Bad “dog” breath: Learn how to prevent it!

This is a guest post from Debra Jo Chiapuzio, president of the Emma Zen Foundation and a pet first aid expert. The Emma Zen Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on pet safety. The foundation’s main goal is to provide pet oxygen masks to firefighters and other first responders.

Brushing your pet's teeth can ward off dental disease!

It’s the month of amore, so pucker up and go give your pet a smooch! What? You didn’t brush your teeth? Oh I’ve been there- please go take the time to take care of that. But what about your pets? They feel like that daily, compounded by years if you have never provided proper dental care. Can you imagine NEVER brushing your teeth?

Did you know plaque turns into tarter in 24 to 48 hours? According to the American Veterinary Dental Association, “more than 98% of dogs with bad breath suffer from gum disease, and 80% of our canine friends develop it before they are three-years-old.” And we can do something about it!

What can we do?

  • If your pet is older, do not start brushing his/her teeth on your own. Take your pet to a professional first and then learn to maintain it. You do NOT want to “knock off” the bacteria only to have them swallow it!
  • Use a specially designed pet toothbrush.
  • Do not use human toothpaste! Human toothpaste contains both fluoride* and sodium lauryl sulfate**. Use a toothpaste formulated for pets.
  • There’s a learning curve! You don’t have to brush your pet’s entire mouth on day one, simply work up to it.
  • Start with just an upper quadrant, brushing on the outside of the gum line. Remember to “reward” your pet for a job well done. You want this to be a good experience. Next week, add in the lower quadrant on the same side. Soon, you will be able to do the whole left side in one brushing and in the days to follow the whole mouth on the outside gum line. As you and your pet get more comfortable with this process, you can start brushing on the insides too.
  • If you already do this and your pets bite at the brush, scale back. Go back to doing the outside of the gum line only and reward them for their good behavior. After a week, go back to brushing both the inside and outside gum lines: if your pet bites at the brush, there is no reward. They are smart and will learn quickly. Just remember to be consistent in all training.
  • What is a reward? Maybe a special snack, treat or dental chew! I sometimes brush with only a wet toothbrush and then put the smallest amount of toothpaste on so they can lick it off as their reward. I believe “knocking” bacteria off is the most important.
  • While whiter teeth may be a by-product of good dental hygiene, teeth naturally yellow with age. As a pet owner, I am less concerned with a slight yellow tinge than I am with the health of my pets’ teeth and overall health!

So what should we be concerned with? What signs should tell us we need to bring our pets to our veterinarians for a check-up? The signs include:

  • Bad breath
  • Obvious build up on teeth and/or gum lines
  • Redness or inflammation (signs of gingivitis)

Don’t wait for these signs to appear to begin a dental cleaning regiment as they are 100% preventable! The bacteria built up on a pet’s teeth can enter the bloodstream through the gum line and can actually damage a pet’s major organs, shortening his/her life. The AVDA also noted that; “an average size dog that has his teeth brushed daily may live to be fifteen to seventeen years old, and that same dog without dental care may only live to be eleven!” LONG LIVE YOUR PET!

For more information, read common questions from other pet owners on dental disease. If you’re intimidated by the act of brushing your pet’s teeth, watch this video from the Emma Zen Foundation to walk you through the process.

*Fluoride is extremely poisonous to dogs. All “baby” and pet toothpastes are fluoride-free.

**Sodium lauryl sulfate is the active chemical ingredient that causes toothpaste to foam. We don’t “need” foaming but it is what makes it more palatable for us humans. Bottom line it is another chemical which is dangerous to our pets.

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