Dog dentistry might seem silly, but keeping your pup’s teeth plaque-free is vital to their longevity and comfort. A few extra minutes of attention now can save thousands of dollars in vet bills down the road. Products marketed towards plaque reduction and increased oral health are often filled with additives and colors that, at best, are simply acting as fillers and, at worst, are detrimental to your pet’s health. What’s the alternative? Holistic dog dentistry.
1. A Wholesome Diet
Prevention is the best way to avoid the high costs of canine dental care, so it makes sense to feed your dog the best possible diet. While canned dog food tends to have a poor reputation, dry food isn’t often much better. Instead of these options, opt for food that doesn’t include processed grains and byproducts. Look for dog food high in lean protein, vegetables, fats, and whole grains when necessary and opt for homemade treats with ingredients that include pumpkin or peanut butter.
Additionally, feeding your dog whole meat bones (think beef or bison) can help clean hard-to-reach places.
2. Brushing Teeth
I’m guilty of returning home from the vet with a dog toothbrush in hand, only to let it sit in the back of the cabinet for years. Most veterinarians recommend brushing your dog’s teeth daily using a dog toothbrush and dog toothpaste—never use human toothpaste as many natural brands contain xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.
Many dogs will be eager to lick off dog toothpaste which will allow you to brush the areas that tend to build up the most plaque. If daily brushing seems too difficult, try starting with 2 to 3 times a week and increasing from there.
3. Probiotics & Enzymes
Probiotics aren’t just for humans. Dogs can benefit from probiotics in their diet, too. Try sprinkling probiotic powder into your dog’s food or mixing with water and spraying into your dog’s mouth if she isn’t fond of the taste in her meal. As a bonus, more probiotics in your dog’s diet can help curb bad breath, too.
Enzymes can also be an effective way to help with plaque. A 2016 study published in Scientifica found a 37% reduction in plaque after dogs were given an oral care product—in this case an herbal solution containing enzymes—that was added to their water.
Several products containing enzymes for dogs can be purchased. Dog toothpaste that has enzymes added is another great option.
4. Dental Exams
Chances are, your dog isn’t a fan of you curling back his lips and taking a peek at his canines, let alone molars. Luckily, most veterinarians are well-versed in dental exams and can provide the proper care for your dog. Anesthesia is common and allows for a proper exam, but in cases where anesthesia is not recommended, enzymes may help.
5. Dental Chews
There are dozens of canine dental chews available, with some working well and others acting more as glorified candy for your dog. Unfortunately, not all products work well on all dogs. Take my dogs, for example: the smaller one will spend thirty minutes chewing a treat while the larger one will gulp it down in a few bites. Dental chews are options, but the above methods should be considered first.
Always consult with your veterinarian before trying any new product or routine on your dog.