Tips for keeping your pup's teeth clean
So why do we tend to discount taking care of our dogs' choppers?
Good -- even reasonable dental hygiene can make a difference in their lives, but more importantly, poor periodontal health is likely to have a devastating effect. Build up of
tartar and plaque below the gum line opens the way for bacteria to invade the bloodstream and can affect major organs, particularly the liver and kidneys, where the blood is filtered and wastes are accumulated for processing and removal.
The most obvious line of defense is brushing. There are kits available with brushes and pet toothpaste, flavored to be appealing to dogs (or cats), that don't need rinsing and
are safe to be swallowed. Human toothpaste should never be used on your dog. It can cause stomach upset if swallowed, and besides, not many dogs are going to appreciate the minty fresh taste. If they have their choice, they'll prefer rotted carrion flavor to sunny spearmint.
You can use human toothbrushes, though. Some even find that a quiet electric or sonic type works much better and efficiently than a manual brush. That's going to depend on your dog's tolerance for the sound and vibration, though, as well as whether or not the bristles tickle! Do make sure the bristles are rounded on the ends and not too hard. It's counterproductive to make your dog's gums bleed, not to mention the fact that he's going to go lay on your couch or your good bedspread and bleed on it to teach you a lesson.
Pay particular attention to the large molar toward the back of the muzzle that lies near where the parotid salivary duct has an outlet. The saliva is particularly rich in calcium and tends to cause build-up on that tooth faster than on others.
Proper diet plays a huge part in keeping your dog's mouth healthy. Most of us have heard the advice that canned or wet food makes a dog's teeth dirty and eating crunchy kibble keeps it clean. Not true. That's one of those old myths that just keeps sticking around -- kind of like tartar on a molar. It's the quality of the ingredients in the food that is going to make the difference, and that's mainly because with a high quality food -- canned or kibble -- you're putting good stuff in your dog. The one food that really will have an impact on how clean your dog's teeth stay is raw meaty bones. Just use your head and choose the right size and hardness for your dog. And always, always, RAW, never cooked, smoked or processed.
Keeping plenty of clean, fresh water will benefit your dog's mouth as much as it does his body. Don't just fill up the bowl when it's empty; dump it, clean it out and refill it several times a day.
Forget the rawhide chews. They don't provide any benefits to dental health and they have their own drawbacks that make them a less than ideal choice of chews to give your dog. Choose tough chew toys of appropriate size and hardness for your dog. Some even have bumps and ridges that will help massage the gums and promote circulation.
Your dog is probably never going to have the kind of breath advertised on mouthwash commercials, but keeping ahead of plaque and tartar build up and maintaining a foundation of quality food with the occasional raw meaty bone can help you make sure he doesn't have a case of killer breath. Or fuzzy green teeth.