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Tips for Healthy Canine Teeth

Pet Health and Safety  •   Jasey Day  •   Feb 09, 2016


Dirty teeth make stinky doggie breath! One big perk of cleaner teeth is better breath. In addition to improving the “air quality” near your dog’s choppers, providing an environment of good oral hygiene helps maintain general good health for your dog. Ensure the continued health of your dog’s pearly whites by following the below four steps:

1. Offer edible, dental chewies.

Take advantage of enzymatic chewies (a specially treated rawhide chew) and green dental chews – these treats are specially formulated to loosen tartar and control plaque as the dogs chew. These special products should also be easy on our dogs’ digestive systems.  Dogs of all ages need and like to chew anyway, so accomplish dental health at the same time! My dogs do well with the Virbac C.E.T. brand of chewies.

The best place to find safe chewies (green or not green) is your vet’s office; if your vet office doesn’t sell chewies, ask the staff to recommend an appropriate brand.

2. Provide appropriate toys.

Many dogs do well chewing on soft, non-edible bones that have bumps and some flexibility. These bones help remove plaque and clean teeth as the dog enjoys chewing.  Again, ask your vet for recommendations and see what is sold at your vet’s clinic. My dogs do well with the Nylabone brand.

Consider the toys your dog is using. If your dog uses a fake plastic bone for chewing, is it soft enough or so hard that your dog could crack a tooth?  Avoid hard toys that could break teeth and avoid toys that may rub off enamel - even a tennis ball can rub off enamel!

It’s not just chew toys that may be too hard. Your dog’s fetch toy may be too hard for your overly exuberant dog! My dog Cannon would chomp his solid rubber red ball so hard during fetch that he eventually cracked 3 incisors! Age was probably also a factor, as dogs teeth become more fragile over time.  When Cannon was 7, he had 3 incisors removed by the vet and now looks like a pirate when he doggie smiles. I switched to a “hollow,” soft Hol-ee Roller ball for his fetch toy to help protect his remaining choppers!

3. Practice handling of your dog’s muzzle.

Handle your dog’s mouth often – touch his cheeks, touch his lips, hold his muzzle, pull back his lips and look at his teeth. Gradually increase the duration of your exam. Not only does regular handling make an exam at the vet office easier and less stressful for your dog, but regular handling also allows you to see any discoloration or chipped teeth that need to be examined by your vet.

You may want to take handling a step further by brushing your dog’s teeth. Babystep this process by first getting your dog used to having the brush near the teeth, then touching the teeth, and then brushing for longer durations. Be sure to use professional pet toothpaste; dogs cannot use human toothpaste because dogs don’t spit the toothpaste out! Dogs need a safely digestible paste. Try peanut butter or poultry flavor!

4. Consider veterinary dental cleanings when needed.  

Some dogs don’t need regular professional dental cleanings until they are older. Your vet can evaluate the build-up on your dog’s teeth at your annual exam and let you know the best course of action. Dogs who regularly have their teeth brushed and cared for are less likely to need professional dental cleanings - prevention is key!

Many owners dread teeth cleanings due to the cost and mild sedation; however, you can take advantage of having your dog sedated to perform any other needed procedures. I use the dental cleaning as a time to get orthopedic x-rays done or to have a fatty tumor removed. Talk to your vet about the best strategy and consider pet insurance to be reimbursed for some preventative care costs such as your annual wellness exam and dental cleanings. Get a quote today! 


The information provided in this blog is intended for educational purposes only and should not serve as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your veterinarian. Always consult your veterinarian with questions about your pet’s health and before initiating any treatment regimes. 

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