Keeping your dog’s teeth and gums clean and healthy is vital to his overall wellness. Here’s a handful of dental tools and products that will ease the task for both of you.
Raise your hand if you’re diligent about brushing your teeth. Now keep your hand raised if you’re just as diligent about brushing your dog’s teeth. Chances are, your hand is no longer up. Don’t worry – you’re not alone. Many dog parents underestimate the importance of maintaining their pups’ dental health. But the truth is, dogs get plaque and tartar just like we do, and that can lead to much more serious health issues (see below). Luckily, a variety of innovative dental tools and products help make cleaning your dog’s teeth a breeze. Let’s look at a few of the options and why you should try them.
Toothbrushes and toothpastes
This option might seem rather traditional, but as the old adage goes: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” There’s nothing wrong with reaching for these tools — as long as they’re designed specifically for dogs. Your own toothbrush won’t cut it, and your human-formulated toothpaste may contain ingredients that can harm your pup.
Ideally, you want to find a natural doggie toothpaste that contains safe, active ingredients that work to break down bacteria. Avoid surfactants (foaming agents), xylitol (a sweetening agent) and alcohol, which are all toxic to dogs.
When seeking a toothbrush, size is the most important consideration. Find one that will fit comfortably in your dog’s mouth, and make sure the handle is easy for you to hold onto.
Looking for something a little more modern? Many advancements have been made in the world of doggy dental health, and that includes a few upgrades to the classic toothbrush. Finger brushes, for instance, are designed to slide onto your finger so you can access those hard-to-reach areas.
Meanwhile, companies like Mira-Pet are revolutionizing toothbrushes to create something a little more high-tech for your canine companion. Their device is vibration-free, and operates without rotating or swiveling brush heads. Instead, it harnesses ultrasound technology to reduce bacteria and sweep away tartar with gentle air oscillations. “The ultrasound generated from the brush shaft, combined with the Mira-Pet Toothpaste Gel, produces billions of nano-bubbles per second to safely disintegrate chains of bacteria that are found on teeth, in the mouth, on the tongue and inside gum pockets,” says Stephen Spector, CEO of Techmira Corporation.
No matter how hard you try, some dogs can’t be trained to accept brushing. Until recently, the only alternative was to call on an expert for help. But now, there are numerous products available that clean your pet’s teeth and gums – with no brushing required!
Water additives are among these inventive solutions. “A pet water additive is a dental rinse that you add to your dog’s water bowl,” says Melissa Gulbranson, Vice President of Marketing at Oxyfresh, a company that offers safe, effective dental products for pets. “When he drinks the water, the ingredients from the additive rinse his mouth, help clean teeth and gums and provide better breath.”
Like human mouthwash, a good water additive should taste and smell good. Of course, it goes without saying that it shouldn’t contain any toxic ingredients. Oxyfresh, for instance, is a food-grade product that contains a patented blend of Oxygene® and zinc, which safely eliminates bacteria, cleans teeth and gums, and helps protect dogs (and cats) from gingivitis and periodontal disease. “By the age of three, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease,” adds Melissa. Yet another reason to ramp up your dog’s oral care routine!
Gels and sprays
Similar to water additives, dental gels and sprays are formulated to soften plaque and tartar, and freshen breath. They’re also a great tool when it comes to prevention, as the active ingredients kill bacteria and work under the gum line to stop buildup. The beauty of these products is that they’re extremely easy to administer, because they don’t have to be applied directly to the teeth and gums in order to work. Simply spray into your dog’s mouth, and the active ingredients will disperse in his saliva, coating all the nooks and crannies. Again, the key is to find a natural product.
Dental toys – are they effective?
These days, many people are opting to care for their dogs’ pearly whites by tossing them “dental toys”. This method of oral care certainly isn’t ineffective, but it’s also not entirely sufficient. Chewing on a hunk of rubber wouldn’t be enough to keep your mouth healthy, and the same goes for your dog.
Instead, use toys as a way to complement an established dental care routine. They’re a wonderful – and enjoyable – way for your dog to keep on top of his own dental hygiene, and the right toy can even strengthen his teeth and gums while scraping away loose debris that can lead to plaque buildup. You’ll have to address the hard-to-reach areas using another tool, but it’s a start. Look for high quality ropes and rubber chews that are the appropriate size and durability for your pooch.
Dental health and disease
Buying good dental tools for your dog will do more than keep his teeth clean – it’ll increase his longevity! An unhealthy mouth harbors bacteria, which can lead to plaque formation. Left untreated, plaque turns to tartar, which eventually results in infection below the gum line. Not only can this infection destroy the teeth – it can enter your dog’s bloodstream and spread to his organs.
“New findings link inner organ diseases directly to gum health,” says Stephen. “In principle, if the gums are inflamed, the immune system is occupied fighting this inflammation while other bacterial/viral infections cannot be effectively attacked nor shielded from the body – over time this may lead to major organ disease.”
It’s time to take your dog’s dental health seriously!
Ideally, you’ll give all these dental tools and products a try. They all offer unique perks, and they’ll all contribute to a cleaner, healthier mouth for your canine companion. Now raise your hand if that’s something you’re ready to invest in!
Animal Wellness is North America's top natural health and lifestyle magazine for dogs and cats, with a readership of over one million every year. AW features articles by some of the most renowned experts in the pet industry, with topics ranging from diet and health related issues, to articles on training, fitness and emotional well being.