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Oral Care: Preventing Gum Disease & Serious Problems

happy dog lying on floor with toothy grin

With proper daily oral care and a healthy diet, you can make a positive difference in the health of your dog’s teeth and gums.

When it comes to taking care of their dog’s health, most pet owners think about vaccinations, regular vet visits, nutritious food, and exercise. Unfortunately, an oral care regimen isn’t a top priority for them. But it should be: 4 out of 5 dogs over age 3 develop periodontal disease.*

Oral care: It’s more important than just white teeth

The fact that so many dogs eventually develop periodontal disease is startling. But in some cases the problem can be even more serious: It’s been shown that periodontal disease, if left untreated, is associated with the development of other serious health problems for a dog. This happens because bacteria from the mouth may enter the bloodstream and spread to the heart, lung, kidneys, and other organs.

So, as you can see, proper oral care for your dog is about more than just fresher breath and white teeth.

How teeth & gum problems begin

Every time your dog eats, food particles stick to his teeth—and where there’s food, there’s bacteria. If not removed, food particles mix with saliva and bacteria to form plaque.

Within a few days, plaque calcifies and hardens into tartar (sometimes called calculus). Tartar also provides a home for more plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums, and may result in a common condition known as gingivitis.

Warning signs of gingivitis include:

  • Bad breath
  • Reddening and swelling of the gums where they meet the teeth
  • Bleeding of the gums

Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, is a beginning stage of periodontal disease. Once gingivitis develops, the gums begin to recede and separate from the teeth. The space between them can become filled with even more food and bacteria, thereby exacerbating the problem. Gingivitis is reversible with proper oral care. If left untreated, however, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a nonreversible stage of periodontal disease. This condition can result in bone and tooth loss, as well as infection. So, as you can see, it’s important to begin an oral care routine early in your dog’s life—and then maintain it on a daily basis.

Tips for better oral care

Daily brushing—The best way to help keep your dog’s teeth clean is to brush them daily. You’ll find a variety of specially designed toothbrushes for dogs at your local pet specialty store, or you can use a very soft human toothbrush. But be sure to use only toothpaste that is developed for dogs. Toothpaste made for humans contains fluoride and detergents that can be harmful when swallowed by your dog. It's easy to learn how to brush dog teeth.

Regular veterinary exams and cleanings—In addition to toothbrushing, regular dental exams and cleanings by your veterinarian will help to keep your dog’s mouth healthy. Your vet can help spot and treat problems before they become more serious issues.

The role of diet in better oral care

What you feed your dog can have a significant impact on the health of his teeth and gums.

Proper diet—Studies show that, in general, dry food helps keep teeth clean by reducing plaque and tartar accumulation on the teeth. The new PEDIGREE® Food for Dogs adult recipes feature a patented X-shaped kibble. This special shape was developed based on research from Waltham Petcare Science Institute, a world leading authority on pet care and nutrition—and helps clean teeth down to the gum line while your dog chews.

In addition, you can feed your dog specially designed oral care snacks & treats, such as PEDIGREE® DENTASTIX™ treats for dogs. These treats are clinically proven to reduce tartar buildup by up to 80%.

Avoid feeding your dog table scraps—Your dog may love table scraps, but human food provides extra calories, and increases the buildup of plaque and tartar on your dog's teeth.

With proper daily oral care and a healthy diet, you can make a positive difference in the health of your dog’s teeth and gums. In addition, you should maintain a regular schedule of veterinarian appointments. Your vet will examine your dog’s teeth and gums and treat them, if and when necessary. If you notice signs of gingivitis or periodontal disease in your dog’s mouth, make an appointment with your vet right away.

*American Veterinary Medical Association

  • When Should You Switch Your Senior Dog to Soft Food?

    smiling lab sitting in front of brick wall


    As your dog ages, you’ll likely notice changes in your best pal’s energy levels, routine and even muzzle. Older pets may require adjustments to help them get around, exercise and live their best life as a senior. One important aspect of caring for a dog entering their golden years is diet.

    When it comes to diet, every dog has unique, individual needs, regardless of age. So, there's no one easy answer to the question of soft food versus hard food. Both types of food can provide your dog with the nutrition they need — as long as you feed your dog a high-quality dog food that’s nutritionally balanced and complete.

    two dogs eating from two bowls

    Signs Your Senior Dog May Benefit from Wet Food

    If your dog has very specific health concerns, such as aging joints or weight issues, consult with your vet for more information about what type of food best addresses your dog's needs. That being said, there are a few reasons why you may consider switching your senior dog to soft food.
     

    fluffy brown dog yawning showing teeth

    Teeth Sensitivity

    As your dog gets older, their teeth may become more sensitive, which can make chewing kibble more difficult and even uncomfortable. Switching to a soft food can help to alleviate your pet’s oral discomfort when eating.

    However, if your dog is experiencing serious pain at mealtime from a condition like tooth decay or gingivitis, switching to soft food won't remedy the problem. Make sure you talk to your vet about oral care and dental treatment.

    Digestion Aid

    Digestion begins in the mouth with saliva, so if your dog has a tendency to scarf down meals, they may not be adequately chewing the food or adding enough saliva to it. Soft food can aid with digestion because it's more easily chewed.

    Hydration Help

    It’s no surprise that wet food has a higher moisture content when compared to dry kibble. If your senior pup is prone to urinary-tract issues or simply needs a little help staying hydrated, canned dog food may be a good choice.

    girl kissing older dog on the head

    Slower Metabolism

    Aging dogs tend to have a slower metabolic rate compared to their younger years, which puts them at a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. Many nutritionally balanced wet dog foods offer high protein content with fewer carbs than dry food, which can benefit older dogs with slower metabolism. Always talk to your vet if you have concerns about your pup’s weight.

    Picky Eaters

    While wet food may be less than appetizing to humans, the opposite is true for dogs! If your aging best friend has started turning their snout up to dry food, wet food tends to be more appealing to picky eaters. Mixing wet food and kibble offers your pup a variety of flavors and textures; try adding wet food as a topper on dry food for a real treat!

    Whether you choose dry food, soft food  or a mix of both, ask your vet before making any transition. And when it's time to switch your dog's food, remember to do it slowly — even if it's the same brand and flavor — to help prevent stomach upset and allow your dog time to adjust.

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