Some dog breeds are considered seniors as early as seven, and as they age, their risk of health issues increases. Fortunately, tooth loss doesn’t have to be a problem. There are many ways to protect your senior dog’s oral health. Here are some dental care tips from our professionals on how to keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy throughout their lifetime.
Four Dental Care Tips for Senior Dogs
Many pet owners don’t realize that dogs need routine dental care, just like humans do. But years of poor oral health in dogs can lead to tooth loss as well as serious health problems like heart or kidney disease. Here’s how to prevent dental problems as your pet ages.
1: Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
The best way to protect your dog’s oral health is to brush their teeth once a day. Although brushing less frequently is not as effective, brushing your dog’s teeth at least once a week can still be beneficial.
Always use toothpaste that’s specifically designed for dogs. Toothpaste for people often contains ingredients like xylitol that are toxic to pets. You should also use a dog toothbrush, because the bristles are soft and the neck is angled perfectly for brushing canine teeth.
If you don’t already brush your dog’s teeth, you’ll need to train them to get used to it. The whole process should be spread out over several days to prevent confusion or frustration.
Here’s how to brush your dog’s teeth:
- Gently lift your dog’s lips to expose their teeth and gums.
- Place the toothbrush against the teeth at a 45-degree angle to the gum line.
- Brush gently in a circular motion, from front to back on the outer surface of the teeth (a dog’s tongue helps remove plaque from the inside surface).
- Reassure your pup, and use gentle motions throughout the process.
- Give your dog a healthy treat once finished.
2: Watch Out for Gum Disease
Gum disease is a serious infection caused by bacteria buildup, and it affects dogs as well as humans. Gum disease can cause significant dental pain for your dog, and it eventually leads to tooth loss.
The bacteria that cause gum disease can even travel through the bloodstream and infect the kidneys, heart, and other organs. If you notice any of the signs of gum disease in your pup, contact your vet immediately.
Symptoms of gum disease in dogs include:
- Bleeding gums (you might notice spots of blood on chew toys)
- Red, swollen gums
- Chewing only on one side of the mouth
- Excessively licking lips and teeth
- Drooling more than usual
- Pawing at the mouth
- Dropping food when eating
- Aggression when face is touched
3: Feed Your Dog a Healthy Diet
Giving your senior dog a healthy, well-balanced diet plays an important role in their dental and overall health. For instance, a meat-based diet helps keep unwanted bacteria out of your dog’s mouth. Extra protein also helps your older dog maintain healthy muscles.
Speak with your veterinarian about your dog’s specific dietary needs to ensure they get the proper nutrition. And make sure to limit treats to less than 10% of your dog’s daily calories to prevent tooth decay and obesity.
4: Schedule Dental Exams and Cleanings
Dogs need regular dental checkups to detect the early signs of gum disease and other dental issues. Senior dogs should have a veterinary dental exam at least once every six months, while younger dogs can see a vet dentist once a year.
Adult dogs should also have their teeth professionally cleaned once a year. Senior dogs may need a health risk assessment before having their teeth cleaned, to ensure they are healthy enough to undergo the anesthesia that is necessary for the procedure.
Veterinary Dental Care in Gilbert, Arizona
Routine oral exams are critical if you want your senior dog to live a healthy, happy life. The team at Anasazi Animal Clinic is exceptionally skilled in veterinary dentistry. We perform comprehensive oral exams and can diagnose and treat dental problems in dogs of all ages.
If your senior dog is due for a dental checkup, call us at 480-497-0505 today to schedule an appointment.
Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (5/15/2023). Photo by Derek Sears on Unsplash