…Ignoring This Could Be Deadly

By Katy Cable/TWR
A 3 min. Read

💕 February is Doggy Dental Health Care month and believe it or not, this is a crucial element of your pup’s overall health. Here’s some very important tips and facts for you to “brush-up” on:

I always thought people who brushed their dog’s teeth were being a tad obsessive, but when my vet informed me they pulled 13 teeth out of my Pug Raisin’s mouth and handed me a bill large enough for me to sink my own teeth into, I realized how important doggie dental care is.

Unless you’re a four year old child, you probably wouldn’t dream of going day’s on end without brushing your teeth. Believe it or not, just like us, your dog shouldn’t either.

When plaque is allowed to accumulate on your dog’s teeth, within a few days it hardens into tartar. Tartar adheres to the teeth and irritates the gums. Irritated gums result in an inflammatory condition called gingivitis. Dogs with gingivitis have red rather than pink gums, and they often also have stinky breath. If the tartar isn’t removed, it builds up under the gums, eventually causing them to pull away from the teeth. This creates small pockets in the gum tissue that trap additional bacteria in the mouth.

Once things progress to this stage, your dog will have developed an irreversible condition called periodontal disease, which not only causes considerable pain, but can also result in abscesses, infections, loose teeth, and bone loss.

But here’s what’s really shocking: Should your dog develop periodontal disease, the surface of his gums will be weakened, which can allow mouth bacteria to invade the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. If his immune system doesn’t kill off the circulating bacteria, it can reach the heart and infect it with a multitude of scary issues.

A Purdue University study points to a strong correlation in canines with gum disease and endocarditis, which is an inflammatory infection of the valves or inner lining of the heart. They also suspect certain strains of oral bacteria may lead to a host of heart problems.

If that’s not bad enough, studies have linked periodontal disease in both humans and pets to systemic diseases of the kidneys, liver, and lungs. It can also result in diabetes complications, problems during pregnancy, and even cancer. These serious health problems can either develop or be worsened as inflamed or bleeding gum tissue allows harmful oral bacteria to filter into the bloodstream quicker than a pug can devour a meal.

In addition to systemic diseases, infections in the mouth and gums often create other problems including tooth root abscesses, jaw fractures, nasal infection, and in extreme cases, eye loss and oral cancer. If your dog is lucky they may get by with a simple cavity or chipped tooth.

That probably scared you enough to start looking for a now doggie toothbrush. And that’s good news since most of these conditions can be avoided or greatly improved once good oral hygiene has begun and any dental disease has been resolved.

As you can see, your dog’s oral hygiene is much more than just an obsessive grooming afterthought. It’s an extremely important factor in maintaining your dog’s health and longevity. I advise you begin by talking to your vet and getting a thorough evaluation of your dog’s teeth, gums and mouth.

In my case, with young Olive, I began daily brushing at home which is sufficient for now. But with Raisin, I needed twice yearly cleanings and a major oral surgery to repair just a few years of neglect.

Pugs, and other “flat-nosed” breeds come genetically disadvantaged in terms of dental health. They seem to have teeth settled in the far reaches of their throats. Not only are they hard to find, they’re even harder to clean. Their cramped, flat muzzles and shape of their mouths makes properly cleaning back molars about as easy as resisting homemade brownies straight out of the oven.

Again, your vet can recommend possibly adding some tartar-removing sprays, and other products which might be useful. Hopefully you can get things under control and a deep cleaning with anesthesia will not be necessary.

Here are simple tips for keeping your pet’s mouth healthy and introducing the toothbrush:

  1. Feed your dog a nutritious, species appropriate, diet. This sets the stage for vibrant good health. However, I can’t tell you how many pet-parents assume feeding their dog a hard, dry kibble is all that’s necessary in order to take care of their pet’s teeth. Unfortunately, feeding great food of any kind is not enough to prevent dental disease for the life of your pet. It would be the same as thinking eating crunchy granola bars was all you needed to keep your own teeth clean.
  2. Perform routine mouth inspections. Your pet should allow you to open his mouth, look inside, and feel around for loose teeth or unusual lumps or bumps on the tongue, under the tongue, along the gum line and on the roof of his mouth. After you do this a few times, you’ll become sensitive to any changes that might occur from one inspection to the next. You should also make note of any differences in the smell of your pet’s breath that aren’t diet-related.
  3. Offer your pet raw bones to gnaw on. This is an excellent way to help remove tartar the old fashioned way — by grinding it off through repetitive chewing. There are some rules to offering raw bones (not for pets with pancreatitis, diseases of the mouth, weak or fractured teeth, resource guarders, “gulpers,” etc.) so ask your vet if raw bones would be a good “toothbrush” for your dog. I recommend offering a raw bone about the same size as your pet’s head to prevent tooth fractures.

One of the secrets to successful tooth brushing is to progress slowly and gently, allowing your dog to adapt at their own pace. When you first get your dog, you can begin a cleaning routine by wrapping a small piece of sterile gauze around your finger, and letting them become familiar with having your finger in their mouth. Gently rub the top front teeth and slowly work your way to the back teeth. Then do the same on the lower teeth. Praise your dog often and keep these sessions short. If your dog resists, try doing this while they’re relaxing and more mellow which is typically around their bedtime. If they resist, stop and try again another time. Also confirm they don’t have another underlying problem causing mouth pain.

The next step is to use a safe, natural dental cleaning product designed for pets and apply a small amount to the gauze before you rub your dog’s teeth. I am a fan of Oxyfresh. If you don’t have canine toothpaste, you can use organic coconut oil. Once they get used to this, you can progress to either a finger brush or a soft toothbrush the right size for their mouth.

If your furry companion is highly resistant to having their teeth rubbed or brushed, or, in the case of a new rescue/shelter dog that comes with a mouth needing major attention, you can use Treatibles CBD treats and oil. (Use promo code: WEEKLY RUNT to receive a 10% discount on your order) This all-natural cannibis works miracles to chill-out an anxious dog. (To learn more about all the amazing benefits of CBD read my blog) I have tried several prescriptions and have found CBD to be the most effective and with ZERO harmful side-effects. Also, ask your vet about products that when applied to the teeth go to work to break down plaque and tartar without brushing. I’m a fan of Oxyfresh products. Remember, the more rubbing and brushing your pet will allow, the more quickly you’ll see results, and the easier it will be to maintain dental health.

Please be cautious when purchasing doggie dental treats. Many contain harmful if not toxic ingredients.

Before You Buy Dental Care Treats, Read The Ingredient List! I see lots of pet parents gravitating to dry kibble and dental treats to keep their dog’s teeth clean. This is a popular misconception. In addition to not containing healthy, species appropriate ingredients, they are loaded with harmful, if not toxic, synthetic additives and preservatives. Some of the most popular products such as: Milk Bone Brushing Chews and Purina Beneful Healthy Smile Dental Twists contain the synthetic toxic preservatives BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) which are used to prevent fats and oils in food from turning rancid.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program has identified BHA and BHT as cancer-causing agents that consistently produce certain types of tumors in laboratory animals.
Unfortunately, the FDA still permits use of these chemicals as preservatives in food, deeming them “generally recognized as safe” in low doses.

In addition, smaller treats that are chewed and swallowed in a matter of seconds provide no real dental benefit for your pet.

Remember, even with bones, dental treats and a healthy diet, it’s still necessary to brush your dog’s teeth. It’s one of the best things you can do to keep your sweetie from becoming a dog that’s “All Bark and No Bite!” 😁

Written by

I love PUGS, cappuccinos and bad carbs. Spent my life as an actress, writer and now pet activist. Here’s “A little Kibble” if your children have paws!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store