BY SUSAN JOHNSTON TAYLOR
DOTING DOG owners spend countless
hours grooming and walking their dogs, but
few devote nearly as much attention to
another crucial element of the pet’s health
and well-being: their teeth. Still, Dr. Fraser
Hale, a veterinary dental specialist based
in Guelph, Ontario, says dogs’ oral health
shouldn’t be overlooked.
“Even at eight weeks of age, they can
have problems,” he says. “At every vet
checkup, they should evaluate [the dog’s]
oral development to catch any little problems.” Issues like periodontal disease or
fractured roots may not be visible in a conscious dog, so a thorough dental exam may
require X-rays under anesthesia.
“Little dogs particularly are prone to
having a number of developmental dental
problems,” Hale explains. “They may have
a baby tooth that has failed to fall out.” Also,
In general, larger dogs are less prone to
these problems, but they can break a tooth
tussling with a bone or other hard object.
Once your vet has ruled out preexisting
problems that would make tooth brushing
painful, he or she may recommend brushing
your dog’s teeth regularly to prevent the
buildup of plaque.
Introduce your dog to the habit gradually, and use treats as a reward. “Take it in
small steps to basically trick them into
something that they want to have happen,”
Hale says. “With any behavior training,
you’ve got to be consistent and have lots of
positivity about it.” Otherwise, your dog
could get scared of you and the toothbrush,
making the habit unpleasant for everyone.
Hale stresses that all at-home dental
products—including doggie toothpaste,
dental chews, dental care food and mouth
sprays—are preventive measures and won’t
treat preexisting dental problems.
Your dog may still need periodic cleanings and evaluations from a vet, just as you
still need to visit a dentist even if you brush
and floss regularly. During an evaluation
while your pet is under anesthesia, the vet
may recommend extracting some teeth to
prevent future problems, and Hale says
“The goal is to optimize oral health, not
to maximize the number of teeth,” he says.
“Freedom from infection comes above
all else.” C
Susan Johnston Taylor brushes her
Chihuahua’s teeth regularly.
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See box for feeding guidelines. Not suitable for dogs under 5 lbs.
Recommended for dogs 6 months of age or older.
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