I love to plant big smooches on my dogs’ wet noses, but all too often, I’m greeted by walls of nasty dog breath with the power to bowl me over.
Prioritizing your dog’s oral hygiene is about more than just preventing bad breath, however. It is, more importantly, a way to keep your pooch healthy — and it can save you from spending money on costly surgical procedures.
The Importance of Canine Oral Hygiene
An estimated 85% of all pets develop periodontitis (gum disease) by the time they are 3 years old, according to Vetstreet.com. This disease can cause bad breath, weight loss, bleeding gums, excruciating mouth pain and broken teeth or early tooth loss.
Eventually, poor dental health can lead to larger issues in vital organs like the kidney, liver and heart. If left untreated, your dog could need to undergo surgery for tooth extractions or emergency procedures to treat their organs.
And these surgeries aren’t cheap. Before I got serious about my dog’s dental health, he needed multiple tooth extractions that added nearly $100 to his dental cleaning cost.
Emergency surgeries are even costlier. According to Trupanion, a surgery to treat acute liver failure, for example, can cost nearly $5,500.
How to Spot Gum Disease in Dogs
Spotting gum disease in your dog can be challenging, especially because symptoms usually do not show up until the disease has developed. That is why preventative care is so crucial.
Pets.WebMD.com lists a few warning signs of severe gum disease that you should watch for: bad breath, bloody saliva, bleeding gums, tooth loss, chewing on one side of the mouth and an unwillingness to have the head touched.
If you notice any of these signs and suspect gum disease, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.
How to Keep Your Dog’s Teeth Healthy
Spending thousands of dollars on surgery for your dog is never ideal (though pet insurance can help). And more importantly, no pet parent ever wants their dog to endure the pain and suffering that gum disease can cause.
Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
The easiest thing you can do? Brush your dog’s teeth. No, really. You can purchase a dog toothbrush (or finger brush) at most stores with a pet aisle, at pet stores or online for as little as $5 to $10, but a child’s toothbrush works fine, too.
The packs usually come with dog-specific toothpaste in chicken, fish or other tasty flavors. Just don’t use human toothpaste, as it contains ingredients that your dog should not — but likely would — swallow.
You can even brush your dog’s teeth without the toothpaste. Just the act of scrubbing the teeth is helpful. No toothbrush on hand? You can instead use an old washcloth or a piece of gauze to get the job done.
Go Beyond the Brush
Beyond regular brushing, you can purchase dog toys that promote healthy teeth and gums. Toys like dental chews, elk or deer antlers, Nylabones and even fresh produce like crunchy baby carrots can be great for your dog’s teeth.
You can also purchase special dog food that is designed for dental health. In general, dry food is better for your dog’s teeth than soft food, as it forces your dog to chew.
You can also talk to your vet about drinking water additives or preventative medication that your dog can take for better oral hygiene, either as a pill or a product that you apply directly to the teeth and gums.
Regular Visits to the “Doggy Dentist”
Finally, regular dental cleanings with your vet are the best way to remove plaque and tartar buildup, not just on the teeth but under the gums. These procedures typically cost between $300 and $500, depending on your vet and the severity of the issue.
They do require anesthesia, so the decision to have the procedure should not be made lightly. However, they are much less dangerous and expensive than emergency procedures that could be necessary if dental health is ignored. And the better and more disciplined you are with dental cleaning at home, the less frequently your dog will need a surgical cleaning.
Unfortunately, our dogs are prone to a lot more than just dental disease. So review the most common dog illnesses, their preventative measures and the costs associated with ignoring the issues.
If asked what his number one job is, Timothy Moore would likely say doggy daddy. But when he’s not caring for his dogs or taking them for hikes with his partner, Tim is usually writing, reading, editing or enjoying a good beer with friends.
The Penny Hoarder Promise: We provide accurate, reliable information. Here’s why you can trust us and how we make money.