Experts say good dental health is vital for your pet and that the stakes are a lot higher than maintaining pretty teeth and avoiding dreaded doggy breath.
"Untreated plaque and tartar will eventually lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease in the mouth," warns Dr. Rod Van Horn, a veterinarian and member of the American Veterinary Dental Society. "And those same bacteria could enter the blood stream, leading to heart disease or filter through the kidneys and liver."
With good habits and veterinary-strength pet dental products, pet parents can help avoid these serious health problems. Here are some top dog dental care tips that will keep teeth their sparkly best:
• Veterinarians recommend once-a-day brushing for optimum health. If you’re time-strapped or your dog is resistant, remember, the more often you brush, the better.
• Starting early is always best, as puppies can get used to brushing more easily. But even old dogs can learn new dental tricks. Start by letting your pooch taste pet toothpaste from your finger on several occasions. Then put some on the toothbrush to get your pet used to the texture.
A paste with a food flavor should make the process easier, experts say.
When your pet is ready, (some dogs take days, others take weeks) gently rub your fingers on their gums and lips to get them used to the sensation.
When you’re finally ready to start brushing, keep it safe, gentle and effective with a brush especially designed for dogs' needs.
Opt for an ergonomic handle to make it easier to keep a firm grip while brushing. If your dog doesn't take to the regular pet toothbrush, consider a finger toothbrush, which is softer.
Chewing is great for dogs, helping to improve dental health by scraping away existing plaque and tartar. Give pets a better alternative than your slippers, such as a dental chew that activates the body’s natural defense system, killing plaque-forming bacteria.
For dogs with bad breath, consider a breath spray that fights odors and controls tartar. Opt for something easy-to-use that has a veterinary-strength potency.
"Want your dog to live a longer happier life? The answer is simple. Keep pets' teeth and gums in tip top shape," stresses Dr. Van Horn.