards the dos and don'ts of canine dental care in order to keep your dog's teeth pearly white!
Step #1: Start With Teeth Cleaning From a Young Age
Start by helping your dog become accustomed to foreign objects in his mouth. Although some puppies will allow you to brush their teeth, others will not welcome toothbrushes so lightly. What your dog needs to learn is that the toothbrush is not there to hurt him. Ergo, learn to constantly mess with his mouth when young. Gently lift his lips on each side of his mouth and touch his teeth. Your dog will resist having his mouth handled at first but, in time, will get used to the feeling. This first step is crucial to your dog's dental care because the alternative for canines who refuse to have their teeth brushed is anesthesia.
Step #2: Avoid Adding Water Additives to Your Dog’s Water and Food
Refrain from adding water additives and other dental care products to your dog's water and food. Although they want only the best for their canines, dog parents can cause irreversible damage by trying to sneak dental care products into their dogs' water and food bowls. Once he identifies an unpleasant odor, there's a significant chance that the canine will refrain from both the product and the necessary water or food which hides it. Additionally, your dog's digestive system can be thrown into disorder by some dental care products. Instead of taking risks with your dog's oral health, let us teach you more practical ways of achieving optimally clean teeth.
Step #3: Dry Kibble Does Not Assist With Teeth Cleaning
Numerous myths surrounding dry kibble's benefits are detrimental to our dogs' health, and the "kibble assists with teeth cleaning" myth is one of them. Regardless of how it is marketed, kibble does not bring any beneficial change to your dog's oral health. On the contrary, due to its starchy, carbohydrate-rich composition (30%-70%), kibble introduces more problems into your dog's mouth without fixing any at all. With no abrasive ingredients (e.g., bones), kibble becomes lodged between teeth and gums and promotes the formation of plaque and tartar. Your dog will benefit infinitely more from a raw diet rich with meat and vegetables than from a diet riddled with pro-inflammatory and carcinogenic compounds such as advanced glycation end products and heterocyclic amines.
Step #4: Choosing an Appropriate Toothbrush
Now that we've covered the fundamental dos and don'ts of canine teeth cleaning, let us get more practical and talk about brushing your dog's teeth. Yes, for strong oral hygiene, dogs must have their teeth brushed periodically. However, what's easy and common for humans does not always apply to dogs. Unless your dog becomes accustomed to mouth handling, he will resist conventional brushing. Nor do things become more manageable with dogs who don't mind you inspecting their teeth since they are not good friends with loud electric toothbrushes. What you need is a silent, more gentle tool to provide teeth cleaning to your dog without scaring him away.
For a noiseless, less challenging teeth cleaning process, we recommend that you acquire an ultrasonic toothbrush for dogs, such as the Emmi®-Pet toothbrush. These devices employ the same piezo chip technology found in human toothbrushes, but in a silent and vibration-free way! All you have to do is hold the bristles against the teeth, and the toothbrush will emit ultrasonic waves to break down the plaque and eliminate bacteria. Over time, ultrasonic toothbrushes will protect your dog's oral cavity against tartar, inflammation, and bad breath. Remember to point the brush at a 45° angle towards where teeth and gums meet, the place with the most plaque buildup, and brush each tooth with care. Don't forget to reward your dog with a tasty treat after brushing his teeth for his patience.
Step #5: Choosing the Right Toothpaste
The right toothbrush must partner up with the right toothpaste for thorough teeth cleaning. Canines require a particular type of toothpaste called enzymatic toothpaste, rich with enzymes that tear down plaque and prevent the accumulation of bacteria. You can consult this list of 2021's top enzymatic kinds of toothpaste for ideas. Oh, and you don't have to worry about your canine not responding to the "rinse and spit" suggestion since his toothpaste is 100% edible.
What both we and your dog kindly ask you to avoid is using human toothpaste as a substitute, and for a very serious reason. Numerous brands of human toothpaste contain xylitol, a naturally-occurring artificial sweetener that, when ingested, causes gastric distress, hypoglycemia (i.e., blood sugar drops), and even liver damage. Xylitol poisoning symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, incoordination, collapse, and seizures. Be sure to contact a specialist right away if your dog has ingested xylitol-rich foods and products, such as human toothpaste, mouthwash, cough syrup, or "skinny" ice cream.
Taking Care of Your Dog’s Teeth the Natural Way
Sticking with a solid oral hygiene routine is not enough for healthy teeth. What you need is to acknowledge your dog's own approach to dental care and improve his diet with foods that will sustain the oral microbiome and produce the much-needed dental enzymes.
#1: Chewing is Fantastic for Oral Health
Albeit imperfect, chewing has served dogs as their primary teeth cleaning technique for thousands of years. And it's still working! The bone's abrasive, flexible nature helps dogs eliminate plaque and tartar even at the junction between the tooth and the gum. So please don't refrain from tossing a raw, meaty bone to your dog from time to time for him to chew on. Do refrain from feeding cooked bones to your canine since the cooking process breaks the bone's structure and predisposes it to break into sharp pieces.
#2: Look for Dental Superfoods
Although technically not a veggie, kelp is a dental superfood. With its high concentration of the Bacillus licheniformis bacterium, kelp boosts amylase production, one of the enzymes which help break down plaque and excess food from the dog's teeth. Canine saliva lacks many of the enzymes necessary to break down certain carbohydrates, fiber, and proteins so foods such as kelp become imperative for better dental health for your dog. Numerous products from our Volhard selection, such as Endurance, NFD2, and Rescue, include enough kelp in their ingredient list to promote healthier teeth and gums.
#3: Healthy Fruits and Veggies Promote Healthy Teeth
Apart from their well-established benefits, fruits and veggies also help keep your canine's oral health in order. Various fruits and vegetables, such as sauerkraut, strawberries, papaya, blueberry, and pomegranate, contain certain enzymes that your dog cannot produce on his own. Aside from enzymes, omega 3 fatty acids help maintain good oral health as well, so don't hesitate to add a krill oil supplement to your dog's diet.
A Parting Reminder
Keeping your dog's teeth sparkling clean is a matter of patience, training, and dedication. By focusing on a solid dental cleaning routine from a young age, you can ensure that your dog keeps his teeth white and healthy for many years to come. For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!
Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods! Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind. If you're interested in contacting one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!