Raising a dog is like raising a human, there is no manual on exactly how to do it. As we find with both, there is plenty of how to’s on the internet. We also rely on our veterinarian to guide us with their health and wellness knowledge so our pets or sometimes referred to as “our children” have a great start to their new life.
However, there are times when this does not happen and important things are not addressed until too late. Brushing your pet’s teeth is as important as healthy vaccinations and good nutrition. This needs to happen when they start getting their teeth and not ten years after they are born. You are probably thinking, “come on, this is not important, my pets teeth are a little yellow but I don’ think its that bad” or, “dogs always have bad breath, so it doesn’t mean that they have dental problems?”.
Thinking back to the life of my little girl I was a lot like you, I didn’t brush her teeth. It didn’t seem necessary and there was never a discussion with her former veterinarian and in my opinion, having a deep cleaning is quite expensive because it is a very risky procedure, there is detailed preparation and observations that go into cleaning their teeth. A good doctor will order blood work a few days ahead of the appointment to make sure that they are stable enough to be sedated. For instance, my little Max was on the calendar to have his teeth cleaned, we did the necessary testing to make sure he was strong enough to have the procedure done. A few days later my vet called and said that “she was not comfortable doing the procedure based on some abnormal things showing up in his bloodwork”. When we talked about the abnormalities it was decided between us that we would postpone the procedure until the numbers got better, by the way, that’s a trait of a very good vet.
The danger of not brushing your pet’s teeth
Things to know:
- At the early the age of 2, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have some form of periodontal disease
- The untreated periodontal disease is painful to your pet, puts stress on his immune system and increases the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes
- In addition to a species-appropriate diet and plaque-removing bones, regular brushing can help to keep your pet’s teeth clean and minimize dental issues
- If your pet is new to brushing, start gradually by touching your pet’s muzzle, then moving onto the lips, gums and teeth; use your finger first, then gauze, then a finger brush and finally a pet toothbrush
Many pets really enjoy having their gums lightly massaged when they’re relaxing. The key is not to force it, move at a pace that keeps your pet feeling comfortable and relaxed
As soon as you bring your new family member home, begin to desensitize your dog mouth. When you begin this practice, your pet will think it is part of his or her routine and will be receptive to the practice. When you start young, it will be second nature and a part of both the owner and pet’s daily routine. Please keep in mind that in the early stages of a puppy’s life, and just like a human toddler, their mouth will be sensitive and sore due to losing their baby teeth, so keep this in mind as you work with them. Gently massaging their mouth and gums, will not only have them get used to it, it helps soothe their uncertainty.
It’s important to incorporate face massage (and mouth desensitization) into regular massage/petting time. This will put your pet into a relaxed state of mind, rather than your pet being suspicious you’re up to something by suddenly trying to manipulate their mouth. Doing this throughout the crucial months of their life will help in many aspects of their life
After your pet is comfortable having her head, ears and chin touched, move on to touch his muzzle, then his lips. Many pets really enjoy having their gums lightly massaged when they’re relaxing. The key is not to force it, move at a pace that keeps your pet feeling comfortable and relaxed. If you can, dip your finger into bone broth. After your pet is cool with having her head, ears and chin touched, move on to touch their muzzle, then their lips. Many pets really enjoy having their gums lightly massaged when they’re relaxing. The key is not to force it, move at a pace that keeps your pet feeling comfortable and relaxed
One of the health issues directly related to not brushing your pet’s teeth is heart disease. Just like humans, when we neglect our own dental hygiene, the risk is very high for us as well. Studies have shown that bacteria that accumulates in their mouth as it does in ours. As stated by Dr. René Carlson, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA):
“Untreated periodontal infections often lead to more serious health problems because of chronic pain and infection, and subsequent stress on the immune system … These untreated conditions can then lead to heart valve disease, kidney disease and even diabetes and cancer, not to mention the significant discomfort associated with dental infections.”
What we can do as responsible pet owners
As I said earlier, I never brushed Coco Beans teeth or MaxMillions teeth. Coco’s got so bad that the roots were showing and had to be surgically removed. The two teeth removed were right next to the nasal passage, a very dangerous and risky procedure. Max’s teeth were also in bad shape and a few had to be removed as well. When I started brushing their teeth, I did it every day and then when I began to see the dramatic changes, I moved to every other day. I brush Max’s in the evening after his last meal and give him a treat promptly after. After 6 months, he actually looks forward to it and besides rewarding him with a treat, I always verbally reward him.
- Begin a good dental routine when you bring them home. The earlier you begin, the more receptive they will be and probably will look forward to brushing. I always reward them by giv
ing a treat.
- Recommendations for keeping your pet’s mouth healthy include daily home care, feeding a species-appropriate raw diet, offering raw bones to gnaw on, performing regular home inspections of the oral cavity, and arranging for routine exams performed by your veterinarian.
- Every year, make sure you have their vitals checked by doing bloodwork. This will ensure that you understand everything about your pet’s health, wellness, and their safety. It also will show anything that is abnormal and then you and your vet can design a protocol to bring them back to the normal range. Just like humans, doing this at a very early age creates a baseline to compare as they grow and develop.
I recommend using an enzymatic tooth solution designed for pets. Enzymatic gels help to break down the plaque and tartar that accumulates on the surface of teeth. Put a dab on your finger
and very briefly massage it into your pet’s back molars.
Next, try a dab on a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger. Once your pet is comfortable with you rubbing gauze on his teeth and gums, you can move on to using a finger brush and finally onto a pet toothbrush.
Introducing this into your daily routine, not only will benefit them, but it will help create a sense of trust between you and your pet. Having that human and animal connection is something that we all strive to achieve. Protecting our pets and making sure they are happy and healthy is something we all plan to do in our lives. When I bring my new family member home in a few weeks, I will be adopting this into my daily routine, something I didn’t do with my first two. Isn’t it always the same in the human world, with our first child we didn’t know anything, but by our second and third child, we know more, we are smarter and we do things differently. It is the same in the animal world. We better ourselves by the second or third pet. We promise ourselves that we will do everything in our power to get it right.
By the way, when Max and I began our dental routine, his teeth were stained and he was having trouble chewing his food. After about six months to a year, his teeth are as white as can be and can chew without difficulty. My vet couldn’t believe the change in his health and eating habits. Having a good product is also vital to their health. A word of caution, do not use human grade toothpaste. Fluoride is toxic to animals. The product I use is Virbec Enzymatic Toothpaste, Vanilla and Mint. A good Integrative vet will carry this product and it is not expensive.
To your happy and healthy pet
References: Things to know, perilous to your pet’s wellbeing-yet widely ignored. November 25, 2016. Healthy Pet’s by Mercola.
Dr. Rene Carlson, president of the AVMA, discussing chronic pain connected to bad hygiene in pets.