Why Brush Fido’s Teeth?
How important brushing your dog’s teeth? It sounds ridiculous, but is it really? You can’t imagine how many people ask groomers to brush their dogs’ teeth. People typically have their dogs groomed once every four to eight weeks depending on the breed. Grooming establishments frequently offer this service for an additional fee. Now think for a moment. Would you ever dream of brushing your teeth once every four to eight weeks? What do you think would happen to your teeth? It takes only a few days of neglect for plaque and tartar to develop for people and dogs as well. If your think that crunchy food and treats would suffice, then think again. That’s like saying that when we chew on crunchy food and snacks there would be no need to brush our teeth. Some dogs just have great teeth that keep clean without intervention, but for the majority of dogs that is not the case. I used to brush my dogs’ teeth every evening. I will explain later why I have become less diligent. When choosing toothpaste for your dog, ONLY consider one that is made specifically for dogs. Ingredients to avoid include fluoride, alcohol, chlorhexidine, and xylitol. Too much xylitol has been found to cause hypoglycemia. Chlorhexidine can stain the teeth. Sometimes vets will prescribe a product with chlorhexidine for post oral surgical care because it is an antibacterial agent. One of my dogs gets an additional dental treatment. To see the treatment I give, click here. I think you will find it quite amusing.
If your dogs are not chewing bones (preferably raw) of on toys (rope toys are great), they need to have their teeth brushed.
Here’s a video which demonstrates how to brush your dog’s teeth step by step:
The most common disease amongst dogs is gum disease. Gum begins when plaque accumulates on the teeth. Plaque is the substance that makes your teeth feel like they are wearing sweaters. Daily brushing removes the majority of plaque (depending upon the diligence of the person brushing). Remember, in only a few days when plaque begins to harden and tartar forms. The scene is being set for problems to develop. As the condition progresses, a professional dental cleaning will be the only way to remove the buildup. Dental cleanings are usually a big expense.
Some bones and toys provide a great amount of mechanical action which helps to prevent and remove some plaque. You can check out my article The Natural Way to Avoid Costly Cleanings for some ideas. Although these products help, brushing is more productive. You might wonder why brushing is still so important. Most of us have a hand preference. Some of us write using the right hand while others are lefties. Many of us have a similar preference in such tasks as kicking a ball, looking through a camera lens, and chewing. Imagine yourself chewing gum. Do you favor one side versus the other? Likewise, when dogs chew on toys and bones, one side is sometimes cleaner that the other. By brushing, you can cover both sides.
First I want to tell you what types of chews I don’t recommend. I don’t like chews that are like “Greenies” or “dental treats” – they typically have a lot of garbage in them. I don’t like Antlers because they are VERY strong so they can break teeth. I don’t like anything that has been smoked or flavored. Again, that has ingredients that are not healthy and not necessary. I don’t like ears, snouts, or hooves (they are just wasted parts). I HATE rawhide. Rawhide is VERY unhealthy and difficult to digest. They make dogs gassy and can cause stomach issues (diarrhea…).
I sometimes give my dogs raw meaty bones and chewing goodies from Pawstruck. You can read about the products from Pawstruck in my article The Biggest Craze in Natural Dog Chews. For the best raw chews, you can check out the Raw Paw chews section which I like most because of the variety and the high quality. Only Natural Pet also has a wonderful selection of chews. I love to give my dogs the Himalayan chews. They love them and they are not unhealthy. As with most bones and edible products, make sure that your dog doesn’t crack off small parts. Really good chewers can break them and small sharp pieces might be ingested. My dogs are not such great chewers so nothing breaks. I like bully sticks (aka wizzlers), tendons, tracheas, back muscle (straps), and of course – Himalayan chews. Although the treats are ok as treats, the chews will help to clean the teeth. Himalayan chews are very tasty; they are made with Yak’s milk. When you look for these products you must read the details to make sure they do not have any “flavor” added and they are not smoked. Only Natural Pets carries plenty of chews. Remember to read the details and use my advice from the previous paragraph as a guide. I mostly give my dogs raw chicken necks, raw marrow bones, and other raw stuff. By far, raw bones are the very best for dental health. They are the safest (because they are raw) and they have natural enzymes that break down tartar and plaque.
Before I knew better, I used to give my dogs rawhide-based products and green colored chews. Rawhide is usually made with toxic chemicals which are often upsetting to some tummies causing diarrhea and gas. Many other chews are made with corn gluten and soy (both of which are common allergens), coloring, by-products, rendered products synthetic additives, excessive salt and sugar. In case you aren’t familiar with the meaning of the term “rendered,” you may refer to my article, What’s REALLY in Dog Food? Tartar grows against the gums and leads to tooth decay. The first sign dental disease is stinky breath. Other indications that there are problems include red, inflamed, irritated, or bleeding gums. Loss of appetite is a sign of discomfort and pain. If your dog rejects anything that applies pressure to the teeth (i.e., chew toys or crunchy snacks) it is likely that your dog is in pain.
Tooth decay leads to loss of teeth and gum disease. As bacteria grows under the gum tissue, the teeth separate from the gum line causing infections to grow and spread further. The roots of the teeth become infected, weaken and to the point that the gums become unable to hold the teeth. Teeth rot and fall out.
Gum disease leads to many serious health issues including abscesses, bone loss, and sinus infections because the sinuses are so close to the infected area. The bacteria and infection travel to the roots of the teeth. Once this happens the bloodstream becomes contaminated. Studies have confirmed that as bacteria travels throughout the dog’s system, the lungs, kidneys, heart and liver become diseased. A Purdue University study found that there is a strong link between gum tissue degeneration and heart disease and infections of the heart valves.
Dr. Marty Goldstein is one of the leading pioneers in the veterinary community and practices holistic medicine. He is one of the leading vets in the country. Dr. Goldstein developed some of the most high-tech procedures used in veterinary medicine and practices integrative veterinary medicine. He has been featured with Martha Stewart, and Dr. Oz in Oprah Magazine and the list goes on. Dr. Goldstein recommends a raw diet along with supplements to maintain a healthy digestive system. According to Dr. Goldstein, there is a strong link between the mouth and the digestive system. He suggests supplementing dogs’ with digestive enzymes, prebiotic, probiotic and fish oil supplements promote digestive health.
Dr. Karen Becker, a holistic vet who has written books on veterinary care focuses on treating dogs naturally. I have listed some of her recommendations below.
1. Feed a Biologically Appropriate Raw Food diet (BARF diet) provides the nutrients that your dog is biologically meant to eat. It is the enzymes in raw food that help to clean the teeth. I also add digestive enzymes and probiotics to their food. I do so because as time passes, raw meat loses some components; eventually, enzymes and probiotic bacteria weaken or perish. I get those (and other supplements online. To find out more about the supplements I give to my dogs you may read my article The BEST of Natural Holistic Health. Some supplements are more important than others and I review several. For raw food beginners, I recommend The BEST Dog Food for Beginners. For more advanced raw feeders I recommend Raw Paws. You can read more about their food in my article The BEST Dog Food for the Advanced. In that article, I discuss the Raw Paws diet which requires more work because of preparation.
2. Snacking on raw meaty bones provides the best mechanical action that helps to promote healthy teeth and gums. NEVER give a dog bones that have been cooked or dried out. Although they might be suitable for humans, they could be very dangerous for dogs as they splinter easily and lose their nutritional value. The moisture of raw bones make them safer for dogs and provide enzymes that are very food for the dog’s oral and general health. For dogs that have difficulty chewing on raw bones, an option is to give him dog chews that are fully digestible. It is advisable to supervise your dog when chewing on any bones to make sure they don’t swallow chunks. There are great things to chew on at Pawstruck. I wrote about Pawstruck in my article The Biggest Craze in Natural Chews. To find out about amazing natural raw chews, read my article you can find them in the Raw Paws chews section. I wrote about Raw Paws in my article The BEST Dog Food for the Advanced.
3. Brush teeth!!! If every day is not feasible, make sure you brush your dog’s teeth several times a week. Due to their diet, supplements, and raw bones, there is no need for me to brush their teeth. I used to stay on top of it, but now I tend to be more lax because I have been feeding my dogs raw bones more often than before.
Now, what do you think about the importance of oral health for dogs? Brushing doesn’t seem to be so ridiculous anymore. Maintaining your dog’s teeth is essential. Personally, I use an ordinary child size toothbrush. You should only use a toothbrush that has soft bristles. I just tried a product that I really like. DentaSure is made by Natural Wonders Pets. It comes in gel form and spray. Although the company states that you don’t need to use a toothbrush with it, I chose to apply the gel with a child size toothbrush. What I like about it is that it does not contain any alcohol or other unsafe ingredients.
NEVER use human toothpaste! It is unhealthy for dogs to swallow. Only use oral products that are specifically made for dogs. Although some vets suggest commercial dental diets and treats, but most of those products contain harmful ingredients and packed with rendered and over-processed ingredients. To see what I mean by “rendered ingredients” you can check out my article, What’s REALLY in Dog Food? I prefer to keep healthcare as holistic and as natural as possible.