The Importance of Canine Dental Care

Categories: Dog Health
By Amy Wence
February is National Pet Dental Health Month, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to highlight the importance of canine dental care. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), 80% of dogs show signs of oral disease by the age of three. If you have a dog that is three years or older, then you may want to schedule a dental checkup with your veterinarian. Periodontal disease, an infection of the gums, should not be taken lightly. “Periodontal infections have been linked to diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and other life threatening disorders. The best way to prevent periodontal disease is by regularly brushing your pet’s teeth and by regularly visiting your veterinarian,” says board certified veterinary dental specialist Dr. Brook Niemiec.

Bacteria combine with saliva and food debris at the gum line and cause plaque to form on the tooth. It takes only 2-3 days for the plaque to mineralize on the tooth and form tartar, which cannot be removed simply by brushing. Without brushing or dental care, the bacteria continue to buildup and will lead to periodontal disease. These bacteria may then enter the bloodstream and cause infection to the kidney, liver, lungs, and heart valve.

Signs ofperiodontal disease can include red, inflamed and swollen gums, bleeding gums, receding gums, yellow and brown tartar buildup, pain and bad breath. Periodontal disease can also lead to tooth loss if left untreated. Other indicators of oral problems can include a change in eating or chewing habits, pawing at the face or mouth, and depression.

In addition to a dental checkup, there are things you can do at home to improve your pet’s dental hygiene; brushing being the most important. Be sure to use toothpaste specifically formulated for pets, as human toothpaste can be harmful to pets. Ideally you would want to brush your dog’s teeth on a daily basis. This may seem like a big chore, but it’s no different than having to brush your own teeth every day, and it should take less than 5 minutes of your time. Once it becomes a habit, it will just become part of your daily routine. You might try making ita point to brushyour dog’s teeth immediately after you brush your own. I keep my dogs’ toothbrushes and toothpaste in a special container next to my own dental products. This way I’m always reminded that they need their teeth brushed too. Keep in mindthat the plaque calcifies in 2-3 days and cannot be removed by brushing; so the more often you brush, the better chance you have at removing the plaque before it becomes tartar. Here are two great resources that guide you on how to get started brushing your dog’s teeth: and
As the awareness of pet dental health grows, more and more pet dental care products are becoming available to consumers. There are all kinds of different pet toothpastes, toothbrushes, chews, water additives, treats, andfoods marketed towards improving your pet’s dental health. However, not all of these products maybe created equal. The Veterinary Oral Health Council(VOHC) website lists products that it has given a seal of approval for their efficacy in dental health. Alist of these products can be found here: products.htm

Broken teeth are also a common problem, which can occur when the dog is allowed to chew on objects that are too hard, such as cow hooves. A good rule of thumbis not to give your dog anything to chew on that you wouldn’t hit yourself in the knee cap with. If you like to give your dog raw bones to chew on, make sure there is plenty of soft tissue on the bone and take it away once they get down to the hard bone. Also, choose joints, like knuckle bones over marrow bones which are harder and stronger and can cause more damage. Discard bones after a day of chewing because as they dry out, they become harder and more brittle. The bacterial counts on the bones will also increase over time.

My Favorite Pet Dental Products

I’d like to share with you a couple of natural pet dental products that have worked great for my dogs. Both of my dogs are about 3 years old and they both started to have gumline inflammation and plaque/tartar build up in the same location in their mouths. I have been using the products below for several months now and the results have been drastic. My dogs’ mouth shave neverlooked or smelled better!!!

Triple-Pet All Natural Toothpaste
I like this toothpaste over others on the market because it does not have added sugars and uses natural ingredients. Plus, my dogs love the taste, so they actually don’t mind having their teeth brushed because they are getting a reward at the same time. I have purchased this at Havahart Pets in Racine, Petsmart in Kenosha, and online at: (I use this in combination with the Triple-Pet Ezy Dog Finger brush that I have found sold only at Havahart Pets in Racine).

Proden Plaque Off Animal
This product is an all natural food supplement that can be added daily to your pet’s meals. Its main ingredient is a specific strain of Norwegian seaweed that has been clinically proven to reduce and prevent plaque and tarter ( This product works systemically, so it’s very simple and easy to use. Results maytake several weeks. Not recommended for animals undergoing treatment for hyperthyroidism. I have purchased it online at: and

2. sp
3.“Improve Your Dental Acuity,”TheWholeDog Journal, July2008
4. aid=384