When we think about our dogs’ health, we typically jump right to diet and exercise. Dental health, however, can often be overlooked. In fact, many canines don’t get proper dental care and show signs of gum disease by the time they’re four year years old.
Having an understanding of proper oral hygiene, and what to look (and smell) for in your pooch’s mouth can help to treat and prevent dental health issues. Sometimes, oral health issues can even alert you to more serious health conditions.
Dogs don’t have the cleanest mouths, so no dog’s breath is expected to be minty fresh. It definitely shouldn’t be foul enough to make you gag, though. Sometimes, your dog’s bad breath could simply be a result of digging through the garbage or eating something unpleasant.
Other times, bad breath could be the result of plaque and tartar build-up, full of bad-smelling bacteria. Bad breath may seem like a minor symptom, but periodontal disease generally starts with bad breath and then leads to gum problems, cavities, infections, loss of teeth, and other issues… including even worse breath! Fortunately, periodontal disease can generally be prevented with a proper dental care routine.
Bad breath can also be linked to a poor diet, or even seemingly unrelated diseases. If your pup’s breath smells a bit sweet or fruity, it may be a symptom of diabetes. If his breath smells a bit like urine, he may be dealing with kidney disease. Absolutely horrible breath accompanied by vomiting, loss of appetite, and a yellowish tint to the gums to be a sign of liver disease.
Like your dog’s breath, the state of his gums can also provide some insight into his overall health.
Dogs should typically have light pink gums, resembling the color of bubble gum. Some canines have black gums, or black spots on their gums, which is perfectly normal (as long as the spots aren’t raised bumps). When you feel the gums, they should be firm, slippery, wet, and smooth rather than puffy, sticky, or dry.
Blue or purple gums (referred to medically as cyanosis) are a sign that your dog doesn’t have enough oxygen in his blood. Cyanosis can also be an indicator of pneumonia, heart failure, or respiratory problems.
Pale or white gums indicate a lack of blood circulation, often a sign of blood loss or anemia. Similarly, while the color of a canine’s tongue can vary by breed, a white tongue can also be a sign of anemia. Because anemia can be a sign of other underlying health conditions, this should be taken seriously.
Bright red gums could indicate a few different things. They could be a sign that your dog is overheated, and may be experiencing heat stroke. They could also be a symptom of stomatitis or gingivitis, or that the gums are infected or inflamed.
If the gums bleed easily, it’s a sign that they’re too sensitive. Growths on the gums such as tumors and warts should also be checked out by a vet. They could be benign, or they could potentially be cancerous—plus they could be painful for your pooch.
Different breeds have different types of mouths, so what’s healthy for one dog may look different for another. However, dogs should generally have a set of 42 teeth. Take your dog to the vet if you notice any missing, chipped, or loose teeth as this could cause more problems down the road.
As dogs age, their teeth will naturally darken—especially if they’ve been stained by plaque. However, if you notice lots of brown or yellow coloration by the gums, it’s probably a sign that your dog is lacking a good dental routine.
Chewing, which helps to remove plaque build-up, is helpful for dental health. However, if your dog is reluctant to play with his chew toys and strongly favors wet food to kibble, it could be a sign of periodontal disease or other mouth issues.
Your Dog’s Dental Routine
Regular cleanings are essential for maintaining good dental health and preventing further complications. Implement regular tooth brushing/cleaning early as possible, so Fido will know to expect it as a regular part of his self-care routine.
Depending on what works best for you and your pooch, you may want to opt for a canine toothbrush or a brush that fits over your fingertip, or even doggy dental wipes. Be sure to buy toothpaste made specifically for dogs—you’ll want to avoid any toxic-for-dog ingredients used in your own toothpaste.
Invest in some chew toys and dental treats, as well, which are helpful for cleaning the teeth. Safe rawhide alternatives include raw bones, Kongs, carrots, or sustainably sourced, all-natural options.
You can also join the waitlist for PetHonesty’s upcoming dental hygiene products. Oral Hygiene Dental Water is an odorless and tasteless solution which promotes fresh breath and helps to keep gums and teeth healthy and clean. Oral Hygiene Fresh Sticks, which are perfect for chewing, will keep your dog’s teeth, gums, and breath clean and fresh.