By Katie Hamm

February is Pet Dental Health Month, and according to the Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA), dental health is an important part of your pet’s overall health. Although completely preventable, the TVMA reports that periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition among cats and dogs, which is why annual check-ups are so important.

Signs that your pet may have dental problems include:

  • Bad breath
  • Discolored teeth
  • Teeth covered in tartar
  • Abnormal chewing
  • Drooling
  • Dropping food from the mouth
  • Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
  • Pain in or around the mouth
  • Bleeding or swelling around the mouth.

Animals can suffer from the same dental problems as humans (i.e. broken teeth, abscessed teeth, misalignment, mouth cysts, etc.), so to prevent a small problem from developing into a more serious problem, an annual teeth cleaning is recommended by both the TVMA and the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Jean & Leslie Kessigner, Owners Three Dog Bakery
Jean & Leslie Kessigner, Owners
Three Dog Bakery

Tips for Keeping Your Pet’s Teeth Clean

To help keep your pet’s teeth in tip top condition between cleanings, Leslie Kessinger from Three Dog Bakery in Franklin suggests adding frozen raw, freeze-dried raw or wet food to your dog’s diet.

In fact, Kessinger says the widely held belief that dry dog foods help eliminate plaque and tartar on pet’s teeth due to the scraping action when it’s chewed is a common misconception. “The carbohydrate content in dry foods can often contribute to that buildup and very little scraping action is provided as a dog chews the kibble,” explains Kessinger.

“Wet foods, particularly those that are made entirely of proteins, leave little food particle residue behind on the teeth and raw products contain natural enzymes that help break down the protein buildup on teeth. Adding raw or wet foods to a dog’s diet can help prevent additional plaque and tartar from forming on the teeth,” she reveals.

Products to Help Clean Your Dog’s Teeth

Ark Naturals Plaque Zapper – An odorless, tasteless powder of digestive enzymes that is added to the dog’s water bowl. It proactively breaks down the build up on the pet’s teeth. It also works in the dog’s saliva long after it has swallowed the water.

John Paul Pet Tooth & Gum Wipes – An alternative to brushing, which can be stressful to both pets and owners alike, the wipes work to remove the plaque much the same way the brushing does but in an easier and faster manner.

Puppy Chews

“Puppies have a very particular needs for chewing,” says Kessinger. “As they teethe, they need appropriate toys and chews that massage their gums, help keep their teeth strong and provide some scraping action for cleansing.”

Planet Dog Orbed-Tuff Bone for Puppies  – This can be frozen to soothe sore gums. In addition, the texture of the toy helps keep puppies entertained while simultaneously satisfying their urge to chew.

Ruff Roots  –  Another non-consumable option. Made from the bulbous root of a tree, it satisfies the urge to chew while being soft enough not to damage the pup’s baby teeth.

“If a chew toy is too hard for a puppy, it can accelerate tooth loss and create problems for proper dental development,” says Kessinger. “

Terrabone Puppy Bones – This edible option contains cinnamon to reduce gum inflammation and parsley to freshen breath.

Kessinger says older dogs can benefit from dental chews as well. “Products like Greenies work to scrape teeth clean of plaque, and products like our Ark Naturals Brush-less Toothpaste contain active ingredients that remove buildup.” Kessinger says Greenies carries a variety of flavors and even a grain-free option for sensitive dogs and Ark Naturals has a Gray Muzzle line of Brush-less toothpaste that is soft enough for senior dogs who might have lost some teeth or have sensitive mouths.

Three Dog Bakery has two locations in Middle Tennessee: 1556 W McEwen Dr #112, Franklin, TN 37067 & 1982 Providence Pkwy #102, Mt Juliet, TN 37122. Click here to follow Three Dog Bakery on Facebook.

If you have health concerns about your dog, consult your veterinarian. This article is not meant to substitute or act as medical advice for pets.

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