Today we’ll look at the important topic of (year-round) dental care for your dog. A lot of older dogs develop gum disease as a result of the progressive buildup of tartar. But this can be prevented. As with human dental care, it is a matter of forming good habits.
It is recommended that you brush your dog’s teeth twice a week – better still, once a day. Use a child’s toothbrush and dog toothpaste. Give most attention to the back teeth, especially the upper ones, which tend to be the most in need of cleaning. You only need clean the outside of the teeth since the inside parts stay reasonably clean of their own accord.
Of the commercial food choices, feeding your dog dry food is helpful on account of its mildly abrasive action on the teeth. But it doesn’t eliminate the need to brush.
Chewy Bone Treats
Rawhide bones and other hard “bone” treats (Denta Stix and Checkups are two examples) are good both as an aid to keeping teeth clean and for the healthy gum massage effect and the jaw exercise they promote. They are helpful, but again, not a substitute for brushing.
Nature’s Approach to Clean Teeth
The best natural teeth cleaner (and a great food source) is for your dog to chew meaty bones. In particular turkey necks are effective. Our raw food article has two videos; scroll to the second one for a quick demo. A dog that is on a weekly regimen of two or three raw meaty bones, including turkey necks, may never need additional dental care. In addition, the exercise for the dog’s jaws and whole body is a further benefit.
Definition: Tartar (also called calculus) is mineralized plaque. Plaque is the white stuff that can be cleaned away with a toothbrush. Tartar is hard and must be scraped away.
This is where a dental scaler comes in. It’s a tool made specifically for the purpose (below I provide information on where to get one). Here are some pointers on how to use a scaler on your dog:
- Get your canine friend accustomed to scaling as a young pup if possible.
- Do the cleaning in a location where your dog is comfortable, and at a time when he is relaxed. It is best to have your dog lie on his side.
- If your pooch refuses to cooperate, do not persist with your efforts. The scaler is a hard, pointed piece of metal that can cause injury!
- Follow the instructions on the package. They’ll outline how to position and move the tool.
- Use gentle strokes. Your mindset should be that the scaler is doing the job, rather than your hand pressure. Light finger movement is all that’s needed as you guide the instrument.
- Scaling of the teeth typically results in some light surface scratching (scarifying) of the enamel. While harmless in itself, this scratching does provide a place for bacteria to settle and grow. Therefore it is important to brush well following scaling.
You can buy a scaler from Walgreens, in the U.S., or other pharmacy for around $6.50 – it will likely include a scaler, a pick and a mirror. Or, for a professional quality scaler, costing about $16.00 you can go to: http://www.homedental.com/detailscaler.asp.
In closing: Congratulations! You are a conscientious German Shepherd owner! The time and effort you are putting into caring for your dog will, I assure you, make a big difference to the wellbeing and health of your pet!
Our thanks to veterinarian Dr Paul L Kritzinger for his input for this post. Dr Kritzinger has been active as a veterinarian in Britain and the United States, and currently practices at the North Mecklenburg Animal Hospital, in Cornelius, North Carolina. Dr Kritzinger has been involved as the consulting vet in the competition-level breeding of German Shepherds.
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