February is Pet Dental Health Month—a good time to remember that dogs have oral care needs too. While dental health may not be at the top of your pet care priorities, it is important to your dog's health. Taking care of his choppers not only curbs dog breath and helps prevent periodontal disease (the most commonly diagnosed disease among dogs aged 3+), it can actually help him live a healthier life.
The best way to keep your dog's teeth clean is to brush them regularly. Look for a finger brush, which is a little sleeve that fits over your finger. It's easy to use and its textured design provides effective scrubbing. You can also use a toothbrush that's specifically designed for dogs. And be sure to use only dog toothpaste, which is available at pet stores. Human toothpaste foams too easily and may be harmful if swallowed by your dog. For the ultimate in oral care, you can try using oral rinses that are made for pets.
Simple tips for better oral health
Watch his diet. Studies show that hard kibble is slightly better at keeping plaque from accumulating on the teeth. If you feed your dog canned food exclusively, try mixing dry and canned food together. Over time, give him less wet food and more dry kibble.
Give him something to chew on. There are many products available online or at your local pet store that will benefit your dog's teeth and gums. Be careful not to choose anything too large or hard that could break his teeth. Do not use toys that are abrasive and can wear down the teeth.
Look for tartar control treats. There are some dental chews specifically designed to help control plaque and tartar buildup, such as PEDIGREE® DENTABONE® Snack for Dogs and PEDIGREE® DENTASTIX™ Daily Oral Care Snack Food for Dogs. Make sure the snacks you choose are clinically proven.
Consider drinking water additives. Drinking water additives reduce plaque and tartar by killing the bacteria in your dog's mouth—they also help to reduce tooth decay. If your veterinarian thinks this is a good idea for your dog, simply mix the additive with the water in your dog's bowl, making sure you follow the directions.
Avoid feeding your dog table scraps or sweet treats because they can increase the buildup of plaque and tartar, and may lead to other health problems.
Whether you choose to use brushing, chews, drinking water additives, or a combination of the three, be sure to keep up with it. With a little vigilance on your part, you can help your dog maintain good oral health—and that could mean better overall health and a longer life.