Are your dog’s teeth turning from pearly white to sickly yellow? Are your dog’s gums turning from healthy pink to angry red? Is your dog’s breath stinky all the time, not just when they eat trash? Then, beware, your dog could be developing a serious case of plaque and tartar.
Let’s talk about how important oral health is and what you can do to keep your dog’s teeth clean even at home.
Importance of good oral hygiene for dogs
Just like humans, dogs need healthy teeth, because this is what they use to eat.
Unlike humans, though, your dog does not understand why they need to clean their teeth. They will also not understand why their mouth will suddenly become painful. They do not know that their mouth is always full of bacteria, which will keep on building up until they turn into tartar and plaque. Worse, the bacteria could be absorbed into the bloodstream, which will result in even more health problems like heart, kidney, or liver diseases.
Although your dog could have unhealthy teeth pulled out, they cannot have dentures made for them if their teeth turn bad.
As your dog’s responsible owner, it is your duty to make sure that your dog’s teeth are clean, that their gums remain pink, and that they will remain healthy for a long time.
Professional dog teeth cleaning and cost
If you have your dog’s teeth cleaned professionally, the process will generally involve anesthesia. Some clinics offer dog teeth cleaning without anesthesia. However, you might need to do some research if your neighborhood has such a clinic.
How high your bill will be afterward will depend on many factors, like the cost of living in your area and the type of procedure. If your dog just gets a regular cleaning, then you might pay about $500. If your dog has to have anesthesia plus X-rays or radiographs, then you might have to pay a minimum of $1,000. If your furry pal needs to have cleaning plus tooth extraction, you can expect a bill of about $3,000.
On the other hand, giving anesthesia to certain dogs, especially older ones, can be risky. Complications like unstable blood pressure could arise.
With how stressful professional cleaning can be, both for you and your dog, you might want to explore ways of cleaning your dog’s teeth at home.
How to clean your dog’s teeth naturally at home
Before we start, please remember: your dog is unique. What works for other dogs, might not work for your dog. So, be patient in your quest towards the perfect method or combination of several methods that your dog will like and that will bring the results you want. As always, when in doubt, ask your veterinarian.
Here are some tips and products that you can use at home to clean your dog’s teeth:
1. Store-bought equipment
You might be tempted to use human dental products on your dog. Don’t! Fluoride, the main ingredient in human toothpaste, is poisonous to dogs. It will be safer to explore the many toothpaste brands available for dogs. There are also many toothbrushes made especially for these pets. There are finger toothbrushes and dual-head toothbrushes.
You could try the Arm and Hammer Tartar Control Dental Kit for Dogs. The whole package already contains two types of toothbrushes and a tube of toothpaste, which contains ingredients that are safe for dogs.
There are also toothpaste and gels that contain enzymes. These enzymes are supposed to “eat” the bacteria. Petrodex Enzymatic Toothpaste for Dogs is a bestselling example of this type of product. Be careful, though. Some dogs have negative reactions to the enzyme, which include lack of appetite and diarrhea.
Since most dogs do not like having foreign non-food objects shoved inside their mouths, you might want to let your dog slowly get used to their new dental cleaning kit. Try the following methods to make the process easier:
- Let your dog sniff and lick the toothbrush. Then, move the toothbrush over their lips and slowly onto their teeth, so that they will get used to the feel of the brush moving in their mouth.
- Put a tiny bit of the toothpaste on your clean finger. Let your dog sniff and lick it. Put another tiny dab on your clean finger and smear it on your dog’s teeth, as if you were cleaning their teeth.
- Use the toothbrush and toothpaste combo. Make sure that you stop cleaning if your dog becomes anxious. Keep trying to get them used to this new routine. Try to brush their teeth daily. If your dog does not like doing it a lot, try to brush their teeth at least three times a week.
2. Coconut oil
If you don’t want to use toothpaste on your dog, you could use coconut oil as a natural way to clean your furry pal’s teeth. Coconut oil has both antibacterial and antifungal properties. It helps fight off bacteria, improve your dog’s breath, and clean gums. The oil’s saturated fats have many side benefits for your dog’s health as well. These can help your dog’s digestion, make your dog’s coat shinier, make their skin less dry, and lubricate their joints.
Here are some ways you can use coconut oil to clean your dog’s teeth:
- Use it as toothpaste. You can either pour a small amount on a toothbrush or you can freeze the oil in the refrigerator and put a small chunk on the toothbrush. Clean away.
- Add it to a bone. If your dog does not like the toothbrush, you can slather the oil on a piece of bone, natural rawhide, or bully stick. Let the oil seep in, then give the piece to your dog. Dogs love gnawing at things, so not only will they be enjoying themselves, but they will also be cleaning their teeth.
- Put it on your finger. You can also dab some oil on your finger and then slather your dog’s teeth with it. Make sure you get some oil on the gums as well as the teeth. Do this only if you know your dog will tolerate your finger in their mouth.
- Add it to the food. You can mix a bit of oil in your dog’s food. It will add some additional flavor to the food and coat your dog’s teeth as they eat.
If you use this method, try to introduce the oil into your dog’s diet bit by bit so that their body will be able to adjust to it. If your furry pal does not exhibit any bad reactions like diarrhea, then you can give the oil to them regularly. The recommended maximum amount is one teaspoon of coconut oil per 10 pounds.
You can also combine coconut oil with other natural ingredients, like parsley (helps freshen breath), turmeric (has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties), or kelp (contains trace elements that help promote healthy teeth and gums).
3. Chew toys
Buy toxin-free, nylon or rubber chew toys for your dog. As stated earlier, dogs love to gnaw at things. A good chew toy has grooves or nubs that help massage gums and scrape tartar from the teeth.
4. Teeth cleaning treats
Many dog treats are full of sugar and carbohydrates, which are not good for your dog’s teeth specifically and their health generally. Try to give your dog fruits and vegetables as treats. Consider apple slices or carrots. These are not only healthier, but also abrasive enough to help scrape your dog’s teeth.
If your dog does not like fruits or vegetables, try to get treats that contain as many natural ingredients as possible.
Some of the most recommended are Blue Buffalo Dental Chews (contains no animal by-products, corn, soy, or wheat), Greenies Dental Sticks (available in different sizes), and VeggieDent Chews (designed to remove tartar and freshen breath).
You could also explore bully sticks as an alternative to rawhide for your dog. Bully sticks are usually made from bull pizzles. Unlike some rawhides, bully sticks can be digested easily and will encourage your dog to keep gnawing.
Be careful how many treats you give your dog, though. Always keep in mind that you are adding calories to your dog’s diet with each treat.
5. Chew bone
Gnawing at bones is in every dog’s DNA, since their wolf ancestors did it in the past.
Be careful when choosing the right kind of bone for your dog. You do not want it to be so small that your dog chokes on it. You also have to make sure that it does not splinter into tiny, sharp pieces that could pierce your dog’s mouth, esophagus, or stomach. Generally, cooked chicken or turkey bones splinter a lot, so many owners avoid giving these to their dogs.
Recently, Antlerz Natural Dog Chews have been receiving positive reviews. These are naturally shed deer antlers. They do not contain any chemicals, but rather natural minerals that are supposed to benefit dogs.
6. Natural food
Kibble is very easy to buy and give to dogs. However, it contains a lot of carbohydrates, which is not good for your furry pal. Some owners have switched their dogs to raw diets to mimic what canines eat in the wild. If this method is not good for your dog, try to give them kibble, which has a lot of natural ingredients. Also, you can add natural meat and vegetables to your dog’s diet to counter the carbohydrates in the kibble.
7. Dental powders
Another alternative to consider is to use dental powders.
ProDen PlaqueOff Dental Powder is made mostly from seaweed. It can be sprinkled on your dog’s food. When it is absorbed in your dog’s body, the compounds of the powder work through the saliva. The saliva coats the teeth and gums, and the compounds break down the bacteria.
One owner said that the effects of this product were so strong, that she could scrape tartar off her dog’s teeth using her fingernail when she started using it.
These tips, if done regularly, could help you save money on professional dental cleaning. You can also spend more quality time with your dog. And the next time you and your dog visit the vet, it will be with huge smiles, showing pearly white teeth.