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Keeping Your Dog’s Teeth Healthy

Imagine if you didn’t brush your teeth daily; your gums would get infected and you would get cavities. This can happen to your dog’s teeth as well. Puppies have 28 deciduous teeth that typically fall out by about six months of age, so dental care should begin then. Ideally, a dog’s teeth should be brushed two to three times weekly. In honor of February being Pet Dental Health Month, here are some tips for making sure your dog has good oral hygiene and not stinky breath!

Brushing Materials. Buy your dog a pet toothbrush and pet toothpaste, or make your own using baking soda and water. Human toothpaste can give your dog a stomach ache. They even have canine toothbrushes that can fit over your finger called “finger brushes” that can help massage the gums. If your dog is under 6 months, never use fluoride as this can harm the enamel.

Teeth brushing. Your dog may not be used to you having your hand in his mouth. Start out by massaging his lips in a circular motion, then progress to the teeth and gums. Once your dog is familiar with this procedure, position the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle and brush the teeth in small, circular motions. The outer surface of the teeth that face the cheek is where the tartar hides.

Gum disease. Your dog’s gums should be pink, not white or red and should not be swollen. Research shows that 98% of dogs with bad breath are suffering from periodontal disease, which happens when plaque builds-up. If left untreated, this can lead to a bacterial infection that can enter the bloodstream and spread to your dog’s kidney, liver, heart and even its brain. Symptoms of gum disease include:

    • Bad breath
    • Swollen gums
    • Excessive drooling
    • Tumors in the gums
    • Loose teeth

Oral rinses. If you have a hard time brushing your dog’s teeth, oral rinses are available. You can also purchase dental treats.

Professional cleaning. If your dog has gingivitis or gum disease, a special dental cleaning may be suggested which will require general anesthesia. Your dog’s gums will be scaled and his teeth polished. You may also be referred to a veterinary dentist for any specialty procedures.

Like regular grooming, your dog will get used to regular dental care. Dental hygiene is just as important to your dog as good nutrition or lots of exercise. To keep your dog healthy, don’t forget the pearly whites!

Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery County, northern Chester County and eastern Berks County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit www.barkbusters.com.

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