By Nomi Berger

We’ve all seen the TV commercial where a group of grinning dogs flash their wide, dentured smiles. We’ve all heard the voice-over warning us that four out of five dogs over the age of three will develop oral care issues.

Whether this is true or not, good dental care for dogs is as vital to your dog’s overall health as proper nutrition and adequate exercise. Without it, dogs, like humans, can suffer from plaque, tartar buildup and gingivitis, which, over time, can lead to kidney, liver and heart disease.

Ideally, you should begin caring for your dog’s teeth while he’s still a puppy. Choose only those toothbrushes, toothpastes and oral gels designed especially for dogs. For the more difficult dog, there are “rubber finger brushes.” If your dog refuses to accept any of these “tools,” use your own finger.

Brush your dog’s teeth at the same time every day, preferably after some exercise has tired him out. Begin slowly, praising him often, stopping if he becomes agitated, then beginning again. Increase the amount of brushing time slowly, day by day.

If your dog refuses to have his teeth cleaned, add specifically formulated oral rinses to his water, feed him special oral care treats, and give him synthetic bones and chew toys to gnaw on.

Weekly inspections of your dog’s entire mouth can also help avoid both dental disease and costly and invasive medical procedures in the future. Ensure that your vet includes a thorough examination of your dog’s mouth, gums and teeth in each annual checkup.

Be alert to such problems as: bad breath; drooling; red or puffy, bleeding gums; yellow tartar crusted along the gum line; discoloured, broken or missing teeth; bumps in the mouth and changes in chewing or eating habits.

If you’ve been neglecting your dog’s dental health up to now, it’s never too late to start.

Because unlike that tongue-in-cheek TV commercial with those gleaming, white doggie dentures, there is no such thing as doggie dentures in the real world!

This article was posted with permission by Nomi Berger. Nomi is the bestselling author of seven novels and one work of non-fiction. She lives in Toronto, Ontario with her adopted morkie, Shadow. Nomi now devotes all of her time volunteering her writing skills to animal rescue organizations both in Canada and the USA.