Grooming lesson – Take care of your pooch’s pearly whites


Kritika Manchanda
Dad! Get up it’s time for walk…Your pet can indirectly say this and you very well understand it. But how good would it be if our pet could say, Daddy! Tooth brushing time… And just like you visit the dentist, you should take your pet to the vet for regular dental check-ups.

Dental care and oral hygiene play an important role in overall health and wellness of your pet. It is interesting to know that your pet’s dental health is also related to their gastro-intestinal health. To keep your pooch’s pearly whites shiny and healthy, make sure that you include teeth cleaning in their grooming sessions.

Some of the most common teeth and mouth related problems noted in canines include –
• Gingivitis
• Tartar/caries
• Salivary cysts
• Oral ulcers
• Gum tumors
• Stomatitis
The yellowish deposit that can be seen on your pet’s teeth is plaque. In fact, plaque and tartar are the two main causes that lead to periodontal diseases in canines. Regular brushing removes plaque and tartar and eliminates the problem of bad breath as well.

Dr Gautam Anand
We got in touch with Dr Gautam Anand to know more about dog teeth cleaning. The most important tip that he gave was “Let them chew”. This doesn’t mean that you allow your pet to chew any and everything. Be very careful with what you give them. Dinner table scraps usually have a lot of oil and salt, both of which are not good for your pooch.

The market is full of various kinds of teeth cleaning products. But it is essential that you carefully choose the product depending upon the age of your pet.

Thumbs up to chew bones
Commercial chew bones made from raw hide are a great way to keep your pet’s dental heath in check. These help reduce building up of tartar and plaque and strengthen teeth and gums. Gnawing on chew bones will also reduce stress and keep boredom at bay. There are a large number of treats and chew bones available in the market. Choose one which your pet likes the most. The treat should last for sometime (about 15–20 minutes each session) so that the pet is busy chewing. If he gobbles it up in 2–3 minutes, then sadly you have made the wrong choice.

Here’s what Dr Gautam has to say, “Dogs who regularly nibble on chew bones have lesser tartar and plaque build-up as compared to dogs who don’t chew them.” He also said that dogs not chewing chew bones can develop dental problems as early as 2–3 years.

Brushing away dental woes
Keep in mind that chew bones can never replace brushing. Ideally you should brush your pet’s teeth every day. But for the fussy ones, 2 – 3 times a week will also be good. Make sure that you use only dog toothpaste and toothbrush. Human toothpaste contains fluoride which is highly poisonous for dogs. It can also act as an irritant for your pet’s stomach. Just in case of your naughty pooch resists or doesn’t like brushing, special canine mouthwash can be a great substitute. Ask your vet about it.

Dry food vs Wet food – debate never ends
The debate of giving your pet dry food vs wet food has been going on for years. It is recommended that both types of food should to be given but in appropriate amounts. The structure of dry kibble is apt for dog’s teeth. When given over a period of time it is helpful in reducing plaque and tartar build-up. Wet food generally sticks to the teeth which might cause bacterial growth and you don’t want that! Talk to your vet to know which type of food is best suited for your pet.

Make teeth cleaning a happy habit 
If you are a pet parent you must have mastered the art of concealment – concealing medicines with treats being the most common. It will surely take some time for your pet to get used to teeth brushing. During this time they might resist it, become cranky, or throw tantrums. Handle all of this with patience. Introduce it slowly and in small steps so that your pet doesn’t get overwhelmed.

• Start brushing with your fingers. It is a great way to introduce brushing.

• During the first few days you need to limit the finger brushing session to about one minute. Gradually increase the time.

• Once your pet gets familiar with the technique you can bring on the ‘weapons’ – toothbrush and toothpaste.

• Place one hand over the top of your pet’s muzzle and gently lift the lips. With your other hand slowly brush his teeth. Make sure you brush on both sides in gentle strokes.

• Don’t forget to reward your pet with treats even if he allows you to work with the teeth for just a few seconds. This will encourage him to come back for brushing session next time as well.

When to see the vet?
Dr Gautam suggests that you should take your pet for dental check-ups every six months. In fact, dental check-ups should be included in the yearly health check-up of your pet. Some of the signs that spell danger include –
• Bad breath
• Pawing at the face
• Excessive drooling
• Tartar deposition along the gum line
• Bleeding/swollen gums
• Broken and chipped teeth

Once the vet has diagnosed the problem the appropriate treatment can begin. Dental x-rays are the most suitable diagnosis available. Dr Gautam added that the most preferred methods of treatment for dental problems in dogs include –scaling, polishing and root canal treatment. The first step is scaling followed by polishing. Polishing involves removal of residual plaque. It also smoothens the surface of the teeth which in turn delays the deposition of disease causing plaque and tartar. Dr Gautam suggested that pet parent should take their pet for scaling every six months. Make teeth cleaning a part of your pet’s grooming routine and see that big happy smile.

(With inputs from Dr Gautam Anand of Dr Anand’s Pet Clinic, New Delhi)