Pet Dental Month: Tips For Caring For Your Dog's Teeth at Home

We won’t name names but, as veterinarians, we’ve heard confessions that some of you love your dog’s breath! We get it, especially when it comes to puppy breath. The truth is, though, stinky dog breath can be a sign of poor dental health and, despite many dogs’ ability to hide the pain, this can also be an excruciating problem for them. We also know that taking care of your dog’s teeth at home can feel like one more thing to add to your to-do list. The benefits your dog will reap, however, and later vet bills you’ll avoid will make this well worth it.

As veterinarians, we are well versed in how to make taking care of your dog’s teeth at home a bit easier, and we share some tips and answers to frequently asked dog dental questions below. February is National Pet Dental Health Month, so we want to be sure you’re equipped with the best way to keep your canine teeth pearly white and, most importantly, pain-free.

How can I make brushing my dog’s teeth less of a chore?

First and foremost, train your dog to get used to their mouth being touched by massaging their gums with a tasty, veterinary-approved toothpaste daily. Many veterinarians favor CET chicken flavored toothpaste. Once your dog is used to this and understands that it is yummy and fun, introduce the toothbrush. There are many toothbrushes available—try several out to see which one works the best for you and your dog.

Do certain kinds of pet toothpaste appeal to dogs more than others?

Yes. You can choose many flavors, including chicken, beef, seafood, peanut butter, etc. Just as with the toothbrushes, you should try all of them to see which one excites your dog the most!

How effective are treats like Greenies in helping with dog dental care?

Go with VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council - approved dental treats. These treats have been tested and proven safe and effective for your dog. Greenies are VOHC approved. If your dog allows, try holding the treat for them to position it equally on both sides of the mouth.

How often should I brush my dog’s teeth?

You should brush your dog’s teeth at least once a day. If dental plaque stays on the surface of the teeth for more than 24-48 hours, it turns into tartar. Plaque can be removed by brushing, but once it becomes tartar, it can only be removed with professional scaling, which is why daily brushing is so crucial.

Are there certain foods that can contribute to good dog dental health?

There are prescription dental foods that can help remove plaque better. Please ask your veterinarian if your dog can benefit from this. VOHC also puts its registered seal on products that have met its requirements on effectiveness in retarding plaque and tartar.

Is there anything I can do to improve my dog’s breath?

Daily brushing to minimize the plaque and tartar formation will help improve your dog’s breath, as tartar harbors millions of bacteria and this is one of the common reasons for bad breath. Professional dental therapy by your veterinarian can improve your dog's breath, and most importantly, overall oral health.

What are some signs that my dog’s oral health may be suffering?

Bad breath, bleeding from the gums when you brush, and irritated gums are all signs that your dog needs better oral health. Canines rarely show decreased appetite from dental disease, so you can’t gauge the severity of your dog’s dental disease by changes in how much they eat. You should ask your veterinarian about your dog’s oral health during an annual visit

As veterinarians, we appreciate that more attention is paid to our pets’ teeth during National Pet Dental Health Month. Ideally, though, we’d love our clients to realize that good oral health year-round is a significant component in overall health. If you think your dog is suffering from dental disease or you’d like more tips on caring for your dog’s teeth at home, please give your veterinarian a call. Don't have one yet? We can help you find a local veterinarian!  


Contributing DVM