What Every Dog Owner Should Know About Dental Health


When I first got Wanda, she was about 1.5 pounds of fluffy cuteness. She loved cats, but she quickly found they weren’t quite as fond of her. I loved her instantly.

But as much research as I did about her breed, I somehow didn’t find out about their biggest problem: Periodontal disease.

I was young and stupid. I didn’t know you had to brush a dog’s teeth. I didn’t even think about what was going on in her mouth. Until she got a checkup at the vet and he showed me all her tartar.

At the point we discovered the problem, she had a lot of tartar. Tartar is what happens when plaque and bacteria are left unchecked in your dog’s mouth. It is a hard substance that can be scraped off of her teeth.

The Importance of Oral Hygiene for Dogs

Soon after we left the vet’s office, I started my research. What I found was shocking…
Did you know that tartar can lead to gingivitis? Okay, I knew that too. Here’s what I didn’t know: Gingivitis is an infection that can spread to your dog’s organs and eventually lead to death.
Wow. I felt like a terrible dog owner.

Why didn’t I think to brush her teeth? I brushed my teeth twice every day. Did I think her dog food was cleaning her teeth? I guess I could tell myself that, but deep down, I knew it wasn’t true. I had to face the facts. I had been irresponsible.

How to Treat Your Dog’s Tartar

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you aren’t taking care of your dog’s oral health, start today. Brush daily, give her dental chews and you can even use a dental spray to fight bacteria in the mouth.

If you do nothing, like I had done, the bacteria will run amok and your dog may need a professional dental cleaning. Professional cleanings are considered a form of surgery because your dog has to undergo anesthesia. The procedure is relatively safe, but there are always some inherent dangers with anesthesia.

If your dog’s tartar has done enough damage to the tooth, it may need to be extracted. Dental cleanings and extractions can be very costly. Trust me, I know.

Why Small Breeds are More Prone to Dental Problems

Wanda is a Maltese, and I now know they are notorious for having dental problems. You see, all dogs have 42 teeth, regardless of their size. Toy breeds have dental problems because they still have to fit that same number of teeth in their tiny mouths, and this can lead to overcrowding. Overcrowding can cause nooks and crannies that hide bacteria and cause plaque, tartar and gum disease.

If you’re considering small breed, know that you’ll have to pay special attention to your dog’s teeth. Oral health is important for all dogs, but for small breeds like Wanda, it can be life or death.

It isn’t just the maltese breeds that have this problem. It’s all toy breeds. That includes breeds like chihuahuas, yorkies and min pins. Pugs are known to have dental issues for two reasons. Their small size can lead them to have overcrowded teeth, and they are also prone to underbites.

If you’re considering a small breed, know that you will have to pay special attention to their dental health. If I had taken measures to prevent Wanda’s tartar, she would have never had issues with oral health.


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