By the age of three, about three-quarters of dogs will have some form of dental disease. That’s right: three quarters! Just like people, dogs need dental care, and yet most owners don’t understand how to properly care for their furry best friend’s teeth! We’ll go over everything you need to know about dog dental cleaning and hygiene, including:
- Dog dental cleaning costs
- Common issues like dog gum disease
- Dog dental disease treatments
- How to care for your dog’s dental health at home
Gum Disease in Dogs
The most common dental issue dogs experience is gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. There are two forms of gum disease in dogs: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis, the early stage of periodontal disease, is less severe and is caused by the hardening of plaque on your dog’s teeth, which morphs into tartar.
When tartar is above the gum line, it’s relatively easy to eliminate with routine cleanings and brushing. However, when tartar pushes into the gum and reaches below the tooth, it can cause significant problems. It allows plaque bacteria access to the soft tissue below the gum line, leading to inflammation. Inflammation of the gums usually requires medication and many painkillers to treat.
As tissue damage from inflammation and bacterial infection worsen, gingivitis becomes periodontitis. In addition to tooth loss and bone loss in the mouth, periodontitis can also affect your animal’s overall health. As the infection spreads from the mouth into the bloodstream, it can lead to systemic issues such as heart murmurs, liver and kidney inflammation, and in extreme cases, meningitis. This may require hospitalization, surgery, and end up with your dog in a cone of shame.
Signs and Symptoms of Dental Issues
How can you tell if your pet has the beginnings of gum tissue disease? Most animals will hide any pain they are having. This is instinctual; in the wild, showing weakness made wolves vulnerable to attacks, and dogs still have that same instinct.
Instead, you’ll want to pay attention to your dog’s eating habits and play habits to see if they change. If you see any of the following symptoms, your pup likely has at least a low dog dental disease stage.
- Bad breath
- Bleeding or red gum tissue
- Blood on chew toys or food
- Blood in saliva
- Difficulty eating or not wanting to eat
- Not wanting to be touched on the head
Taking Care of Your Dog’s Teeth At Home
The first step in taking care of your pup’s teeth is making sure you are giving your pup proper home care. Just like you need to brush your dog’s coat and feed them the right food, you also need to brush your dog’s teeth to keep them healthy and strong. How often should you brush? You won’t need to do this every day, but we recommend cleaning your pup’s teeth at least 2-3 times per week for optimal oral health.
How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth at Home
Before brushing your dog’s teeth, you’ll need to make sure you have the right tools. Did you know there are special brushes for dogs? They have soft bristles for a gentle brushing, so your pup can stay comfortable. You can also use a regular human toothbrush if you prefer.
You’ll need dog-specific toothpaste. NEVER use human toothpaste on your dog. Most human toothpaste contains fluoride, which is poisonous for your pup.
Before brushing, make sure to acclimate your dog to your tools. Let them sniff the toothbrush, or have a taste of the toothpaste. You can also gently massage your pet’s gums with your fingers, by pushing gently against your dog’s lips in a circular motion, to get him or her used to the feeling. Be sure to reward your pup with plenty of verbal praise, and even treats, for being calm.
Now that you’re ready, it’s time to brush. After getting your dog in a comfortable position, gently lift their lips and start cleaning the teeth in small, circular motions, making sure to clean close to the gum line. Your dog probably won’t let you brush their whole mouth at once, so be sure to take breaks, and again, give your dog plenty of praise.
Try to keep the whole brushing experience to about a minute or two, maximum. And don’t worry, there’s no need to wash out your pup’s mouth; just make sure they have plenty of water available.
Can You Use Dental Treats Instead?
If your dog can’t handle brushing, or you aren’t able to brush your pup’s teeth as often as you’d like, there are other ways to prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar on their teeth!
The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) is an organization that evaluates pet products to see how effective they are on plaque and tartar buildup. They have a complete list of approved veterinary dental health products, including special foods, dental treats,sticks, and even water additives that can help reduce your pup’s chances of oral disease.
How Often Should Dogs Get Their Teeth Cleaned
This is one of the most common questions pet owners have when it comes to dog dental health tips. If you are doing at-home-work to keep your animal’s teeth healthy, we recommend you bring your pet in for a cleaning once per year. If you aren’t keeping up at home, be sure to talk to your vet, who may recommend more frequent cleanings.
Are you worried about the cost of professional dental cleaning? A basic cleaning usually costs between $200-$300, but the cost can vary greatly based on your pet’s oral needs. For example, if your animal needs teeth extracted, or a cavity filled, the costs can quickly rise by hundreds of dollars.
The best thing you can do to keep your cleaning costs low and prevent periodontal disease in your dog is to take care of your dog’s teeth, so when you do come in, you can just pay the basic price! Dog dental insurance can also significantly help lower this cost by covering the cost of your bills for dental disease, making sure your pup is healthy, and your finances are secure.
Healthy Teeth = Healthy Dog!
Keeping your dog’s teeth healthy is essential to your pup’s overall health. So make sure you’re brushing regularly, giving your dog plenty of chew time with toys, and visiting the vet for your yearly cleanings.
Expenses should never stand in the way of a healthy pet. Find out how pet insurance can keep your doggie’s dental cleaning costs down by getting a free pet insurance quote today!