Most dogs should receive professional dental care by age 2
to 3 years. The frequency of dental examinations, scaling, and polishing
depends on how quickly calculus forms on the dog’s teeth. A good program of
home dental care will cut down on how often your dog’s teeth need to be
In fact, dental disease in dogs can be almost completely avoided by
following these guidelines:
Otodectic mites are tiny insects that live in the ear canals and
feed by piercing the skin. They are highly contagious to cats and dogs, but not to humans. Ear
mites are the most common cause of ear symptoms in puppies and young adult
dogs. Suspect ear mites when both of the dog’s ears are involved.
Ear mites should not be confused with the mites that cause sarcoptic mange. This is an entirely
different disease, but one whose signs can include crusty ear tips (see
Scabies, page 126).
Feed a dry kibble diet. Dry foods are abrasive and keep the teeth clean.
Feed once or twice a day rather than allowing the dog to nibble all day. If you
prefer to feed canned dog food,
offer some dry biscuits, such as Milk Bones, daily. Science Diet and Eukanuba
offer foods that help prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar.
Brush the teeth and gums at least three times a week using a toothpaste
made for dogs. Start the program when the dog is young and her gums are still
healthy. If the dog develops periodontal disease, you
will need to brush the teeth every day.
Avoid giving your dog objects to chew that are harder than her teeth.
High-impact rubber balls and rawhide chew toys are less likely to split or
break teeth than knuckle bones. Some chews are specially treated to help
diminish plaque and tartar. Cheweeze and Dentabones are examples. Avoid feeding
chicken bones and long bones that splinter. They provide no benefit and may
and other problems. In fact, it is best to avoid all bones.
Schedule annual veterinary visits for cleaning and scaling. A yearly
checkup is the best prevention against dental problems.
The Veterinary Oral Health Council has a list of products proven to aid the
dental health of your dog. You can find it at www.vohc.org (click on “Products
Awarded the VOHC Seal”).
Brushing the Teeth and Gums
There are a number of good toothpastes and dental products designed for
pets. Some contain abrasives such as calcium and silicates. An example is CET Dentifrice.
Others use oxygenating substances to limit the growth of anaerobic bacteria
(CET dental products and Oxyfresh). Nolvadent and Peridex contain chlorhexidine,
which is both antibacterial and antiviral. MaxiGuard contains zinc ascorbate,
which promotes healing of diseased gums. Your veterinarian may suggest that you
use one of these products, particularly if your dog has gum disease.
For routine cleaning, a satisfactory toothpaste can be made by mixing 1
tablespoon (14 g) of baking soda with 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of water. If the dog is
on a salt-restricted diet, substitute a salt replacer (such as potassium
chloride) for the baking soda. Most dogs prefer flavored toothpastes made
especially for dogs, such as poultry or mint. Dog toothpastes also have enzymes
that clean more thoroughly than just the normal abrasive action of baking