By Darlene Stott
Published: 08/21/2017, edited: 09/24/2021
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Dogs munch on all sorts of tasty (and not so tasty) things. Our canine companions actually have teeth that aren't that different from ours in their makeup. But what they don't have is any clue about dental hygiene!
Pooches are just as susceptible as humans to plaque and its big, bad cousin tartar. The reason you should care is because tartar buildup can cause a whole bunch of problems for your fur-baby including pain, infections, and gum disease. Major dental appointments can cause a huge dent in your wallet in addition to the discomfort your four-legged family member has to endure. Clearly, addressing plaque and tartar before it becomes a full-blown health problem is the way to go.
Causes and Prevention of Tartar in Dogs
Just eating food, in general, will lead to some plaque development. If your pup seems to have a lion’s share, there could be certain things that are exacerbating the issue. Below are some of the main reasons that plaque and tartar form, and the best things that you can do to stop them!
As was just mentioned, any food can cause a bit of plaque to develop. That being said, foods that easily crunch or mush (like kibble) lead to way more plaque than natural alternatives. Raw food, including bones, work excellently to scrape plaque off of teeth before it hardens and begins to collect bacteria. Another plus from raw food is that it is packed with enzymes that help break down traces of food in the mouth. Kibble just doesn't contain these digestion helpers. Another issue with standard kibble is that your pooch can probably scarf it down in a heartbeat. This means their teeth are barely chewing at all! Raw food and oral cleansing-specific diets force your dog to slow down and get their crunch on. More and more places are offering ready-made raw dog diets, which takes the hassle out of healthy. With a bit of research, you can create your own raw dishes for a fraction of the price. If going raw isn't for you, consult your vet about a kibble designed especially to clean the teeth.
The problem with the vast majority of canine dental regimes is that they don't exist. But without any regular cleaning, it's just a matter of time before some sort of mouth problem develops. This is especially the case if you have a toy breed, because their teeth simply don't fit together well. While brushing your mutt's teeth may sound excessive, be assured it is not! It's an easy way to stop any nastiness from growing in the first place. A word to the wise: when introducing teeth brushing to your pup, start slow. Dogs usually get a little freaked out by foreign objects, even more so if these objects are being forced into the mouth. The best practice is to start gently with just your finger. Be quick about it and offer lots of praise so your pooch starts to see the regime as normal and the experience as positive. Many vets advise to then use some gauze on your finger for a while, and only when your dog is good with that should you introduce a special toothbrush made for dogs. It takes a bit of patience to start the process, but you'll be saving yourself time and money in the long run.
Too many annual vet appointments skip out on a true mouth exam. This really is no good, seeing as many serious health issues stem from rotting teeth. In fact, many experts advise not one, but two mouth check-ups a year is your best bet to beat tartar buildup. Sometimes, your vet may see small chunks of tartar that can be removed on the spot without causing your pup much distress. If a bigger problem is found, you may need to schedule a cleaning. Some form of sedation will be used so that proper, in-depth tartar removal can be done. Check with your vet to see what the best options are for a pooch who is unwell or older and unable to handle anesthesia. These major cleanings can help prevent a serious infection from causing worse trouble for your favorite fur buddy.
Importance of Preventing Tartar Buildup
Stopping tartar before it starts is definitely the best way to go. By feeding your dog a diet that mimics what they would eat in the wild, not only will you be helping their teeth, but every organ in their body will function better! And starting a regular toothbrushing routine can be tedious, but it's a lot more fun than dealing with a pooch in serious pain. Finally, adding an oral exam to your dog's annual check-up may cost a bit extra, but you'll still be saving money in the long run by keeping your fur buddy healthier.
Doggie Dental Care is No Fairy Tail
Toothbrushes for dogs do sound like they're out of a children's storybook, but they have some serious value in the real world. Dental hygiene is just as important to those on four legs as it is to those on two. Keeping your pooch's pearly whites sparkling will also make puppy kisses a whole lot more enjoyable, and who doesn't like those? In the end, it's up to you to make the call, but a bit of work now could save you tons down the road.