From chewies to dental bones to dental diets, what makes the biggest difference for your dog’s teeth, gums, and breath? Should you even be concerned about your dog’s oral health?
Yes. Dogs can suffer from gum (periodontal) disease just like people, and it’s not something to ignore. Dental problems in dogs can lead to loss of appetite and broken or lost teeth, and it may even damage other organs if bacteria get into the bloodstream through diseased gums.
Rabies is a virus that may affect the brain and spinal cord of all mammals, including dogs, cats and humans. Though preventable, there is good reason that the word “rabies” evokes fear in people. The disease has been reported in every state except Hawaii, and everywhere throughout the world except for Australia and Antarctica. Annually, rabies causes the deaths of more than 50,000 humans and millions of animals worldwide. Once symptoms appear, the disease results in fatality.
Professional cleanings and brushing your dog's teeth are great ways to maintain oral health. Dog dental treats or special diets also may provide some oral benefits, but using them comes with precautions.
The Benefits of Dog Dental Treats
Just as with humans, dogs can suffer from oral problems like:
Build-up of saliva, bacteria, and food on teeth (plaque)
A hard yellow or brown residue on teeth (tartar)
Swollen, bleeding, or irritated gums
Improving teeth and gum health. Dogs that chew actively have less plaque build-up. And some types of dog dental treats and diets can reduce plaque by nearly 70%. How do they do this? Simply the mechanical action of chewing can make a difference. In one study, increasing the diameter of kibble by 50% led to a 42% reduction in tartar. In the same study, coating the products with a substance called polyphosphate further reduced tartar by 55%. It prevents plaque from turning into tartar by isolating calcium on teeth.
The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) is an organization that evaluates pet products to see if they meet standards for reducing plaque or tartar. Approved foods, treats, and chews must reduce plaque or tartar by at least 10% to achieve the VOHC seal of approval. If a chemical anti-plaque agent is used, it needs to reduce plaque or tartar by at least 20%. Go to http://www.vohc.org/accepted_products.htm to see which products have received the VOHC seal of approval.
Reducing bad breath in dogs. It is not uncommon for a dog’s breath to be slightly unpleasant. This is often the result of bacteria build-up in the mouth and can be a sign that your dog needs better dental or gum care. However, it’s not a bad idea to check with your vet to make sure bad breath is not a sign of an underlying medical problem.
In addition to professional cleaning and regular tooth brushing, certain dog treats are also formulated to help improve breath. Hard chew toys may also help. See what your vet recommends.