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The removal of dog tartar from our pet’s teeth is not an area we tend to pay much attention to. We are typically more concerned about how shiny and healthy our dog’s coat looks or if they are getting enough physical activity. That is, until we catch a whiff of their breath and it’s so bad, it could kill a houseplant. If we’re not diligent in keeping our dog’s teeth free from tartar, we could be setting up our beloved four-legged family member for serious health issues later in life.
Before the halitosis kicks in, here’s what you need to know about tartar build up and dog tartar removal.
What is Dog Tartar and What Does It Mean for My Dog?
Dog Tartar is a hardened form of dental plaque. Just like humans, dogs can get a build up of tooth decaying tartar if their teeth are not kept clean. This tartar build up can lead to canine gingivitis, bleeding and receding gums, tooth loss, and even heart disease. Proper dog dental care is not an easy task, which may be why by the age of three, 80% of dogs have some form of periodontal disease.
Some other problems associated with dog tartar include:
- Gingivitis– Symptoms include red, swollen, or bleeding gums, along with bad breath.
- Mouth Tumors– These look like lumps underneath the gum’s surface and may need to be surgically removed.
- Heart Disease– Infections in the gums caused by periodontal disease may get introduced into your pet’s bloodstream, affecting the heart and other vital organs over time.
Since we love and care so much for our dogs, we need to check their teeth regularly for any potential dental maladies. This is easily done by looking in your dogs mouth to check for warning signs, including bleeding or swollen gums, bad breath, and a visible layer of brown or discolored (non-white) tartar.
The First Step: Dog Tartar Removal
There are a few options you can try to remove the tartar on your dogs teeth. It is best to initially have a professional take care of your dogs teeth cleaning for the first time. Dog tartar removal is usually not something you can manage do at home by yourself. Most home solutions for dog tartar removal are intended for maintenance and daily cleaning of your dogs mouth, and not for the removal of hardened plaque and tartar. Depending on your dogs temperament, you can consider two ways to have your dogs teeth professionally cleaned.
Anesthesia-Free Dog Teeth Cleaning
This option eliminates the issue of putting your dog under so the oral hygienist can do their work. If your dog can “handle it” and you can “handle your dog”, and if they pass the test, this is the best way to get their teeth cleaned.
Dog Teeth Cleaning With Anesthesia
Some dogs just don’t do well having their mouths messed with. You may have struggled to even look in your dogs mouth! If this is your dog, you may have to have him put under for a short time as they get the dogs teeth cleaned.
I’ve had my dog taken care of both ways. I can’t say that the anesthesia free dog teeth cleaning method went very well during the first visit. My dog did not let anyone (except me!) get near his mouth. So the next time around, we had to use anesthesia to get the job done.
The best thing you can do is ask your vet or professional canine oral hygienist as he will definitely know what is best for your dog. The good news is, once the tartar is removed, you can get on a dental hygiene program for your dog and keep their teeth clean and healthy in between regular cleanings.
The Next Step: Dog Tartar Control
- Brushing– Depending on how your dog reacts to it, brushing is the best way to keep your dogs teeth clean. If you’re having trouble, you’ll need to get your dog used to touching their mouth and teeth. To do this, start by gently massaging their mouth area, then by exposing their teeth. Next, touch their teeth with your finger. Eventually you’ll be able to use a finger brush or even a dog toothbrush. Plus, adding a tasty dog toothpaste will make the experience more pleasurable for your dog.
- Chewing– Getting dental chew toys that your pet will actually chew will have a big impact on the health of their teeth. The key is finding chew toys that your dog will actually engage with long and hard enough to scrape the tartar off the teeth!
- Diet and Treats– Feeding your dog high quality food is crucial to their overall health including their teeth and gums. Treats that are made to help clean teeth should always be a first option.
Personally, I take my dog in for regular teeth cleanings every 6 months. He isn’t a big chewer so I can’t rely on him to care for his own teeth. In between cleanings, I use a finger toothbrush and a meat flavored paste to clean his teeth every other day.
Depending on your schedule and the condition of your dogs teeth, you’ll need to adjust your brushing accordingly. Removing dog tartar and keeping it off should be one of your top priorities for your pet.