Table of Contents

Dental Care for Dogs – Why This is So Important

Article at a Glance

  • 70 percent of dogs and cats will suffer periodontal disease by the age of two
  • Diet is most common cause of dental disease. Diet high in carbohydrates, especially sugars and starch encourage excessive bacterial growth in the mouth.
  • Raw diet, chewing, supplements and brushing teeth should keep dogs mouth healthy.
  • It is important to check your dog’s teeth and gums every week so that any changes can be noticed early.

Why is it important to keep your dog’s teeth clean? According to Dr Brooke Niemiec of the American Veterinary Dental College, dental disease is the number one medical problem among pets today! Statistics show that over 70 percent of dogs and cats will suffer periodontal disease by the age of two [2].

Studies have linked periodontal disease in both humans and pets to systemic diseases of the kidneys and liver, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes complications, problems during pregnancy, and even cancer.

According to holistic veterinarian Karen Becker:

“These serious health concerns develop or are made worse by the constant presence of oral bacteria flushing into the bloodstream through inflamed or bleeding gum tissue. The good news is that many of these conditions improve once the dental disease is resolved and good oral hygiene is maintained.” [2].

We can therefore see that knowing how to check your dog’s teeth and gums, and how to maintain their whole mouth in optimum health is essential to your dog’s overall health.

What are the main causes of Dental issues?

1. Bacteria & Diet 

All dogs have bacteria in their mouth, but many diets encourage inappropriate bacteria to thrive. In particular, diets high in carbohydrates, especially sugars and starch, encourage excessive bacterial growth in the mouth. The bacteria can then turn to plaque, that sticks to the teeth and the gum line. The bacteria, hidden in the gums, then secrete harmful toxins which cause tissue damage. This can cause inflammation and receding / inflamed gums. 

Diet is still by far the most common cause of dental disease, and the easiest cause to address!

Figure 1: Raw Fed verses 17 days of Kibble Feeding [1]

The image on the left shows the teeth of a raw fed dog. On the right is the same dog after being fed a popular vet recommended kibble for only 17 days! The difference is staggering. (Note: the dog’s teeth returned to a healthy state after returning to a raw diet).

Myth Busting:

Many people believe that a dog eating hard biscuits will help to keep their teeth clean, but nothing could be further from the truth. Most kibble foods are high in carbohydrates and starches – starch rapidly breaks down into sugars. Not only do the sugars stick to the teeth and gums, providing the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, but they rapidly turn into plaque, as we have seen above.

2. Genetics

Some breeds are predisposed to dental issues. Here are some examples [1]:

  • Maltese – late development of teeth, retained deciduous (baby) teeth
  • Yorkies – retained deciduous teeth, enamel hypoplasia (enamel dissolves or doesn’t exist, and plaque and tartar stick really well – causes problems)
  • Brachycephalic breeds – Pugs, Chihuahuas, Cavaliers – crowding of teeth, sideways teeth, underbite
  • Greyhounds – enamel hypoplasia
  • Shelties – oligodontia (missing teeth)
  • Chinese Crested – teeth grow in soft, with shallow roots
  • Boxers, Bulldogs – underbite, crowding of teeth

With any of these breeders, owners have to be particularly attentive to dental care to catch any problems early, and to use some of the preventative measures outlined below. 

3. Inflammation

General inflammation in the body will also be shown in the mouth – inflamed gums are open to infection. 

4. Infections & Some Medications

Infections & Some Medications can cause dental issues, in particular certain antibiotics and steroids. Always check any side effects of medication with vets, so that extra precautions can be taken.

Symptoms of Dental Disease

It is important to check your dog’s teeth and gums every week, so that any changes can be noticed early, before problems have a chance to take hold. Some common symptoms of dental disease are shown below – but some can also be linked to other issues, so if you are concerned your dog should always be checked by a vet. If your dog has one or more of these issues, he may be suffering from dental disease [1]:

  • bad breath
  • dropping food from mouth
  • bad odor from the mouth
  • visible plaque and tartar on teeth
  • tilting head to one side when chewing
  • loose teeth
  • loss of teeth
  • unwillingness to eat
  • unwillingness to chew hard objects
  • crying out in pain, especially hen eating
  • shying away from touch

Dental issues, if unresolved, can be linked to other serious and painful conditions, including [1] : 

  • Tooth root abscesses
  • Osteomyelitis (infection of the bone): the roots of the teeth are attached to the jawbone and any infection in the tooth can spread
  • Jaw fractures
  • Nasal discharge and sinusitis: if your dog has chronic sinusitis it might be a tooth root problem
  • Damage to heart valves, leading to heart failure, liver and kidney damage: the mouth is a highly vascular area – there is lots of blood flow in this area – and the bacteria in the mouth can get picked up and work its way into the circulatory system and through the filtration systems of the liver and kidneys
  • Poor diabetic control
  • Septicemia (infection in the blood): can lead to shock and death.

For humans, dental care is an important part of our daily hygiene routine. So why aren’t we taking the same care with our dogs’ teeth?

Diet, raw bones, brushing and natural at-home dental care can go a long way.

How To Keep Your Dogs Mouth Healthy

1. Diet:

As we have seen above, diet is the number one way to keep your dogs teeth healthy. Feeding a species appropriate raw diet, low in carbohydrates, will ensure a healthy mouth microbiome, which is essential for good dental health. 

2. Chewing:

Giving size and age appropriate raw bones or Hornbeam Sticks for your dog to chew on (ALWAYS SUPERVISE) will not only help keep the jaw muscles healthy, but also helps its natural behaviour and stress relief.

3. Supplements:

There are many herbs that support dental care. Our Dental Sticks contain the following herbs to support oral health:

Organic Ascophyllum nodosum – seaweed has been shown to reduce plaque formation in both dogs and humans [3] 

Organic Chia Seeds – high in fibre and antioxidants promoting healthy microbiome

Organic Parsley – natural antibacterial (promotes a healthy mouth microbiome) and full of antioxidants to reduce inflammation [4]

Brewers Yeast – high in fibre and chromium, helping to balance blood sugar levels [5] 

Sea Salt – due to high mineral levels helps to purify and clean the mouth 

Organic Peppermint – natural antimicrobial, tp promote a healthy mouth microflora.

Alas many dental sticks on the market actually contain harmful sticky ingredients that will make your dog’s teeth worse and not better. Some common ingredients, found in top selling brands, to avoid include:

SODIUM TRIPOLYPHOSPHATE  – is a preservative and emulsifier. Large ingested amounts can be toxic, and can affect Phosphate  and sodium levels levels in Body. This is a particular concern for kibble fed dogs. 

ZINC SULPHATE  – linked to gastrointestinal problems 

CEREALS AND VEGETABLE DERIVATIVES – high in starch which will promote plaque build up and tooth decay

MEAT AND ANIMAL DERIVATIVES – any ‘meat derivatives should be avoided as can contain parts not good for consumption? 

TASTE ENHANCERS – unspecified flavours which could contain harmful chemicals

POTASSIUM SORBATE – see below – can damage DNA and lead to cancer. 

Potato Flour, Extremely high in starch, promotes plaque and tooth decay

Tapioca Starch, Pure starch, will create plaque and promote tooth decay

Glycerine, not a healthy ingredient, toxic and does not belong to the body

Cellulose, harmless, helps some of the bacteria in the gut.

4. Brushing Teeth:

Brushing teeth is recommended for susceptible breeds or if your dog shows any signs of a dental issue, however, many of the products on the market contain harmful ingredients that should never be used.

If you do need to brush your dog’s teeth, the safest way is to make a home made solution to use with your dog’s toothbrush. We always recommend trying on yourself first to ensure the product is not too strong! 

We LOVE this natural toothpaste formula from Dogs Naturally [6]:

You can use a finger brush or a piece of gauze wrapped around your index finger in place of a brush. Just simply apply the toothpaste daily to your dog’s teeth.

Figure 3: Homemade Natural Toothpaste Recipe: 

Veterinary Cleaning

Unfortunately this can be necessary, and can be stressful for dog and owner. Ensuring that your vet is an expert in this procedure is key to success, and once done, ensuring your dog is on a natural diet is key to maintaining the results. 

Summary

Good dental health is absolutely vital for your dog. Diet is the single most important factor to your dogs health. Regular inspections will alert you early to problems. Using Raw Bones / Dental supplements / brushing will all help. Each dogs is  an individual, so checking all your dogs regularly and coming up with a routine for each dog will help them live a long, happy and pain free life! 

Sometimes raw meaty bones are enough to keep your dog’s teeth clean, healthy and strong, but it’s not always that simple. Canine dental care is so important, not just for the health of your dog’s teeth and mouth, but his overall health! Don’t skimp.

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