Cirnechi Chat May 2009 Reprint

What can I do to help care for my dog’s teeth?

Dental care is very important, as dental disease promotes infection which can travel to the heart valves

and internal organs. This is especially evident as we take better care of our dogs and they live to older ages. Dental problems can be quite uncomfortable, particularly in cases of abscessed teeth. It is helpful to feed dog kibble dry rather than moistened so that in the act of chewing the kibble will help clean the teeth. If there is choice of size of kibble (i.e. large vs small bites,) the largest size that the dog will chew is best. (Of course if the dog does not actually chew the food, kibble size does not matter!) Plain dog biscuits are also helpful. I like to use a biscuit that is at least as wide as the biggest tooth in the mouth (the upper fourth premolar, you can see it towards the back of the upper arcade of teeth) and I like to give biscuits after each meal to help clean the teeth. Rawhide bones can also help .It is important to sort out what type of rawhide (bones of various sizes or strips) works best in your dog. Some tend to eat a whole bone in one sitting, and swallow big bits of it. They may be better off with strips, or a limited period of chewing time. With some of my own dogs I have given them rawhide bones while I was drinking my coffee or otherwise briefly engaged, and would trade them a biscuit for the bone after a while and put it up until the next day. The ultimate in dental care is to actually brush the teeth. It is important to use dog toothpaste as the flouride in human toothpaste should not be swallowed by your dog. It is easiest to introduce toothbrushing to puppies. Dogs will best accept it if you are patient and take your time, letting them first just eat the flavored paste off your finger, then gently move your finger around, then let them eat it off the brush, then actually progress to brushing. I use the term “brush” loosely. It seems to work best if you let them chew on the paste and brush while you gently guide the brush into various areas.

If this seems too cumbersome, or the dog does not accept it, there are oral rinses, and gels that may be used. There is also an excellent once weekly product called Oravet. If the teeth accumulate excess tartar despite your efforts, your veterinarian may recommend a dental cleaning under anesthesia. I do not recommend real bones or cow hooves, as dogs often fracture their teeth on them, which will necessitate a tooth extraction.

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