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10 Tips for Better Dental Health in Dogs

Did you know that regularly brushing your dog's teeth and providing her with a healthy diet and plenty of chew toys can go long way toward keeping her mouth healthy? Many pooches show signs of gum disease by the time they're four years old because they aren't provided with proper mouth care-and bad breath is often the first sign of a problem. Give your dog regular home checks and follow the tips below, and you'll have a very contented pooch with a dazzling smile.

1. The Breath Test

Sniff your dog's breath. Not a field of lilies? That's okay-normal doggie-breath isn't particularly fresh-smelling. However, if his breath is especially offensiveand is accompanied by a loss of appetite, vomiting or excessive drinking or urinating, it's a good idea to take your pooch to the vet.

2. Lip Service

Once a week, with your dog facing you, lift his lips and examine his gums and teeth. The gums should be pink, not white or red, and should show no signs of swelling. His teeth should be clean, without any brownish tartar.

3. Signs of Oral Disease

The following are signs that your dog may have a problem in his mouth or gastrointestinal system and should be checked by a veterinarian:

  • Bad breath
  • Excessive drooling
  • Inflamed gums
  • Tumors in the gums
  • Cysts under the tongue
  • Loose teeth

4. The Lowdown on Tooth Decay

Bacteria and plaque-forming foods can cause build-up on a dog's teeth. This can harden into tartar, possibly causing gingivitis, receding gums and tooth loss. One solution? Regular teeth cleanings, of course.

5. Canine Tooth-Brushing Kit

Get yourself a toothbrush made especially for canines or a clean piece of soft gauze to wrap around your finger. Ask your vet for a toothpaste made especially for canines or make a paste out of baking soda and water. Never use fluoride with dogs under six months of age-it can interfere with their enamel formation. And please do not use human toothpaste, which can irritate a dog's stomach. Special mouthwash for dogs is also available-ask your vet.