Just as humans can suffer from periodontal disease,
our canine companions can be equally affected. In fact, statistically, 85 percent of all dogs five years and older are affected by this disease. Unlike humans, however, dogs cannot complain specifically about tooth pain, and this disease can progress to a point where the animal can lose its teeth or worse, die of infections caused by bacterial buildup.
Prior to developing periodontal disease, dogs suffer from gingivitis, which is the result of a build-up of tarter. Tarter is an accumulation of plaque that can form both above and below the gum line. If this is not treated, the plaque hardens into tartar, and the cycle will continue. Ultimately, the gums recede and become infected. The infection can enter the dog's bloodstream and can well cause illness or even death.
If a dog has bad breath, and red, swollen gums, this could be symptomatic of periodontal disease. As in humans, this condition can be prevented with regular brushing combined with an annual trip to the veterinarian for a professional cleaning. Additionally, feeding the dog dry food and an occasional doggie biscuit can help self-clean the teeth.
As a responsible pet owner, it is important that you learn how to take care of your dog's teeth, thus ensuring him a long, happy, and healthy life. Because plaque can form within hours of eating, it is recommended that the dog's teeth be brushed daily. This process does not have to be torturous; in fact, if the routine is begun when the dog is young, it can be another opportunity to bond with your pet. The key is to remain calm and constantly reassure the dog during the process. As in all areas of dog care and training, constant praise will help keep him still, thus reducing his anxiety.
Never use human toothpaste or baking as they can upset the dog's stomach if swallowed. Instead, look for special toothpaste formulated for dogs. This product has special flavoring and less foaming action. Although there are toothbrushes on the market specifically for dogs, a standard electric toothbrush works great for canines. Use a brush with soft bristles and one that is not too noisy.
If this is the first time you have brushed the dog's teeth, start out by putting the toothpaste on your finger rather than using the brush. Rub the dog's gums and teeth with your finger, praising him constantly. This will allow the dog a chance to taste the toothpaste as well as to get used to having your finger in his mouth. The tone that you set during the first run-through is critical.
Once the dog is used to the toothpaste and your massaging his gums, introduce the toothbrush. Initially, don't turn it on; simply put it in his mouth and allow him to lick the toothpaste from it. Brush one of his front teeth with the power off first. Then, set the brush on its slowest speed and brush one or two teeth. The dog needs to get used to this new process gradually. If he balks, stop brushing, calm him down, and then proceed. You have to be firm and not allow the dogs unhappiness with the process to be discouraging. Do as few or as many teeth as is comfortable and don't allow the dog's reaction to dissuade you.
As the dog gets accustomed to this process, you can increase the number of teeth that you brush each day. The most important teeth are in the back since that is where the plaque and tartar tend to concentrate. The front teeth are cleaned naturally in the course of eating, and the insides of the teeth are similarly cleansed.
Initially, hold the lip up so that you can see the area being brushed. Once you are more confident, you can brush the dogs back teeth the same way you do your own, under the cheek. Start out at 12 seconds per tooth, with the ultimate goal of 30 seconds each. This ensures thorough cleaning of both enamel and the gum.
As you brush the dog's teeth, be sure to check for any that are broken or cracked. If teeth are broken, take him to a veterinarian for immediate treatment. To prevent damage to the teeth, especially in older dogs, limit the number of rawhide bones and make sure he does not chew on rocks or other hard objects. Taking care of your dog's oral health is just a component of maintaining his health and well being. Dogs give us so much love. In return, it is our responsibility to take care of them throughout their lives. It is a small price to pay.