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Dachshund getting teeth examined by veterinarian on white background.

You may have heard that it’s unnecessary for you to maintain your dog’s dental hygiene because dogs will instinctively take care of their teeth by chewing. However, this belief is not entirely accurate. Like humans, dogs can suffer periodontal disease, tooth decay, injured teeth and other oral problems. Beyond discomfort and bad breath, these dental problems can lead to serious health issues.

Over the years as both a private practice Veterinarian and dog owner, I’ve learned that when it comes to dental hygiene, taking preventative steps at home along with regular office visits are well worth the effort. Not only for your pet’s overall health and comfort, but for your budget as well. Canine teeth cleaning or periodontal care performed by a veterinarian is a costly medical treatment and requires that your dog be sedated. 
Why not try to minimize the need if you can?

What You Need to Know About Your Dog’s Oral Health

Plaque

The first buildup of material growing on the enamel of the tooth within hours of your dog eating. Plaque combines with dog saliva, builds up and hardens, resulting in damage causing tartar.

Tartar
Comprised of various organic materials such as bacteria, serum, food particles and mineral salts. In the early stages, tartar begins as soft matter on the tooth enamel, but will build-up and harden as time passes.

Why Prevent Tartar Build-Up?
Tartar build up can cause gum inflammation and disease, tooth decay, abscesses and other oral infections impacting a dog’s overall health.

Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Breath
It’s unreasonable to expect a dog’s breath to be “minty fresh”, but it should be at least neutral. Foul, acrid and sour dog breath could be a sign that there is something occurring in the mouth and requires a visit to the veterinarian. However, do NOT rely solely on your dog’s breath to keep tabs on dental hygiene and make sure to maintain a regular veterinary checkup schedule.

Dental Concerns Vary According to Breed
Smaller breed dogs may have an increased risk for tartar formation, gum recession, and eventual loss of teeth. Whereas large breed dogs in addition to dental tartar build-up, are also at a higher risk for tooth fracturing due to aggressive chewing. Such fractures can lead to decay, infection, tooth loss and disease.

Your Vet Knows Best
Your veterinarian will perform an oral exam during most visits, but especially as part of a routine care visit. If there appears to be tartar build up a more intensive dental cleaning may be prescribed.

Golden Retriever getting it's teeth checked at home.

Dog Oral Care You Can Do At Home

Brushing and Toothpastes 

From disposable dental wipes to dog-friendly flavored toothpaste, a variety of pet-safe dental care products exist in the marketplace. Ask your vet what’s best for your dog and know that some trial and error may be required depending your dog’s breed and temperament.
• Dental wipes are intended for daily use to remove plaque.
• Dog toothbrushes come in all sizes and in general are soft and angled to easily reach the back teeth. Some dog owners prefer “finger brushes” which are soft silicone brushes you insert for finger into for brushing.
• NEVER use toothpaste intended for humans. ONLY use veterinarian-approved toothpaste for dogs. Check the ingredient list to ensure there is no xylitol. Xylitol is potentially fatal to dogs.

Chlorhexidine
In rinse and gel form Chlorhexidine is an effective anti-plaque and antiseptic but not all dogs tolerate the taste. Check with your veterinarian before giving this product a try.

Diet
Feeding your dog a well-balanced diet in accordance with veterinary guidelines for age and breed is an important step in oral health.

Chews
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, not all chews are created equal. Many are too hard and can cause dental fractures or pose choking hazards.

For a complete list of tested and approved  veterinary dental products:

Veterinary Oral Health Council

Veterinary Oral Health Council. VOHC authorizes the use of the VOHC Registered Seal on products intended to help retard plaque and tartar on the teeth of dogs and cats

When it comes to the oral health of your dog, awareness and prevention are in order. 
Your Veterinarian and The American Kennel Club are here to help keep both you and dog your smiling!

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us at enewsletter@akc.org
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