Did you know that of all dogs, small dogs are the most likely to have dental issues? That’s mostly because they still have the same number of teeth (42!) as larger dogs, just crammed into a smaller space. Small dogs are notorious for dental disease because of this crowding. Here are our top 7 dental tips for small dogs.
February is Pet Dental Health Month. What better time to learn how to take preventative measures to keep your Best Friend in top health? Unfortunately, dental disease leads to much more than stinky breath. Serious issues arise as a result of neglected teeth; gum disease is linked to kidney, liver and lung disease, as well as diabetes issues and even more insidious issues like cancer.
Smaller Dogs at Higher Risk
In a recent study, it was found that small-breed dogs were at higher risk for periodontal disease (gum disease) than larger dogs. Researchers reviewed more than 3 million veterinary records, spanning more than 60 dog breeds, over a period of 5 years. Overall, they found that 18% of these dogs had some sort of gum disease.
Authors of this study found that dogs under 14 pounds were nearly 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with gum disease than larger dogs. Papillions, Toy Poodles, and Miniature Poodles were among the top 5 breeds, along with Greyhounds and Shetland Sheepdogs.
Smaller dogs are generally higher risk for dental disease because they have the same amount of teeth crowded into a much smaller space. This overcrowding can lead to increased plaque buildup and gum inflammation.
Dental Tips for Small Dogs
1. Brush Your Dog’s Teeth Daily
Yes, we know this isn’t very realistic. While we’re personally devoted (almost daily) dog tooth brushers, asking someone to brush their little (sometimes less than cooperative) dog’s teeth each day is a big ask. Of all our dental tips for small dogs, this has the most impact.
By brushing your dog’s teeth daily (or at least every weekday), you can keep plaque buildup at bay. Daily brushing can also serve as a way to get your dog used to you touching his mouth and even be a bonding experience.
We like enzymatic toothpastes. These are specially developed toothpastes that contain enzymes that help reduce bacteria and tartar. It’s likely you’ll never get your dog to stay still for the full 2 minutes of brushing, that’s why enzymatic toothpastes are useful. Just getting a good coating of the stuff on teeth and working it in is likely to help.
It’s important to NEVER use human toothpaste on your dog. Human toothpaste contains ingredients (like xylitol), which are harmful to our canine friends.
2. Feed an Appropriate Diet
I’ve heard, “kibble cleans the teeth” more times than I care to comment. Unless that kibble is a specialized dental diet, with additives, then it does not clean the teeth. Check your dog’s mouth after a kibble meal. Most likely, there’s kibble stuck all over those back molars. Kibble is bound together with carbohydrates, which stick to teeth and do not offer cleaning properties.
Not that I’m bashing a kibble diet, but when you can, add fresh foods in. Fruits and veggies help overall health. Raw meat and bones contain enzymes and abrasive bits that break down food material and keep plaque off your dog’s teeth. Vegetables such as carrots and broccoli also scrape away food debris and offer great nutritional benefits too!
Raw, fresh diets do not stick to teeth. Advocates of raw diets often say it’s like Mother Nature’s toothbrush. When your dog gnaws and tears at meat, it acts like a toothbrush or natural dental floss. One of the most functional dental tips for small dogs; add real foods to your dog’s dish! It really doesn’t matter if they’re raw or cooked; real food offers a host of other benefits in addition to supporting dental healt.
3. Share Chews or Recreational Bones with Your Dog
Dogs love chewing! One of our favorite and most useful dental tips for small dogs is to share bones with her! These can be raw meaty bones (RMBs) like chicken necks or feet. If you’re uncomfortable feeding your dog RMBs, opt for a fully-digestable dental dog chew to help cut down on plaque and tartar.
Some fully digestable chews that the Veterinary Oral Health Council endorses are Whimzees and Greenies. These are good options for dogs who have past dental work or are aggressive chewers. Additionally, you can opt for these dental chews if you are not comfortable feeding raw meaty bones (which the VOHC does not endorse, but we are big fans of).
4. Use Dental Additivies in Your Dog’s Water
There are also pet-safe additives that can be added to your dog’s water dish. These are like doggie mouthwash, minus the mintiness. While not a replacement for regular brushing, these products can help keep plaque and tartar at bay and maintain your dog’s healthy mouth.
Oxyfresh water additive is 100% nontoxic and uses zinc to help freshen breath. It is also endorsed by the VOHC. Water additivies are easy to use, and often unnoticed by dogs, making them a winner in our dental tips for small dogs.
5. Complete Regular Dental Inspections Yourself
Perhaps the simplest of our dental tips for small dogs; check your dog’s mouth on the regular! If I had a dollar for every time I opened Oliver or Wally’s mouth and pulled their lips back to check their teeth… The wonderful benefit of me doing this regularly is that the dogs are used to me touching their mouths, which makes regular brushing easier.
After you’ve inspected in your dog’s mouth a few times, you’ll be able to notice any changes that have happened since the last inspection. You can also note any differences in the smell of your pet’s breath, which could be cause for further scrutiny from your vet.
6. Trust Your Veterinarian
Your dog should be undergoing regular oral exams by your veterinarian. This way, you’ll be aware of any potential problems that need your attention. Your vet may recommend a professional cleaning, done under anesthesia if it’s necessary to your dog’s long-term health. Your vet is your number one ally for your dog’s dental health and key in our dental tips for small dogs.
7. Budget for Dental Care
Veterinary dental care is not cheap. At some point in your dog’s lifetime, it’s likely he will need a professional dental cleaning. These are completed under anesthesia and can cost anywhere from $300-$1000, or more if additional treatment or tooth extractions are needed.
Typically, dogs will need this treatment at their middle age, leaving them with a clean slate. If you do have your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned, it’s not a bad idea to get into regular dental health practices while his teeth are still clean. By performing regular brushings, sharing chews and inspecting your dog’s mouth after that dental cleaning, you may be able to avoid having to put your dog under anesthesia again at an older age.
Regluar checkups by you, and professional attention from your veterinarian are the best ways to keep your dog’s choppers healthy and pearly white. These measures are also one of the best ways to ensure your dog’s long-term health. It would behoove you to budget or set aside some money for this expense, making this one of our most investment-worthy dental tips for small dogs.
Staying on top of your dog’s dental health is one of the number one things you can do to ensure his long term health, wellness, and overall happiness. Our dogs can’t tell us when their teeth hurt; its up to us to keep them healthy and shiny!