Dental Care for Dogs

It would be nice if our dogs could rinse their mouth after every meal they have. But as they cannot, the immediate effect- Bad breath. Dental problems  (periodontal disease) are the most common disease in our canine companions. Infact it is more seen in dogs than in humans. So it comes as no surprise that 80 percent of the dogs show signs of dental problems by the age of four. This article will give you some basics on what problems your dog might face and a few preventive tips.

Problem areas

Dogs rarely get cavities, but like humans, dogs’ buildup tartar and plaque. Plaque is the soft and sticky substance that accumulates on the teeth from food debris and bacteria. Food particles and bacteria collect along the gums thus forming this sticky, colourless layer of harmful bacteria. Plaque if not removed regularly builds up further and forms tartar. It takes less than 36 hours for this plaque to become mineralized and harden into “tartar” (calculus) that cannot be removed with a brush. This further leads to bleeding and infected gums. Such untreated infections within the mouth can be carried by the blood stream to other parts of the body such as liver kidneys etc. But with the right preventive care, dental diseases are treatable.

Here are some facts

  • Dogs grow thier first set of teeth in the 1st three weeks of their birth
  • By the 8th week, a puppy should have a full set of 28 teeth consisting of pre molars (not full molars), incisors and canines
  • They start losing their 1st set of teeth by the third month
  • An adult dog has 42 teeth: Lower jaw (mandible) -22; Upper jaw (maxilla)-20.
  • Here is the break up: 12 incisors; 4 canines; 10 molars-4 upper and 6 lower; 16 pre molars

Indicators of tartar buildup

Sticky food tends to remain in the mouth and thus giving ample amount of time for the bacteria to set in. Soft foods when mixed with saliva become sticky and collect along the gums. Irregular denture structure is also a reason for such formation. As the teeth are not set in a straight line, food particles tend to get stuck in them a lot more and cleaning/ brushing them is even more difficult.  Non-brushing is also one of the key reasons for tartar formation. Brush your dogs’ teeth on a regular basis to avoid any periodontal diseases.

Keep looking for:

  • Bad Breath
  • Teeth yellowing
  • Inflamed & Bleeding gums
  • Decayed teeth/Teeth turning black

How do you prevent it?

Dog Diet– Giving your dog dry food is one way of preventing tartar buildup to a certain extent. Wet food tends to stick to the gum areas more and thus make home for bacteria. Most dog foods today have an ingredient- Sodium HexaMetaPhospate which works as an agent to remove surface stains and provides anti-tartar benefits. Dry pellets and hard crunchy biscuits work best as it is necessary for the dog to chew them. Make sure you follow every meal with a large bowl of fresh drinking water. But do not follow this for pups. Pups tend to swallow the pellets as they are resulting stomach upsets.  So soaking the food in luke warm water would help them gobble up their food.

Chewies– Chewing sticks and bones are by far the most popular for teeth cleaning. Crunching on hard biscuits/kibbles/ chewing bones basically scrapes the plaque without really harming the enamel. Sticks and bones do not go soft and they also go on for a longer time. There is a huge variety available in the market for chewing sticks in terms of flavours and size. Beef, chicken, natural, mints are just few  of them. So figure out what your dog likes most and stock them up. It is said that, dogs who chew more, have considerably less tartar formation.

Brushing – Brushing is recommended for dogs atleast once a week. Do not treat it like a chore, but more like spending quality time with your canine companion. Owners who start brushing their dogs’ teeth since puppy days show a very good response as they grow up. Plaque usually affects the upper, back teeth first and especially just under the gum line. Also plaque collects more on the front surface. So while brushing make sure you pay special attention to these areas.

Why professional dental cleaning

With all the home remedies in place, it would be still advisable to get your dogs dental check up done every 3 months and a dental scaling atleast once a year. If you are brushing your dogs teeth since he was a pup, the professional dental cleaning may be prolonged and you might require it much later in the dogs life. But, if you notice that tartar has already formed or teeth have started yellowing then, brushing at this stage may not help. A professional dental cleaning will remove plaque, encrusted tartar and any stains above and below the gum line and thus restoring your dogs teeth. The older the dog gets, the more important it is to avoid plaque and tartar formation. Studies show that bacteria from dental diseases can move systematically into the vital organs. Infected gums and teeth are potentially harmful to the heart, kidneys, liver, intestinal tract as well as joints. A healthy mouth therefore is an important step in your dog’s overall good health

What is involved in dental cleaning?

Dental cleaning procedure requires the pet to be anaesthetized. Your pet has to fast for atleast 10-12 hours before for the anesthesia. The procedure is very similar to a human dental cleaning – tartar removal, checking for cavities, loose teeth, extraction of decayed tooth and finally, polishing. The polishing is to smooth the tooth after tartar removal, as the tartar pits the tooth. A smooth tooth will not encourage tartar formation as easily as a roughened tooth. The procedure cost ranges between Rs 1000 to Rs 2000.

Product Watch

Goldies chewing bones- Available in various sizes –Choose based on your dog breed and age of the dog

Bone-A-Mint- makes sure your dog has a fresh minty breath; It’s a vegetarian wheat free product.

Twistix- Chewing sticks

DentaPure-Chewing sticks

DentaPaste- Toothpaste for dogs

PlaqueOffTM– An oral tablet made from natural substance derived from sea weeds. It has an ability to dissolve tartar and also prevent new layers of plaque