February is National Pet Dental Health Month. We love our dogs and appreciate their affectionate slurpy face kisses, but not if their breath could kill a moose. The bacteria from nasty teeth cause the odor.
About 80 percent of dogs develop dental problems, periodontal disease, by age three! Small breed dogs tend to have more problems but all dogs can develop dental problems. Veterinarians can professionally clean your dog’s teeth by anesthetizing them first, but that can be pricy. It’s much easier and less expensive to prevent dental problems before they start. Here are five tips to brighten your dog’s smile.
Feed Crunchy Foods
While dry commercial diets won’t do the whole job, they don’t contribute to tartar buildup as much as canned diets do. You can also look for therapeutic “dental diets” or regular foods labeled to promote dog dental health. These have special ingredients that help prevent tarter from adhering to the teeth, or fiber that helps scrub as the dog chews.
Treat With Healthy Chews
Chewing fresh vegetables like carrots or apples have a “detergent” action. These foods gently scrub the teeth as the dog chews. Many dogs like the flavor, too. Commercial dental treats also work well to help prevent dental problems.
Offer A Dental Rinse
You can’t get a dog to gargle with mouthwash. But there are commercial dental rinses you can add to your dog’s drinking water, or squirt in their mouth.
Avoid Hard Chews
Chewing is a natural dog behavior. But veterinary dentists warn that dogs often break teeth by chewing very hard objects. Avoid chew hooves, for example, and supervise your dog if they indulge in rock or fence chewing.
Give Dental Toys
A wide variety of doggy dental toys are available, from “chew ropes” that actually clean and floss teeth, to puzzle toys that encourage therapeutic gnawing. You can stuff puzzle toys with commercial dental treats for a double-whammy of tooth help.
Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, consultant to the pet care industry and the award winning author of 23 pet care books.