Providing good dog dental care is an important part of your responsibilities as a pet owner, and a clean mouth is usually a happy mouth!
Strong, white, sharp.... all of these describe a puppy's teeth.
Care for them properly and those descriptions will be just as accurate when your dog is 10 years old as they are when he's 10 weeks old!
But if you don't take good care of Fido's teeth, he could eventually end up with dental problems such as tartar build-up, cavities, abscesses, tooth-loss etc.
These aren't just painful for him, but can also lead to more serious issues such as heart or kidney disease, chronic inflammation and more.
Luckily there are lots of ways in which you can help your little one's teeth stay as clean, sharp and healthy as they are right now.
Your pup should have all his sharp little 'baby' teeth in place by the time he's approximately 8 weeks old.
After a month or so, he starts to lose them one by one, and his big, adult teeth begin to appear.
During this period he's teething, and you'll probably notice an increase in the amount of biting and chewing he does - and how intense he is about it!
This is a normal developmental stage, and there's very little input needed from you :)
Loose puppy teeth almost always fall out by themselves without any problems, and the only help with puppy teething that your little guy (or girl) needs comes in the form of plenty of appropriate puppy teething toys, and some TLC if he's cranky or uncomfortable.
Chewing is a very natural way for your puppy to keep his tiny pearly-whites, well... pearly-white!
There are tons of dog toys designed to help a pup who's in the throes of teething, and many others that are made with ridges, rough surfaces and other features which help keep tartar at bay in older pups and dogs.
There are also dog dental treats which can help clean your pet's teeth and freshen his breath.
All of these are a very simple form of basic dog dental care, and are effective - up to a point.
Toys like this can definitely help keep Fido's teeth and gums healthy, but they're not enough all by themselves.
You also need to be a little more pro-active by brushing your dog's teeth regularly.
During the time that your pup's adult teeth are coming through, you don't actually NEED to brush his teeth daily, but it's a good time to begin to get him used to having you do it anyway.
Puppies learn through repetition, and the things they learn during puppy-hood tend to stick with them forever... there is a seed of truth in that old saying 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks'.
You can in fact teach a mature dog new things, and he WILL pick them up, but puppies will do so much faster - and with less resistance or fuss.
If you make dog dental care a regular part of your puppy's grooming routine and he'll soon come to accept it, even if he never learns to LOVE it!
You can buy special dog toothbrushes and toothpaste (for puppy teeth as well as adult dog teeth) at any major pet store, don't use human products, it's not the same thing.Brush his teeth every day and give him lots of praise, and even a HEALTHY dog dental treat afterwards. Something like a Hartz Crunch 'n Clean Dog Biscuit is perfect :)
We all know how to brush our own teeth right? But brushing dog teeth isn't exactly the same, so to make sure that you start out in the right way (and that your pup gets the maximum benefits from your efforts) check out this page..... Brushing Puppy Teeth. It has all the tips and advice you need.
A soft toothbrush and some doggie toothpaste is all you need for an adolescent or adult dog who's teeth are still clean and white.
There are brushes made especially for dogs including 'finger-toothbrushes' and dental sponges, but you can also use either a tiny baby (human baby that is) toothbrush if it's easier for you.
If possible, daily brushing is best, but if you can aim to brush your dogs teeth every other day, or at the minimum of twice or three times a week, that will still be a LOT better than not at all.
When you start this habit with a puppy he will accept it readily, if you've got an older dog who's never had his teeth brushed before then it's important to start slowly, and work up to a full brushing over time.
Just as with puppies, dental chews, toys and treats can help keep your dog's teeth and gums healthy - in a more fun way than brushing. BUT they're an added extra, not a replacement for proper cleaning.
Adding teeth-cleaning to his regular grooming routine won't just help protect Fido from painful tooth decay and gum disease and keep his breath fresh (this makes those doggie kisses so much nicer!), but will also protect his overall health.
Puppy breath should be sweet smelling - it's one of the things that I love about tiny puppies!
Generally you don't really need to worry about bad breath while Fido is still a baby puppy.
Unfortunately for older for older pups and adult dogs, bad breath is much more common, BUT it doesn't have to be a fact of life.
Good dog dental care can prevent smelly breath from spoiling those doggie-kisses, and there are lots of dental treats, chews, supplements and other products that can help.
Sometimes, bad breath in dogs can be a sign of illness or an underlying health condition, so if the usual measures don't seem to help, or you notice any of these symptoms, get your pet to your own veterinarian for a check up....
If you notice any of the following symptoms take your pet to your veterinarian for a check-up.
These three signs are among the most common, and obvious, signs of dental problems in dogs, but there are other - more subtle - ones that can sometimes go unnoticed at first.
It's a good idea to get into the habit of checking your puppy's mouth regularly and thoroughly, maybe once a week or so. Of course you'll be seeing it every time you brush his teeth, but a closer inspection every now and then is also a good idea.
Be on the lookout for:
Any of these need further evaluation by your veterinarian to make sure that everything is okay.
Brushing your dogs teeth daily, feeding him a premium dry dog food and healthy dog treats, giving him sturdy chew toys and even dental treats/chews will all go a L-O-N-G way towards keeping your pet's teeth and gums healthy.
But sometimes a dog needs a little bit of professional dental help!
It could be that you've adopted an older dog whose teeth are already suffering from tartar build-up or other dental issues, or maybe you never started brushing your adult dog's teeth when he was a pup and now he won't let you.
Or perhaps he's broken a tooth, or injured his mouth... there are all sorts of possibilities.
Also, some breeds seem to have more problems with their dental health than others.
The small breeds are over-represented in this group with the Dachshunds, Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese and Pomeranians being just a few of the top 10 breeds predisposed to periodontal disease (according to a study undertaken by Banfield Pet Hospital).
Luckily your vet can help you with any of the above scenarios. Many dogs need at least the occasional profession dental cleaning and it's worth discussing with your vet if you feel that your pet's teeth/gums are less than 100% healthy.
Having his teeth cleaned by a vet does involve a general anesthetic, and anytime this happens there is a health risk involved (although the majority of the time anesthetics don't cause any problems, so don't panic about this!).
For this reason, and the cost factor, it's best to minimize the need for this procedure if possible - by feeding a healthy diet, brushing your pup's teeth regularly, and providing appropriate dental chews, toys and treats.
Some pet health insurance plans have coverage for dental procedures, and I'd highly recommend getting a plan for your puppy while he's young and healthy.
Dental work isn't cheap, but neither is any type of veterinary care and if your pet falls ill or has an accident or needs surgery, it can be very costly indeed.
In these situations pet health insurance can literally be a life saver!The short video on the left features a professional veterinarian answering a few of the questions dog owners often have about dental care for their pets.
She also talks about how the Hartz Crunch 'n Clean Dog Biscuits I recommended earlier on this page help keep your little guy's mouth healthy.