They Call It "Dog Breath" For A Reason


by Dawn Keadic

It's a shame that most dog owners don't realize that dental hygiene is as important for their dogs as it is for themselves. Teeth that have been neglected are subject to several types of mouth disease just like their human friends.

We know that if we don't brush our teeth, plaque will build up and eventually cause tooth decay. The same thing happens to dogs. When plaque builds up and hardens, it becomes a coarse brown substance called tartar. As tartar accumulates, it can work its way under the gums and cause painful infections and gum disease. This goes on in the mouths of dogs just as it does in people. You brush your teeth every day, probably three times, but your dog depends upon you for his dental hygiene.

Veterinarians recommend that dog owners brush their dog's teeth at least twice a week to keep the buildup of tartar at a minimum.

So how do you brush his teeth? Remember your dog's taste and smell are far different form our own. If you think the zesty tingle of your favorite toothpaste will do him good, forget about it. One whiff of that stuff will have him hiding behind the sofa so fast you will never get him near a toothbrush again. Most pet supply stores carry specially designed toothbrushes and toothpaste just for dogs. A small investment in this will make the job much more pleasant for both of you.

Some people don't have the time or patience to brush their dogs' teeth on a regular basis. If you're one of these, you'll want to find an alternative. A dog's natural tendency to chew is a built-in dental care mechanism. Dog biscuits break into small chunks when chewed and rub against the teeth, providing a cleaning service. Biscuits are no substitute for brushing your dog's teeth but they are the next best thing.

Dogs that do not receive proper dental care and do not have access to crunchy teeth cleaning foods run the risk of several types of mouth disease. These can be as mild as gingivitis (a gum disease that results in swollen, inflamed gums) and as serious as a bacterial infection that can spread through the dog's bloodstream causing damage to vital organs. You owe it to yourself and your dog to take care of his teeth or a trip to the veterinarian may become necessary.

Dental services are available for dogs, just like they are for people. A dog's teeth can be filled, capped, and extracted if necessary, just like a human's teeth. These dental procedures can become quite costly. I picked up an old cat at the local shelter that developed dental problems from years of neglect. His teeth became infected and a couple of them had to removed for a bill of just under $600.

The best course of action, however, is to avoid the need for such services by properly caring for your dog's teeth. If you can avoid unnecessary pain and discomfort for your furry friend, you should do so. Preventative dental care for your dog can save you money and him discomfort. As a side benefit, a dog with good teeth will have fresh breath too!


Note: This section of the Canada's Guide to Dogs website is intended as a source of information only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional care. Always consult with your Veterinarian about health related matters.