There are many important factors that contribute to a dog's overall health, but dental care is one that's often overlooked. Proper oral hygiene is a critical component of your dog's general well-being, so it's essential to understand what you can do as an owner to take good care of your pet's pearly whites.
From cleaning your pet's teeth to booking her in for regular veterinary check-ups, there's plenty you can do to help fight off dental disease. You can also give your dog raw bones, dental chews, and dental diets that help keep her teeth clean while she chews.
But what are the best things for your dog to chew to improve her dental health? Let's take a closer look.
Signs of Dog Dental Disease
Does your dog's breath stink? Is one whiff of her breath enough to send you reeling away in disgust? If so, there's a good chance she might have dental disease, which is sometimes also known as periodontal disease.
Bad breath is usually one of the first telltale signs of dental problems dog owners pick up on, but there are plenty of other symptoms to keep an eye (and a nose) out for. Just like in humans, the discoloration of teeth or a noticeable build-up of plaque and tartar is a surefire sign that a trip to the doggy dentist might be in order.
Red, inflamed or receding gums, not to mention lumps or bleeding around the mouth, should also tell you that all is not right with your dog's oral hygiene. You may even notice swelling under your dog's eyes, which could indicate something causing significant discomfort inside your pet's mouth.
Other signs of dental disease present themselves in your dog's behavior. For example, a reluctance to eat or noticeable discomfort when eating can be a dead giveaway of tooth trouble, while other dogs may even paw at their mouth, whine, be very hesitant to be touched anywhere near the mouth or face, or act out in some other way to let you know they're in pain.
The History of Dog Dental Care
Throughout history, most animal dentistry was focused on caring for horses, with the Chinese practicing equine dentistry as far back as 600B.C. The ancient Romans performed a surgical procedure to remove a part of the tongue called the lyssa, which was thought to help prevent rabies, but canine dentistry as we know it today was only developed much more recently.
The first veterinary dental school was founded in France in 1762, while the first veterinary dental text was published more than 100 years later in 1889. But it wasn't until the first few decades of the 20th century that small animal dentistry began to emerge from the shadow of equine dentistry. Slowly but surely, the focus of veterinary dentistry shifted more and more towards small animals, and we began to develop increased knowledge on the importance of dental health for canines.
The American Veterinary Dental Society was founded in 1976, and the continued integration of dogs into our families and homes, along with many advances in the field of human dentistry, has seen tremendous advances in the way we care for and maintain our dogs' teeth.
If you had have told a dog owner 50 years ago that the best way to look after their dog's teeth was to brush them, that owner would probably have laughed in your face. Today, however, canine teeth brushing is common practice for dog lovers all over the world.
The Science of Dog Dental Care
How important is dog dental care? What does it matter if my pooch's breath is a little unpleasant or his teeth aren't sparkling white?
Many new pet owners are surprised to learn just how important it is to keep their dog's teeth in tip-top condition. However, it all makes sense when you think about just how important your dog's mouth is — not only does she use it to eat and drink, but also to interact with the world around them.
And not only do problems with teeth and gums cause pain and discomfort, but they can also lead to a range of other serious health issues. The plaque that builds up on your pet's teeth harbors bacteria, which can, in turn, enter the bloodstream and cause problems for the lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, and even the brain.
According to the American Veterinary Dental College, periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition that occurs in adult dogs and cats, and most dogs have at least some evidence of periodontal disease. In fact, by the age of three, 80 percent of dogs show signs of dental disease.
That's quite an alarming figure, but the good news is that there's plenty you can do to protect your pet's teeth. Active chewers have less plaque build-up on their teeth, and specially formulated dental treats and diets can reduce plaque by up to 70 percent. One study even showed that simply increasing the diameter of kibble by 50 percent led to a 42 percent reduction in tartar, which can make a big difference to doggy dental health.
What Can Dogs Chew to Clean Their Teeth?
One of the great things about doggy dental care is that you can help your pooch care for her pearly whites without having to do any work yourself. There are plenty of specially-designed products on the market to help combat dental disease, including:
- Raw bones. Chewing raw bones can help stop the build-up of plaque and tartar on doggy teeth. Avoid cooked bones that may splinter, and never give small bones that may become a choking hazard. There's even plenty of debate about whether or not it's safe to give any type of bones to your dog, so ask a trusted veterinarian for advice if you're unsure.
- Dental Chews. You've probably also heard of specially formulated dental chews that dogs can munch on, usually once a day, to prevent plaque build-up. Not only do high-quality products encourage your dog to chew, but they're also low in fat and easy to digest.
- Dental Diets. There are even a number of special dental diets on the market that have been specifically designed to improve your pet's oral health. The kibble in these foods is specially designed to prevent the build-up of plaque when your dog chews, allowing her to improve her overall health simply by tucking into her dinner. However, it's essential to check that any product which claims to improve dental health is backed by science, so you may want to ask your veterinarian for their recommendations.
- Water Additives. While not something your dog can chew as such, there are also various additives that can be included with your dog's drinking water to reduce tartar. Once again, check with your veterinarian for advice on the products they recommend.
By a Labrador Retriever lover Tim Falk
Published: 02/07/2018, edited: 04/06/2020