Maintaining dental health in dogs is a lot like maintaining our own - doing something small every day to prevent a big problem later on. Read on to learn about what you can do at home to help support your dog's dental health.
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The number one thing you can do at home for dental health is surprisingly similar to our own - toothbrushing! It certainly makes sense when you think about it, as dogs reap the same benefits of tartar reduction when brushing after a meal. Many pet owners are intimidated by the idea of brushing their dog's teeth, but many dogs take to it very well, and most dogs will tolerate toothbrushing after 2-4 weeks of training.
Start off by figuring out if a handled brush or a finger brush works best for you and your dog, then start using that brush to touch your dog's teeth and gums. When your dog tolerates it well, give him or her a treat. This may only be a minute or so of "brushing" at first, but gradually delay the treat until your dog tolerates it for 5 minutes or so. Then, start actually brushing their teeth with a pet-friendly toothpaste. If your dog struggles with it, start with short periods and lots of positive reinforcement, then gradually increase the time.
Dental treats and toys
Dental treats or chews are a great option for maintaining dental health as they are easy for most pet owners to give. Dental treats and toys work by mechanically removing tartar from teeth as the dog chews, and have textures specially formulated to maximize tartar reduction. Higher quality dental treats will also have other ingredients such as delmopinol that reduce oral bacteria and hinder tartar development.
Dental treats and toys are still not a substitute for veterinary dental care, but are effective when used as part of a dental care system with other methods, such as regular dental checks, toothbrushing, and other supplements.
Dental supplements involve either in-water or in-food additives that reduce plaque formation and oral bacteria. Many supplements include a type of seaweed called Ascophyllum nodosum, which is a safe, natural additive that has been shown to reduce plaque formation by up to 40%. In-water supplements usually include RF2, a plant extract that stops bacteria from clinging on to teeth, antioxidants to reduce inflammation, and gentle antiseptics to kill bacteria.
Dental health diets use a few different methods to reduce plaque buildup, including larger-sized kibble to encourage chewing, textures and interlocking fibres in the food that help remove tartar and massage gums, pentasodium triphosphate to reduce food sticking to teeth, and calcium binders to stop tartar formation.
While dental diets are very effective, they still need to make up most of your pet's diet to produce the best results.