“A cold, wet nose buried in my hand in early morn, large brown eyes, soft ears, wagging tail, and dragon breath. He is my friend – this beast of black fur and white stomach in spite of bad breath. He is such a treasure, but a human after eating onions is nothing compared to my treasure’s breath. Smells like he eats and drinks from a septic tank. Disgusting! But let him whimper, begging me to pick him up, and I hold him on my chest and watch him get all cozy listening to my heart beat, and I realize just how much he means to me. He is a true treasure, odoriferous breath and all.”  – (author unknown)

“Dog breath” is often joked about, but it is really not a laughing matter. The American Veterinary Dental Society reports that more than 80 percent of dogs suffer from some type of periodontal disease by the time they are three years old, and the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners puts that percentage even higher.

Periodontal disease impacts a dog’s overall health and well-being in many ways, causing discomfort and pain, and compromises his quality of life. Oral infections and fractured teeth can be painful, and infection in the mouth can spread to the internal organs through the blood stream to major organs. Researchers have shown that dogs with advanced periodontal disease usually have bacteria in the heart, kidney, and liver that can be traced directly back to their oral infections.

It’s important to take care of your dog’s teeth…often caregivers are not even aware that their companion is experiencing discomfort because dogs are such stoic, non-complaining creatures. In nature, dogs survive by not showing weakness, so it’s in their nature to mask their problems, so it is the responsibility of the humans to be proactive in finding oral problems before they get too big, and too painful.

Regular tooth brushing is the best way to insure your pet’s oral health…..with patience and persistence, most dogs can learn to accept the tooth brush routine. No, we are not kidding….brush your dog’s teeth if you are serious about his dental health. The idea of brushing your dog’s teeth can be a bit daunting at first, but it really is the most effective way to control gum disease. Start slowly and gently, allowing your dog to adapt at her own pace.

  • Begin with your finger rather than a toothbrush. Gently rub the top front teeth and all the way to the back teeth. Then do the same on the lower teeth. Praise her often and keep the sessions short.
  • Once she is comfortable with your fingers in her mouth, wrap a damp cloth around your fingertip and rub the teeth.
  • The next step is to use a safe, natural dental cleaning product designed for pets and apply a small amount to the cloth before you rub her teeth. (Do NOT use toothpaste formulated for humans!).
  • Once your accepts this intrusion into his mouth, the experts say to use a finger brush or a soft toothbrush the right size for your dog. Okay, sounds simple, right? Simple, but not easy, and I understand that some of you are not ready to use a toothbrush on your dog’s teeth, so stick to a damp wash cloth around your finger and use that instead of a brush. Not the best, but better than nothing!

Let’s face it: many caregivers will not brush, so animal care companies have been hard at work formulating no-brush products. There are specially formulated non-toxic solutions and sprays that require no effort beyond spraying them in the dog’s mouth or adding to his water. Some of these products are more effective than others, and before you rush out to buy one, check with your vet…Do not buy an over-the-counter solution.

Even with daily at-home-care , just as humans, dogs need their teeth checked and cleaned by a professional on a regular basis. Remember that taking care of your dog’s teeth is like changing the oil in your car – if you do it regularly, you will avoid bigger and more expensive problems down the road, and you will certainly save your dog from unnecessary discomfort and pain.