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Home Dental Care for Dogs

After your dental cleaning your mouth feels pretty good. Now imagine what it would feel like if you didn’t brush them for the next 6-12 months or until your next dentist appointment. Wow, the smell and the lack of friends would be impressive! 

Your dog’s mouth is pretty much the same. After a professional cleaning and polish the mouth is in good shape but just like with people our pets start accumulating plaque again within hours.  Home care for your dogs can make a tremendous difference in their comfort and health. The more you can do at home, the healthier your dog’s mouth will be between professional teeth cleaning and the longer the intervals between the cleanings.

All methods of home care share the goal of minimizing plaque (bacterial film) accumulation, and preventing the mineralization of the plaque to form calculus (“tartar”).  Brushing the teeth is the gold standard but all home dental care listed here is beneficial.  Combine them for even better results!

Regular use of products carrying the VOHC Seal will reduce the severity of periodontal disease.

Below we have listed some forms of Home Dental Care that have been proven to help with plaque and tartar accumulations the components of gum disease.

Chorhexidine Oral Rinse: This rinse provides antibacterial benefits lasting up to 12 hours and acts much like a medicated mouthwash. It is safe for pets and rarely causes any problems. The rinse is applied by squirting a small amount inside the cheek on each side of the mouth. The chlorhexidine binds to the oral tissues, tooth surfaces, and existing plaque, and is gradually released into the oral cavity. Some dogs may object to the taste of the product.

Dental Wipes:  Dentacetic Dental Wipes can be helpful for dogs that will not allow owners to brush the teeth.   The Dental Wipes have sodium hexametaphosphate that has been shown to safely decrease tartar formation when used daily.

Chew Type Products: Anything that helps increase chewing can be of benefit. To the surprise of many owners, feeding exclusively dry food is of little benefit 

  • Chews and Treats:
    • Rawhide chews- we recommend C.E.T.® HEXTRA® Premium rawhide chews which contain a dual-enzyme system that improves their effectiveness compared to plain rawhide chews.
    • Kong toys
    • The flexible “Gummi-bones” produced by the Nylabone company are safe for most dogs.
    • Friskies® Cheweez®Beefhide Treats
    • Canine Greenies ® – the generics don’t have the VOHC seal
    • Purina Veterinary Diets® Dental Chews 
    • Normal “Milk Bone” type biscuits are of little benefit for the mouth.

Hard chew toys do help in decreasing dental calculus, but are associated with an increased incidence of broken teeth. Although touted as being part of a natural diet, dogs that are given hard chew products usually end up with painful dental fractures, which can actually expose the nerves of the teeth. The dogs end up with an abscessed tooth. Since they do not complain about it or act any different, these can go unnoticed for many years, leaving your pet in chronic discomfort. Wild dogs, such as wolves, also suffer the same dental fractures. They have no choice but to live with the pain. Fortunately, you can avoid most dental fractures in pets by controlling what they have access to.

Avoid natural bones, antlers, dried cow hooves and hard nylon toys and large rawhide toys as these are hard enough to fracture teeth. If you would not want me to hit you in the knee-cap with it, don’t let your dog chew on it!

Please note: All chew toys require that you monitor your pets while they are using the product. Never leave pets unattended while they are enjoying any chew toy. Some dogs tend to swallow large pieces of whatever you give them to chew on. These dogs should be closely monitored, and the pieces of the toys should be discarded as they break them apart. Some experimentation is required, but you should be able to find chew toys that work well for your individual dog.

What Home Care IS NOT.  Home care is NOT a treatment for established disease.

Home care is daily plaque control designed to maintain oral hygiene and prevent the development of gingivitis and periodontal disease. It does not remove calculus and it cannot reach into periodontal pockets. Therefore, home care should only be instituted AFTER appropriate professional treatment has established a clean and healthy mouth. Home care is then used in an attempt to maintain this healthy situation or to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

Home care is NOT a substitute for regular professional examinations and treatment.

Since home care only cleans the crowns of the teeth and maybe 1 to 2 millimeters subgingivally (below the gums) it will have little or no effect on established periodontal pockets. Home care is also only effective for those teeth (or tooth surfaces) the owner is able to reach. Therefore, even with home care, your pet should have regular professional examinations and treatments.

By following a consistent program of home-care, you will greatly improve your pet’s dental health. This will mean fewer professional cleanings, less tooth loss and a happier, healthier pet. However, please remember that there is no substitute for professional veterinary care. We must work as a team to ensure a long and happy life for your pet.