Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Preventing Gum Disease in Dogs and Maintaining Good Oral Care

Good oral hygiene for dogs is best achieved by implementing a multi-directional approach. This type of approach ensures that you are protecting your dog’s teeth, gums, ligaments and jaw - directly and indirectly. 

  • When we protect directly we ensure that the dog’s teeth are kept as clean as possible;
  •  When we protect indirectly we are ensuring that the dog’s natural system of protection -his/her immune system is optimally supported.
There are many preventative and ongoing maintenance measures that you can choose from to establish and maintain your dog’s oral health. Some of the measures are obvious - some may surprise you.

There are other issues to consider as well. For instance…If you do brush your dog’s teeth do you know how to choose truly good dog toothpaste or do you just think you know? Are you feeding your dog food or treats that contain ingredients that are bad for your dog’s teeth? Do you know which ingredients are bad?

First, let’s take a quick look at the list the ways that you can ensure your dog’s good oral hygiene. Then we can go over each one in detail…

At a glance…
  1. No food or treats that contain sweeteners;
  2. Boost your dog’s immune system;
  3. Brush your dog’s teeth or use an oral rinse, but make sure the product you are using is truly safe and beneficial;
  4. Give your dog safe, teeth-cleaning items to chew.

  1. Step one - know what items are available and understanding the products benefits;
  2. Step two - inform yourself about how to choose a good product;
  3. Step three - make an informed decision and purchase the product that is most suitable.
Now, let’s look at each oral health measure in a little detail…

Do Not Feed Your Dog any Food or Treats that Contains Sweeteners

If a product is really wholesome why does it require sweeteners to be appealing to your dog? Sweeteners are not required in your dog’s diet! In fact they are not good for your dog. They are added to many pet foods (kibble, treats) to make the food more attractive - think about it, some of these products have a lot of fillers - no taste…so the sweeteners give the food some taste. If the product you are going to buy has any of the following ingredients in it, you know what to do - re-shelve it!
  • Cane molasses;
  • Corn syrup;
  • Fructose;
  • Sorbitol;
  • Sugar;
  • Di-alpha tocopherol acetate.
Remember daily intake of sweeteners is just as bad for dogs as it is for humans. Not only does sugar cause tooth decay, sugar also suppresses the immune system - making it easier for cancer to take hold. Sweeteners also cause allergies, arthritis, cataracts, hypoglycaemia, heart ailments, nervous energy, obesity and so on. The more your dog’s health is compromised the harder it is for your dog’s body to fight against gum disease and other diseases.

Boost Your Dog’s Immune System

Making sure that your dog’s diet supports his/her immune system really does assist your dog’s body to fend-off periodontal disease. A healthy immune system also fights off parasites, illnesses and other diseases.

Step One
Don’t assume…just because a product is labelled ‘immune boosting’ that it actually is! Legislation controlling the labeling of pet food is not stringent - manufacturers can say ‘all natural’, ‘immune boosting’ etc. when in-fact the product is anything but all natural or healthy! So step one in boosting your dog’s immune system - add real fresh foods to your dog's diet. Highly processed dry food contributes to and creates oral health issues. Quality raw food supports oral health.

Expand your dog’s daily diet to include a canine specific supplement or by adding whole fresh foods that are high in bone and teeth healthy minerals and vitamins…calcium, iron and phosphorus, vitamin C and B complex. Supplementing your dog’s daily diet with fresh, whole foods (including some dairy, fruit and vegetables) that are good for your not only supports good oral health but also boosts your dog’s immune system.  If you are thinking that feeding your dog fruits and veggies will cause diarrhea you should read this article.

If you would like to know about specific fresh whole foods you can feed your dog to support their oral health you can read this article.

As an added bonus, fresh crunchy food such as whole carrots, parsnips and sliced pieces of apple (no seeds as the seeds are poisonous to dogs) help scrub your dog’s teeth clean.

Brush Your Dog’s Teeth or use an Oral Rinse

Commercially Made Products

You can brush your dog’s teeth on a daily basis, or at least several times a week; and or use an oral rinse on your dog’s mouth. If you have one or several dogs this is a practical measure to take…if you have ten dogs like I do brushing teeth may not be a practical option for you.

You can use a toothbrush or a finger brush or even gauze. The best way to introduce your dog to having their gums and teeth touched is to gently rub the length of your index finger along your dog’s teeth and gums. This is nice for teething puppies as it helps to ease the itchiness of incoming teeth. Once your dog is accustomed to the sensation of having their gums and teeth touched you can start to use a finger brush and then if you like a toothbrush. 

If you tend to have a tough time grooming your dog the techniques described in this article are also applicable to brushing your dog’s teeth.

Once again it is very important to inform yourself so before you choose specific products to purchase make sure you know what ingredients to avoid. Remember, if the preventative you are using is full of additives and toxins - you are inadvertently creating another health hazard. The drastic increase in cancer found in dogs is a direct result of all of the carcinogenic additives and toxins in a dog’s daily environment - including food ingested and topical treatments used on the dog. Many oral care products manufactured and sold in pet stores or on-line are not safe for your dog despite what the label may say. Remember that pet care products are not subject to stringent guidelines for health and safety.To protect your dog's health you really need to know what ingredients to avoid.

You can also scale your dog’s teeth using a scaler - but you must be very careful not to damage the tooth enamel or gums (cause scratches, chips, abrasions, cuts, etc.). I have been scaling my dogs’ teeth for many years, but if you do not scale properly you can cause more damage! This is something that may be best left to professionals.

Natural, Herbal and Homeopathic Products including DIY

If you are interested in learning about natural, herbal and homeopathic approach including how to make your own products (toothpastes, oral rinses, treating bleeding of the gums, killing bacteria, etc.) for your dog’s oral health you can read this article.

You will learn about the use of …
Baking Soda;
Fragaria Vesca (strawberry);
Manuka Honey;
Oregon Grape;
Vitamin C
Foods and herbs that fight oral bacteria and reduce plaque.

Give Your Dog Safe Teeth-Cleaning Items to Chew

Having something safe to chew can fulfill multiple requirements for your dog…
  • Provides enjoyment;
  • Exercises teeth gums and jaw;
  • Helps remove plaque;
  • Satisfies a dog’s natural need to chew;
  • Provides an outlet to expend energy;
  • Helps prevent boredom;
  • And for puppies, helps sooth itchy gums during teething.
There are many different types of chews that you can select. You can purchase the following items at most pet stores and on-line.
  • Raw Meaty Bones i.e:
    • Poultry - feet, necks, wings.
So before you decide what type of chew you want to provide for your dog make 100% sure you really know the pros and cons of each product are and what makes an individual manufacturer’s product good, bad or dangerous for your dog. As with all products manufactured and sold for consumption by dogs there are many dental chew products that contain allergens, toxins and carcinogens.

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Important Note

1.0 Use of Foods, Herbs, Alternative Medicines:

Safe use of items and protocols in the article above, is your sole responsibility.

Foods, herbs and alternative medicines have health issue, condition and conventional drug interactions. Safe use of all substances and protocol are your responsibility.

Before you use any substance or protocol do your research. Check for cautions, contradictions, interactions and side effects. Do not use substances or protocols not suitable to your animal's individual circumstances.

If your animal has an underlying condition substances and protocols may conflict.

2.0 Definition of Holistic…

Food, herbs, alternative medicines are NOT ‘holistic’ they are a substance and MAY, or may NOT be ‘NATURAL’.

If you use a ‘natural’ substance (ie. an herb) you are using a natural substance, not a holistic substance.

Holistic is not defined by use of one or several substances. Holistic is an approach.

Definition of “holistic” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press


"relating to the whole of something or to the total system instead of just to its parts"

"Holistic medicine attempts to treat the whole person, including mind and body, not just the injury or disease."

Holistic is a way of approaching life, and within that health, and well-being.

3.0 Expectation a natural substance remedies a health or behavioral situation.

A natural substance used to treat symptoms. But, if factors causing the underlying issue remain you do not have a remedy.

Remedy requires a comprehensive approach. It is necessary to identify root cause. Remove items that trigger, cause or otherwise contribute to issues. Holistic approach includes design, implementation to treat, remedy and maintain long-term health.

4.0 Leave a Comment

I review all comments and publish those deemed appropriate for this site.

I answer questions deemed appropriate when I have time to do so.

Wishing your dog and cat the best of health!

Karen Rosenfeld
Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer
Holistic Behaviorist - Dogs
Holistic Diet Nutrition Wellness Adviser – Dogs and Cats