Brush those Teeth, it’s for more than a Great Smile! …. Part 1 of 3

Welcome back to Daisy’s Rescue.  We are all about helping owners and rescue groups to learn helpful tricks and tips on how to take care of your dog(s). We are here for you to help with useful information on all types of routine dog care. Please feel free to leave comments and questions you may have for us. For your convenience we have added links to the products that we like to use, here in the article for you to find them more easily.

Today’s lesson is part one of a three part article on Doggie Dental Hygiene. Usually we stay to a single post articles, but we had so much information to tell you we are dividing it up into three posts. Most people don’t realize that taking care of your dogs teeth does a great deal more than just keep them clean.  Good hygiene in your dogs mouth prevents gingivitis and periodontitis, two major causes of tooth loss in dogs and a bunch of other seemingly unrelated illnesses. Believe it or not, bad teeth and dental disease can cause heart, kidney, and liver disease. This also happens to be true in humans too.  It is generally recognized that 80 to 85% of dogs over 4 years old  have some degree of dental disease. So, it is no surprise that the number one medical condition that Veterinarian’s see is dental disease. Oddly enough, dental disease is probably the easiest condition that can be prevented.

Before I go any further, I have to say, I’m not a dentist, veterinarian, canine nutritionist or sales rep. for any products that I mention in my blogs. I’m just conveying to you what I have learned over my experiences, in hope, that it will help you take good care of your dog. My dogs / pack are just as important to me as any other family members I have, and I personally do all I can to take the very best care of them.

Now before we can talk about dental disease, we need to know what it is. Dental disease is the build up of plaque, tartar, and bacteria on the teeth and gums. The gums become irritated, turn red and become inflamed or look swollen. The inflamed gums cause pain and will continue to get worsen over time. If left untreated by your vet they can eventually lead to missing teeth and jaw bone damage in your dog.

Every time a dog eats, the saliva, food, and bacteria form plaque. Plaque is a sticky substance that stays on the surface of teeth after eating. When plaque forms on the teeth, it will quickly start to turn hard into a calcium like substance. This hardened substance is known as tartar. When plaque and tartar form, the build-up starts to pull the gums away from the teeth and allow bacteria to go below the surface of the gum line and start to attack the teeth at the roots. This bacteria will also attack the bone of the jaw and even enter the blood, causing other organs to become diseased. Doggie Dental hygiene is no joke!

There are several reasons why dogs develop dental disease. One of them is simply genetics.  Certain dog breeds and even small breed dogs can often be predisposed to dental problems. Greyhounds are notorious for having bad teeth. Dachshunds are also known to have frequent dental disease. When dogs are rescued from puppy mills we often see them with advanced gingivitis & periodontal disease, this is in part because of the lack of fresh, clean water. When dogs are imprisoned in puppy mills, they often do not get enough water. The water that they do receive is usually from water droppers (like the kind used for mice and hamsters), this does not allow enough water to be taken into the mouth to wash the teeth like natural drinking. Many dogs will lose up to all of their teeth when they are rescued.

In order to identify if your dog has dental disease you have to know what to look for. Bad breath is a telltale sign that your dog has something going on inside that mouth. Other symptoms include, but are not limited too, red inflamed/puffy gums, bleeding gums, stained teeth, loose teeth, and hard yellowing deposits on the teeth particularly at the base. If you see your dog rubbing his nose on the ground after a meal, that could indicate that the dog has some mouth pain. The pain could be from having bad teeth or gum disease. Another cause of a dog rubbing his nose could be an allergy as well.

If unchecked dental disease will cause teeth to become loose and fall out, the jaw bone could become diseased. The bacteria could spread to the heart, kidneys, and liver. When we bring a Dachshund into rescue, if the teeth are bad, you can almost guarantee that dog will have a heart murmur. The good news is that once the teeth are cleaned and the gums heal, the heart murmur either goes away completely or at the very least lessens.

Now how do we prevent dental disease? It’s quite simple… brush those teeth! Brushing is the easiest way to clean the teeth and ensure a healthy dog. To provide the best possible out come for your dog, brush his teeth twice a day after each meal. Now, I know most of you are saying that’s crazy. Twice a day is the best scenario, if you can’t do that, once a day is ok, not optimal, but will do a reasonable job. Obviously, whatever you do to clean your dogs teeth is much better than doing nothing. When I get a new puppy or even a new foster dog regardless of the age, the first thing I do is start playing with their mouth and paws. By playing with their mouths and paws, I’m conditioning them to allow me to examine, brush their teeth, and also cut their toe nails.

There are many products out on the market that are designed to clean your dogs teeth. These products range from you doing nothing to the dog, to the actual brushing of teeth. Again, the more you do for your individual pet the better the results will ultimately be. Buyer beware! Every product claims to have clinic studies backing up the results that are supposed to come from the use of the product. I use common sense, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Also, think about what the product claims and use common sense. The bottom line on dental products is this, you need to kill bacteria and remove physical particulate from the teeth surfaces.

One thing you need to know, if you spend some quality time and money now buying dental care products and brushing your pet’s teeth, you will save both money, as well as, pain and suffering of your dog later. The average cost of dental cleaning $ 300, my girl Duchess cost over $ 1,000 to take care of her dental disease.  We brought her into rescue and had her teeth cleaned. She had 9 teeth removed during her dental cleaning (and that was in addition to the 9 she was already missing due to lack of dental care), so in the end she had lost more than half her total teeth. (Duchess was a Dachshund) So the old cliche is all too true, a once of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Her one canine tooth that was pulled created a fistula (a hole in her gum that went into her sinus cavity. That hole had to be closed, the closure didn’t work at first, so she had to have a second surgery to get the hole repaired.  At this point, Duchess is 15 years old and has 18 teeth missing and we are working hard to save the others with daily teeth cleaning.

One of the first things we do when in dog rescue with the intake of a new foster dog, is to evaluate the teeth. They frequently need to see a veterinarian to be put on both pain meds and antibiotics to take care of the infected gums and to allow the dog to eat pain free. Sadly, it’s not at all uncommon to have the new foster animal on heart meds because of murmurs caused by the gum disease. Usually within a few weeks after the dental the heart murmur goes away or dissipate to a level were medicine is not needed.

Now what do we use to clean the dogs teeth? There are few different products, each one has its own unique advantages and I will explain them here. The products range from pouring liquid into water and allowing your dog to drink it, all the way to the tooth paste that you brush their teeth with. We will start with the easiest to use first.

PlaqueOff, Proden PlaqueOff Dental Care for DogsThis is an all natural seaweed powder, that is sprinkled into the food dish on top of their food to be ingested by your dog. The seaweed is supposed to have antibacterial properties that will kill the bad bacteria in the mouth that causes plaque and tartar. The manufacture claims that this will not only stop the development of plaque but remove existing plaque and tartar. I have used this product. I typically use this when I get a new dog in to foster. I have found that this powder softens the plaque and tartar making it easier for the plaque and tartar to be removed during dental cleaning. My senior girl, Duchess had bad, stinky breath and I used this product in addition to regular brushing and her breath didn’t get much better. In PlaqueOff’s defense Duchess had been living with really bad teeth that had gone untreated for a very long time. However, our dog, Daisy has used the Proden PlaqueOff and the tartar build-up softened right up, enough so that I was able to scrap her teeth and clean most of the heavy plaque off myself. No veterinarian needed.


Daisy getting gel applied to her teeth.
Daisy getting gel applied to her teeth.

There are also many different products that come in a liquid that you can buy and add to the water that your dog drinks and it is supposed to stop or at least inhibit the build-up of new plaque and tartar to your dogs teeth, some even claim they clean the teeth of existing plaque and tartar. These products aim to change the PH value in your dogs mouth. Making the mouth environment more acidic to kill/ prevent more bacteria. What you need to remember is that the bacteria is only part of the equation here. You still have the accumulation of solid food particles. While killing bacteria helps, it isn’t the end all be all. Be careful choosing a liquid product, look for certain ingredients like, chlorhexidine gluconate or Cetylpyridinium Chloride which are antiseptics used to kill the bacteria.  Tropiclean Fresh Breath Plaque Remover Pet Water Additive, uses Cetylpyridinium Chloride as an antiseptic. Nylabone Advanced Oral Care Liquid Tartar Remover, changes the PH in the dogs mouth to create an environment that is harder for bacteria to survive. I have not used this product, so I’m not endorsing it, but have it here as an example of other types of water additives. I do use Natural Chemistry Dental Cleanse Oral Hygiene Treatment for Dogs, I like it because it does not contain sweeteners and other unsavory ingredients such as dyes.

This is the end of part one. Next week part two will be posted. Part two is going to be about gels and paste. If you have any questions please leave a comment and we will get back to you as soon as possible.



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