How to Care for Your Dog's Teeth

It's not very nice when you hug your dog, only to be almost knocked out by his bad
breath. What can you do to keep his breath fresh and his teeth sparkling clean?

1. Brush his teeth. The most important part of caring for your dog's teeth is brushing
them at least once a day. Use a soft toothbrush with a small head, and toothpaste
specifically designed for dogs. If your dog really doesn't like the toothbrush, use a
small finger brush that fits over your fingertip, and use that to clean his teeth. Gently
clean all surfaces of his teeth. This will remove any plaque before it creates a
problem.

2. Change his diet. There are prescription dry dog foods available that help to control plaque accumulation on your dog's teeth. These foods work very well, but for your dog to benefit from them, they should make up at least 25% of his daily diet. If you just use them as a treat, then they're not going to have much of an effect at all.

3. Give him dental chews. Beef hide chews can be manufactured to include an enzyme that keeps your dog's gum bacteria under control. These chews also physically clean plaque off his teeth before it becomes hard tartar.

4. Use a water additive. Some additives contain enzymes that kill bacteria, others contain enzymes that help to break down accumulations of plaque. On their own, they don't work well enough to completely clean your dog's teeth but can be used as one part of a complete dental care program.

5. Should you feed your dog bones? In the past, dogs were fed bones to clean their teeth and keep their breath fresh. These days, veterinary dentists believe that bones cause more harm than good. Bones can cause broken teeth, intestinal obstructions and constipation. It is safer not to give your dog any bones at all, and just rely on his toothbrush to keep his teeth in good health.

6. Schedule a regular dental exam. Just like you, your dog should have a dental check up with his veterinarian twice a year. This is usually done under a general anesthetic because it isn't possible to fully examine his mouth while he is awake and wriggling. During this visit, his teeth will be x-rayed to make sure there isn't any root disease that isn't obvious when you look inside his mouth. An ultrasonic scaler will then be used to remove any plaque and tartar, then his teeth will be polished until smooth.

It can take a little bit of time and effort to properly care for your dog's teeth and gums. You may also find your dog doesn't like you brushing his teeth. It's worth persisting, because dental disease is uncomfortable and can make his life less pleasant. If you take good care of his teeth, his breath will be fresh and he will be much more pleasant to cuddle.