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Tips on caring for your dog's teeth

American Kennel Club on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. Caring for your dog’s teeth isn't just an important part of grooming and keeping your dog looking her best, it's also an integral part of keeping her healthy on a larger scale. Regular dental care and brushing is essential to prevent bad breath and gum disease.

The American Kennel Club shares the following clues and signals that may mean poor dental health in your pup:

• Bad breath. Contrary to popular belief, bad breath is not natural for dogs. Plaque and tartar builds up on dogs’ teeth similarly to how it can in our own mouths. If their teeth aren’t brushed regularly, this bacteria gets caught below the gum line and results in bad breath. This foul odor is more than just puppy breath and can be a sign of periodontal disease in your dog.

• Look for signs of gum disease. If you notice bleeding or inflammation of your dog’s gums, or she shows signs of pain during brushings, bring her to the vet, as these may be signs of gum disease. The most common indication of dental pain is lethargy. It’s important to regularly examine your dog’s teeth because untreated oral infections could spread to other areas of her body. If you see that she has accumulated brown tartar, she needs to have a professional dental cleaning.

• Loose or broken teeth. Your dog’s teeth should not move or shift in the gums. If they do, it could be a warning sign of a number of things, such as a fractured root or even a disease causing poor bone support. Sometimes the things our dogs get their mouths on can even break their teeth. When a tooth breaks and exposes a nerve, it can be very painful for the dog and requires attention as soon as possible. If you notice your dog has loose or broken teeth, a trip to the veterinary dentist is necessary to ensure your dog’s overall health and happiness.


To prevent dental issues in your pup, consider the following steps:

• Brush your dog’s teeth. Using flavored enzymatic toothpaste specially formulated for dogs and a doggie or child’s toothbrush, brush your dog’s teeth on a daily basis. Brush her teeth like you would your own and focus extra attention on the gum line.

• Familiarize your dog. Start with short brushing sessions, even letting your dog just lick the brush or just touch the brush to one tooth so she gets used to it and begins to accept the process. Work up to more thorough brushing sessions. Give different flavors of toothpaste a try and see which one she likes best. Make sure to reward her with praise and a dental treat to keep her happy and comfortable.

• Dental chews and toys. There are many dental chews and products on the market advertised to help with canine oral health. Dog chews are not only created for play and preventing destructive behavior, some are intended for the sole purpose of dental health. Be cautious and informed before purchasing. Many are too hard and can cause dental fractures or pose choking hazards. Consult with your veterinarian if you are uncertain on which chews to give your dog.

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