Many pet guardians take their dog’s dental health for granted and assume no proactive care is necessary, but this is certainly not the case. Just like humans, one of the biggest health issues among pets is poor oral health.
Dental care is a big part of your dog’s life, but with so much information available (some of it very conflicting!), it’s hard to know where to start.
Here’s an overview of some of the most important things you need to know about canine oral health - from what healthy dog gums look like to what foods are best for cleaning your dog’s gums and teeth.
Arming yourself with knowledge today can prevent dental issues for your pet in the future. So let’s get started, shall we?
Gingivitis in dogs
Plaque that’s allowed to build up excessively on the teeth can turn into hardened tartar, in turn causing bacteria to build up at the border at the gums. This bacteria then creates inflammation, infection, and receding gums - otherwise known as gingivitis, the first stage of dental disease.
As bacteria continues to eat away at the bone, the ligaments holding the teeth in place will deteriorate. Bacterial toxins can also enter the bloodstream, which poses a risk to the kidneys, lungs, heart, liver and ultimately the entire immune system.
There’s no sugar coating it - oral health issues are serious (and seriously painful), but it is possible to catch gingivitis in its early stages and prevent it progressing to dental disease.
Healthy dog gums - what do they look like?
Multiple studies link dental pain with significant psychological impacts, so it’s important to know what healthy (and unhealthy) teeth and gums look like.
Unfortunately, it can be tricky to tell if your dog has sore teeth or gums until they’re in a lot of pain, but here are some telltale signs to look out for:
- Pawing at their mouth or face
- Decreased appetite or other changes in eating behavior (such as eating on one side of the mouth only, or only eating soft food)
- Aggression or withdrawal
- Mouth chattering or tooth grinding
- Blood in food or water bowls
- Changes in play behavior
- Smelly dog breath
Clean dog gums and teeth are healthy gums and teeth. Your dog’s gums should be a healthy pink color (with no redness or bleeding where the gums meet the teeth), and their teeth should be white and clean.
Besides regular vet checkups, the most important preventative measure you can take to care for your dog’s teeth and gums is feeding them an optimal, meat-rich diet.
This is a 4-year-old raw-fed dog’s teeth - they’ve never been brushed or professionally cleaned.
This is what a poor quality diet looks like - discolored teeth and angry gums.
The optimal diet - back to basics
Dogs are meat eaters - they’re biologically designed to use their sharp teeth to gnaw apart raw meat - so a quality meat-rich diet is essential for maintaining healthy teeth and gums.
Feeding a natural diet rich in meat, bones and organs, like the ZIWI Peak range, can help control plaque and tartar buildup from the get-go. Because it's gently air-dried without any additives, starches or sugars that promote unhealthy bacterial growth in the mouth, ZIWI Peak will help to keep your dog’s breath fresh, too!
Giving your dog raw or air-dried bones regularly is also beneficial. Bones offer blood-building nutrients from the marrow (as well as calcium and other vitamins) and are often referred to as ‘nature’s toothbrush’ for their natural ability to clean teeth. The crunching of bone and cartilage scrapes off plaque, which prevents tartar buildup and keeps your dog’s breath fresh.
The key takeaway for any pet guardian wanting to support their pet’s long-term oral health is to find a diet that efficiently cleans teeth and gums. An optimal, meat-rich diet does this naturally, which means there’s no need for specialized dental dog food. The cherry on top is that your dog will go crazy for it. It’s in their DNA!