National Pet Dental Hygiene Month: Information for Pet Parents Who Brush Their Dog’s Teeth at Home

Did you know that February is National Pet Dental Hygiene Month? Periodontal disease, also known as dental disease, is one of the most common diseases veterinarians see, but fortunately it can be easily prevented and managed with regular home dental care. We asked Freshpet veterinarian Dr. Aziza to answer our top questions about canine dental health and how pet parents can start dental care at home.

How often should I brush my dog’s teeth?

Like humans, it is recommended that you brush your dog’s teeth twice a day. Naturally, this is a tough ask for most pet owners, so at a minimum, try to clean your dog’s teeth regularly. Even if it’s only twice a week, regular tooth brushing is better than no brushing at all!

Should I be worried about my dog’s teeth if I don’t see any problems?

Just because your dog’s teeth look normal doesn’t mean they’re necessarily healthy. Dogs teeth are like icebergs. Remember that 90% of an iceberg is actually below the waterline, so at first glance you don’t know the extent or size of the iceberg. The crown of the tooth is what is visible above the gums, like the tops of icebergs seen above water. However, the root of the teeth is hidden under the gums. It is possible for a tooth to look healthy, but is actually diseased below the gumline. This is why it is recommended that dogs have full dental x-rays once a year. X-rays allow veterinarians to assess the teeth below the gumline as well as the integrity of the surrounding bone that holds the teeth in place.

Should all dogs have their teeth brushed?

The short answer is yes. All dogs are susceptible to periodontal disease and therefore all dogs should have their teeth brushed. What is interesting is that due to several factors, some dogs tend to develop periodontal disease much faster than others. So if you have multiple dogs and brush their teeth the same number of times a week, you may still see different stages of periodontal disease between them!

When should you start brushing your dog’s teeth?

It’s never too early to start brushing your dog’s teeth. Like toddlers, it’s best to get puppies used to brushing their teeth as soon as possible. Dogs that were constantly exposed to toothbrushing as puppies accept the process much better as adults, and they also tend to be less stressed during oral exams by a veterinarian. If your dog is an adult, don’t worry, it’s never too late to learn. Try incorporating positive reinforcement when training your dog to accept tooth brushing and use healthy treats like Freshpet’s Dog Joy Turkey Bacon as a great reward.

What should I use to brush my dog’s teeth?

If you want to brush your dog’s teeth, the first thing to do is find toothbrushes labeled for dogs. The ideal toothbrush for your pet will depend on your dog’s size, your dexterity and how easy it is to use. Fortunately, there are many types of toothbrushes, including those with multiple bristle heads, angled brushes, and even those that fit on your fingertips. For toothpaste, use products labeled for dogs – just like with the toothbrush. Not only do they tend to have good flavors like beef or poultry, but they won’t have ingredients like xylitol, which is safe for humans but toxic for dogs.

How can I brush my dog’s teeth naturally?

If you want to avoid dog toothpaste, try using a small amount of coconut oil when brushing your dog’s teeth. An added benefit of using this natural toothpaste over store bought ones is that the coconut oil can also help with bad breath.

What happens when you don’t brush your dog’s teeth?

After meals, kibble particles stay on the teeth, interact with bacteria in the mouth, and accumulate along the gum line. If these particles are not bruised, they begin to turn from plaque to hard tartar and build up. This progression is the formation of periodontal disease. As tartar forms, gum inflammation increases, causing bleeding and bad breath. Eventually, the teeth become seriously diseased and the attachment between the teeth and the surrounding tissues, including the bone, is disrupted. This whole process causes significant mouth pain and can cause lethargy, inappetence and weight loss – all of which will require veterinary attention.

Which dog breeds do you think need dental care the most?

In practice, it is very common to see progressive periodontal disease in miniature breeds like Yorkies, Maltese and Daschunds. This reinforces the importance for parents of toy breed pets to begin home dental care on day one.

How can I maintain my dog’s gum health if he has lost teeth or has no teeth?

Even dogs without teeth can still benefit from good oral care! Try gently brushing your dog’s gums with a soft-bristled toothbrush or using water additives and mouthwashes to improve his dental care.

What’s the best way to maintain dental hygiene besides brushing my dog’s teeth?

The best way to maintain good dental hygiene is to constantly brush your dog’s teeth, but that’s not the only thing to do. It’s also important that your dog is healthy and has a strong immune system, so a good diet is essential. Try recipes like Freshpet’s Nature’s Fresh® Grain-Free Chicken Recipe with Carrots, Peas & Spinach or Freshpet® Select Chicken Bites for Small Dogs which are both full of high-quality ingredients.

Do you have other questions about your pet’s oral health? Make an appointment with your veterinarian! They will be happy to discuss ways you can continue to improve your pet’s overall dental care from the comfort of your own home.

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