How to keep dog teeth healthy, how to brush dogs teeth, puppy advice, tips, best products for brushing dogs teeth

Let’s talk about keeping dog teeth healthy

Last night pups went to bed looking disappointed. In fact, they somewhat hesitated before they joined me. Fred went off and sat by the kitchen door staring at it… Coop, who can, at times, be utterly British in showing his emotions, just sighed.

Then, around 11 o’clock, it suddenly hit me. I forgot to brush their teeth! And so off we run to the kitchen to get our tools out and “clean our teethies”

As soon as the process was complete, pups trotted back to the bedroom and fell asleep peacefully.

It makes some people laugh, but the boys love their dental routine and always gather in the kitchen at 9 in the evening waiting for me. If I don’t appear on time, Fred gives me a quick bark as a polite and slightly impatience reminder.

To be honest, I am glad they turned out to be like this. Not only it’s a joy to brush their teeth, but it also makes me happy to see those almost pearly whites, especially Fred’s. Coop’s teeth are alright, but he had to be on certain antibiotics as a young puppy – and some meds do affect the enamel making it dark.

I got into the habit of teeth brushing long time ago. Not that I am very good at following all my routines, but I do loathe the idea of dental cleaning and general anaesthesia. I know it’s safe, but I don’t believe it’s fair on my pups to go under once every couple of years simply because I failed them at daily tooth brushing.

So we brush. Every night. And interestingly, even science is on our side. According to the research and veterinary articles, daily tooth brushing is still the best way to prevent dental problems. It helps to keep the teeth clean, maintains correct levels of good mouth bacteria and controls the bad ones, In addition, healthy teeth also reduce the risk of other illnesses and lip fold dermatitis.

Just in case you are new to this or not sure how and where to start, here are the steps I use and recommend.

Start early, from the first week you get your puppy. He needs to learn that having your finger in his mouth is totally ok. If you fail this step and the pup is much older, with his adult teeth in full glory and need of proper brushing, he may not be so cooperative if you suddenly try to include tooth brushing into his beauty routine. It’s not natural for dogs to have their teeth and mouth touched and the early introduction will make a massive difference.

For puppies, aim to get him used to the touches and contact. His teeth don’t really need thorough brushing. Use a microfibre brush first, then move onto a finger brush. At this stage you may not need any tooth paste at all. And if you do decide to use something, always check with your vet to ensure that the product is suitable for puppies.

Adult teeth should be brushed with either the finger brush or dog tooth brush.  Don’t forget the toothpaste, too. I like the enzymatic ones and have been using Logic for many years because all my dogs love the flavour and the enzymes in the paste take care of the teeth upon application, without need for the actual brushing (in case you are tired or the pup isn’t too keen on the brush)

The technique is to start by sliding your finger under the lip without actually opening pup’s mouth. If you do use the paste, let the dog smell and lick it. It may take a few days or weeks. Just be gentle, patience and keep going in tiny steps.

When the dog is happy to cooperate, apply a dot of toothpaste on the brush, lift the lip on one side, and brush moving the brush across the teeth in a circular motion. Keep the brush at a 45° angle. Pay particular attention to the back teeth and canines.

If you are unsure or feel stressed about having your pups teeth brushed, book an appointment with a nurse at your vets. It is usually free and they show you how to do everything correctly.

What about dental aids?

There are plenty of chews and chew toys on the market right now. Personally, I don’t use anything edible. Firstly, because studies didn’t show any special effects of dental chews or diets on dogs dental health when compared to daily brushing.

I am also extremely picky about ingredients that go into those chews and am yet to find the one I’d be comfortable with.

Another thing to bear in mind is that the chews must be age- and size- appropriate. Puppies mustn’t chew anything that you cannot bend. You also need to be careful with heavy chewers because they can chomp off larger pieces of chews turning them into choking hazards.

I also never use dehydrated body parts and raw hides.

My pups like their home-made crunchy biscuits, raw carrots and frozen slices of cucumber among other things.

And the bones?

The subject is controversial and I know that many people swear by raw bones. Some studies do say that the bones may reduce or prevent plaque formation. However, the same studies also say that the bones will not reduce the risk of periodontal disease and are likely to increase the risk of broken teeth, dislocated jaws and, if the dog manages to swallow a piece of bone, digestive blockages or life-threatening perforation.

And dry dog food?

There have been studies done on dogs fed moist, dry or a combination of moist and dry foods. The dogs who had dry food showed lower levels of plaque and deposits and reduced risk of periodontal disease compared to dogs from the other groups. I sense that this will be met with plenty of scepticism but I like to go with the science and I do feed kibble to my boys as a part of their diet.

As you can tell, I am a little bit obsessed with canine dental health… I talk about it, I dedicated a part of Perfect cocker spaniel to discussing ways to maintain pearly whites and I will continue reading every research and study focused on nutrition, products and techniques that would help my boys because I cannot even imagine them having pain or extractions and feeling less of a dog because of it.

Especially considering that it only takes a few minutes a day to prevent so many problems…

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Can my dog eat… pumpkin?

Pumpkin season is one of the true joys of autumn. They are so adorable – and delicious, too.

CAN A DOG EAT PUMPKIN?

YES, absolutely!

This vegetable (though it’s actually a fruit) is a fantastic source of beta-carotene – a pigment, vitamin and antioxidant that gives pumpkin its orange colour. Beta-carotene takes care of the eye health and maintains resilient immune system. It also protects the body from free radical damage, which may reduce the risk of some cancers.

Pumpkin is also packed with B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and copper that are important for energy production and metabolism, healthy nervous system, and strong bones.

The fibre in pumpkin helps to maintain healthy digestion.

Pumpkin has also being praised for being a natural antibiotic, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory agent.

Studies also showed that including pumpkin in a diet could reduce formation of kidney stones, improve weight loss in obese dogs, protect heart and liver, and reduce dermatitis.

Always use food-grade fresh pumpkin – not the one left on a porch on a Halloween night. Always cook it before feeding to the dog and watch the quantities – 1-2 tsp per day is all a cocker needs.

 

Photo source: Matthias Böckel from Pixabay

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Q&A | What to do if a spaniel is choosy about his food?

For a breed that lives to eat, it is always a surprise to see or hear about an English cocker who refuses his food in a manner of an ingenue prepping for her big break.

Yet, these dogs clearly exist because their mums and dads contact me on a practically daily basis asking a very simple question “Why my dog does not eat?”

So lets discuss several scenarios that may lead to anorexia (which is a veterinary term that describes loss of appetite) and ways to help your dog re-discover his inner gourmet.

Is it just because he no longer likes his food? Not always…

Dogs may refuse to eat because…

… they are not feeling well. Most dogs are likely to skip their meals if they have temperature, feel nauseous, have diarrhoea, or any kind of digestive discomfort. Several serious health problems can also lead to anorexia.

… they are getting older. Just like humans, dogs begin to lose their sense of taste with age. This can lead to loss of interest in food or changes in food preferences.

… they had diarrhoea or felt sick after eating their meal. This does not need to be immediate for a dog to put two and two together. The time lapse between eating and sickness can be as long as several hours.

… they tasted medicine added to their food. If a dog hated the taste of medication (or worse, felt any form of discomfort after eating the meal – see above), he may start associating all his meals with the one containing meds – and refuse them all together.

… they are teething or have dental problems. Teething puppies may refuse their kibble during their teething period because their gums often become swollen and may even bleed. Adults suffering from dental issues are likely to lose interest in their food, too. Dry food or any food that requires chewing and toothache don’t make a good combo.

… they recently had their vaccinations or boosters. Some dogs may be more sensitive to the vaccines and lose their appetite for a day or two as a result of feeling a bit “off”. This does not mean that you need to start skipping vaccinations – this inappetence is temporary and your spaniel should be back to his happy self within days. If you are concerned or unsure, talk to your vet.

… they are stressed. The brain suppresses hunger and digestive function during periods of stress and focuses on the vital aspects of survival instead. It is important to bear in mind that dogs can’t simply relax if the stressful even is over – instead some may “pile up” the stressors and become chronically anxious. This will affect their appetite accordingly.

… they suffer from separation anxiety. For many dogs, separation anxiety is a stressful event (see above) and a form of panic attack. During such moments food and treats become irrelevant.

… they find themselves in an unfamiliar territory. Travels, trips and house moves can make a pup stressed and lose interest in his food until he is either content with the changes or returns home.

… they don’t like their bowls. This may sound really odd, but dogs can be picky about their bowls – their shape, colour, depth, height or even the noise it makes if dragged around the floor during meal times.

… they can smell or taste the change of ingredients in their food. Sometimes pet food manufacturers decide to alter the recipe without any notifications. The dog won’t even need to read the label to know something is not quite the same anymore. He’ll be able to smell it as soon as the bag is opened.

… they prefer different texture. By nature, most dogs would prefer to eat moist cooked food over kibble because they can consume wet food faster and easier than a typical dry dinner.

… they know the food is gone off. It can be past it’s expiry date or you may simply have a bag that’s been opened for too long.

… they have been overfed. If they overeat once or twice, most dogs will naturally do their best to avoid food until they restore the equilibrium, which may take a day or two. This can change for overweight or obese dogs because brain chemistry and their response to hunger can change.

… they have been given too many options. Dogs are smart. They also like novelty even though they don’t particularly need it long-term. They can train you to feed them a variety of foods and treats very easily just so they can try as many things as possible at least once. If the “sad puppy eye” technique works, many spaniels can literally pressure you into giving them only “the good stuff” and ignore their dog food as completely unworthy. In 1987 Fogel even came up with a term “starvation games” to describe this behaviour. Sums it up perfectly.

... they have been given too many treats and snacks between their main meals and don’t feel hungry by the time their own meal is served.

So what can you do?

First of all, make sure that your dog is well and healthy: watch him, look out for any changes in his appearance, behaviour and toilet habits, check his mouth and teeth, and consult a vet.

If you feed kibble, try changing the texture by adding warm water to the dry biscuits, just enough to create “a gravy”, then leave to cool before feeding.

Weigh his food to avoid overfeeding.

Stick to meal times. If your dog is an adult and can technically skip a meal without serious outcomes (this is different for puppies!) leave his bowl for 10 minutes – and remove if he didn’t touch it or left something out. Serve the following meal according to schedule.

Do not feed table scraps and too many treats.

Avoid adding “just a bit of chicken” to your dog’s food to encourage him to eat. He will eat the chicken. And then ask for more… chicken… And then he will manipulate you to obey him over and over and over again. Because now chicken is life…

Check the ingredients list on your dog’s food for any changes and expiry dates.

Do try to change your dog food once, usually from kibble to wet option. Ensure that the new food you choose is complete and balanced, and remember to make a gradual swap over several days – not overnight.

Do not start swapping various dog foods every other week to see if there’s something he may like. Best case scenario is that he will like the first new food you give him and happily eat it. If he doesn’t approve your choice and you start offering him something new over and over again you are likely to end up dealing with frequent bounds of diarrhoea or finicky behaviour.

If your dog is old, try hand-feeding him by putting small pieces of food in his mouth to stimulate taste buds and encourage him to eat. Always discuss this with your vet and nutritionist to make them aware or the problem and any improvements.

Mix food and fun by using food as training treats or hiding it inside enrichment toys.

Make sure that your dog is comfortable when eating – his bowl is at the right height for him and doesn’t spin around the kitchen floor turning every meal time into hard work.

 

Photo source: “Tell me this isn’t celery” (C) by Cartoon Comics for Shutterstock / Perfect cocker spaniel