Bad doggy breath is often the first sign of poor oral health but it doesn’t stop there. Bacteria in the mouth can spread to other parts of the body, causing infections and inflammations. Plaque and tartar build-up on your pet’s teeth can do irreversible damage to both his oral and heart health. Let’s take a look at some of the best practices in proper dental care for dogs.
Tartar vs Plaque: Is there a difference?
Plaque is a yellow film of bacteria that covers the dog’s teeth and can be removed by regular brushing. If plaque sits on the teeth for too long, it hardens and becomes tartar. Tartar usually has a darker colour and can only be removed through professional dental scaling. Tartar build up will irritate the gums, causing receding gums and inflammation (gingivitis).
Today, it is estimated that over 70% of dogs have some degree of gum disease by their second year of life. A dog’s diet and dental care routine plays a major role here.
Signs of gum disease to look out for:
- Red, inflamed gums
- Stinky breath
- Bleeding gums
- Receding gums
How to take care of your dog’s teeth and gums
The gold standard is to brush daily or at least 3 to 4 times weekly for healthy dog teeth and gums. The TropiClean Fresh Breath - Oral Care Kit (Toothbrush, Finger Brush & Gel) for Dogs comes with both a normal toothbrush and a finger brush. If your pup is new to teeth brushing, start with the finger brush. The shorter bristles may not be as effective as a regular toothbrush but it’s a good training tool to get your pup used to the brushing motion.
Do NOT use human toothbrushes and toothpaste on dogs! The human toothbrush bristles are too hard and will hurt the dog’s gums. Our human toothpaste is made with detergents, fluoride, sodium lauryl sulphate and artificial sweeteners like xylitol that can be harmful if swallowed by dogs.
Dental wipes like the TropiClean Fresh Breath Dental Wipes For Dogs is another good option to start with for dogs new to brushing. Take a piece of wipe, wrap it around your finger and wipe the gunk off your pup’s teeth.
In an event that brushing or wiping is not an option at all, you can consider using a no-brushing dental gel. Apply the Tropiclean Fresh Breath - No Brushing Clean Teeth Gel for Dogs (Berry Fresh). After application, you'll notice your pup licking their lips repeatedly. This actually helps to coat the gel unto the dog’s teeth and gums. Do not give food and water for 30 minutes before and after application for maximum effect.
Finally, there’s the dental rinse. Dental rinses are not meant to replace brushing. They contain enzymes that slow down plaque and bacteria build up. It’s a good complement to brushing if you are not able to brush regularly. However, dogs with sensitive tummy may not react well to water additives. Tropiclean Fresh Breath - No Brushing Water Additive for Dogs.
For bad breath, the Tropiclean Fresh Breath - No Brushing Oral Care Spray for Dogs (Peanut Butter) will quickly freshens breath. Again, this cannot replace regular brushing. If bad breath persists, it can be one of the first signs of oral disease. Check for signs of gum disease and arrange to visit the vet for a more thorough examination.
Professional Dental Scaling
It is recommended to visit the vet once yearly for an oral exam. Based on the vet’s findings, they may recommend a dental treatment. Prior to the oral exam and cleaning, your pup will undergo a physical exam and blood tests to ensure she can be safely anesthetized for the procedure. Veterinary dental cleanings require general anaesthesia and that is because it’s dangerous to use sharp instruments in the mouth of a conscious animal.
Your pup should begin recovering from the anaesthetic within a few hours, though it can take up to 48 hours to fully recover. During this time, your pup will most likely seem drowsy.
Dog dental cleaning costs in Singapore usually start from SGD$250 for small breed dogs. The starting cost differs according to the breed and condition of the dog’s oral health. Do take note that consultation fees, the costs of blood tests or other diagnostic tests are usually not included in the dental cleaning cost.
A Dental Care-Friendly Diet
A nutritionally balanced diet is the first step to a healthy mouth. Just like humans, your pup needs adequate calcium and zinc for healthy teeth and gums. Most commercial dog food is designed to be nutritionally balanced. However, depending on your pup’s breed, age and existing health condition, additional nutrients may be required. Discuss with your vet if you suspect your pup may need additional minerals or antioxidants for better dental health.
Some food items like raw meaty bones can help to prevent plaque formation. Raw bones act as a kind of natural toothbrush and dental floss. In our next article, we will be highlighting some natural foods and treats that can help to control plaque formation.
Remember, proper dental care starts at home and it will help to promote a healthier life for your dogs. Do brush up, at least 3 to 4 times weekly. If brushing is not possible, consider one of the other no-brushing dental care solutions and visit the vet yearly for a thorough oral examination to maintain the dental hygiene for your dogs!
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and have been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.