One thing that Greyhound owners know a lot about, or quickly learn, is about dental health. Our recent scare with Blueberry’s own dental health was a reminder for me that we need to be more vigilant here about taking care of all our dogs’ teeth. Greyhounds are particularly notorious for having bad teeth, and there are a lot of theories about why, but the one that makes the most sense to me is that it’s simply the shape of their mouths, combined with some genetics.
Our first Greyhound was Treat, and she had really bad teeth, despite our serious efforts to keep them clean. Every couple of years she’d have to have a dental done and I felt like a bit of a failure each time she had to go under anesthesia for one, but I also knew it was important, and her breath would singe the eyebrows off Ernest Borgnine. She was a therapy dog and I couldn’t have her breath causing people to pass out and gag. At the same time, Hawk, who was also living with us, never ended up needing a dental.
Lilac had pretty good dental health until she became a teenager. Her teeth took a turn for the worse, I’m afraid, and I was reluctant to put such an old dog under anesthesia. Blueberry is her daughter, and her health has very much paralleled Lilac’s in many ways. The pattern of white hairs on her muzzle is identical to Lilac’s, she developed SLO at close to the same age as her mother, and she’s starting to have stinky teeth, too. I wasn’t keen to put Blue under anesthesia at her age, but the tooth abscess forced our hand, and we had her teeth cleaned while she was having those bad teeth pulled.
I could tell she was feeling better the very next day after the anesthesia wore off. She had two very small teeth pulled and you can barely tell. The next day, she was back to being the first one done with her dinner. She also has some special teeth cleaning food from Science Diet that we’re using as treats, because it’s just too expensive to feed on a regular basis, and it’s very fatty. One as a treat is fine for our dogs who are in shape, but as a meal, it wouldn’t be my choice for them.
Now that the experience is over, we’re left with a deeper commitment to keeping all the dogs’ teeth clean. Küster and Morgan generally have pretty clean teeth without a lot of work from us, but we still need to watch them. Bunny gets her teeth brushed regularly and sometimes I scale them as well. Her teeth and gums have remained in pretty good shape and I’m hoping that trend will continue.
Here’s our list of things we do to help keep the dogs’ teeth clean:
- We feed the dogs hard kibble and only add in soft food for special occasions. I know a lot of people also like feeding raw, but that’s not a feasible solution for us. I do know that raw feeders report excellent dental health, though.
- The dogs get hard, crunchy treats. Science Diet T/D formula food is very popular here. Once a week I try to give them Greenies or some other kind of dental treat.
- Giving them bones or antlers to chew on, while supervised, is another thing we try to do.
- Regular tooth brushing happens here. It’s going to start happening more often, but it happens at least twice a week here now. Using a child’s battery operated toothbrush can work for your dog, too.
If you have a dog who doesn’t like tooth brushing, you can still win them over. It won’t require wrestling on your part. Probably. Bunny knows that we’re going to the nursing home when I brush her teeth. We use flavored canine tooth paste that she really likes and I keep the tooth brushing short. If I overdo it, I know she won’t enjoy it and I want to keep her coming back for more. She will come into the bathroom with me and stand patiently for me to brush her teeth, so I think it’s something she likes. Blueberry doesn’t line up in the bathroom, but she does lay on the couch and let me brush her teeth. They are less happy about me scaling their teeth, so I keep those sessions short and there are a lot of rewards after it’s over.
There are a lot of important reasons to keep your dog’s teeth healthy. Abscesses and gum infections are uncomfortable and smell bad. There’s nothing quite as embarrassing as somebody needing to roll down a car window and wiping away tears as they sit in a car with your dog. The more serious problem is that heart infections can happen because of periodontal disease. This is true in humans and in dogs. The leading theory is that the bacteria in the mouth gets into the bloodstream and attacks the heart. That’s definitely not something you want to deal with.
So, aside from avoiding bad breath in your canine companion, brushing his or her teeth can extend and improve the quality of their lives. If you take good care of your dog’s teeth, you can avoid visits from the tooth fairy after puppyhood is behind you. It can save you a lot of money in vet bills and give you peace of mind.
We’re participating in a new blog hop today, too. It’s the FitDog Friday Blog Hop sponsored by Peggy’s Pet Place and SlimDoggy. It’s a chance to blog about pet fitness news, diet and nutrition, healthy activities, ways to exercise with your dog, photos of your dog in agility, or anything related to health, exercising and burning calories together with your furry best friend.