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Raising a Puppy: Tips for Canine Dental Care in Young Dogs

puppy-teethThere’s nothing quite like having a new puppy in the house. There are so many things that must be done – toilet training, teaching him where he must sleep, making sure he doesn’t get into trouble, first check-ups, shots and learning how to walk on a leash. While there’s a lot of work involved in raising a puppy, it is well worth the effort that you put into it when you get a well-behaved, healthy and happy dog in the end.

One of the areas that many pet owners overlook when they make a list of puppy health care tips to follow is canine dental care. Bringing your new puppy in to see the veterinarian at Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth can help get him off to a good and healthy start with regard to taking care of his teeth and gums for the rest of his life. The good habits that you build now will last him a lifetime and can help him to even extend the years that you have to share with your new furry friend.

Tip #1 – Get Him Used to Handling His Mouth
When you first get a new puppy it is a good idea to teach him that it’s okay for people to touch his mouth and handle his muzzle area. This will make it easier for tooth and gum cleanings, as well as make it easier on the veterinarian and staff when you bring him to your local Dartmouth animal hospital. One exercise is to rub your finger over his teeth and gums while you are watching TV or snuggling. Open his mouth and take a look at his teeth, taking as much time as you would need to if you really needed to do a check. Gently touch the inside of his mouth while you praise him or talk cheerfully – not to get him hyped up, but so he will know that this is a positive experience.

You can reward your puppy with a special treat that is just for mouth handling to make it even more appealing. If he isn’t keen on the idea of you sticking your finger in his mouth, dip your finger in something he will enjoy – chicken broth, meat-based baby food or peanut butter. Just make sure you approach carefully so he doesn’t mistake your finger for a treat that he can chew! Try to do these things on a daily or every-other-day basis until you and your puppy get confident with this type of handling. Keep it up on a weekly or bi-weekly basis as he gets older to stay on top of his overall canine dental care.

Tip #2 – Keep Track of Teeth
As your puppy grows he will lose his first set of puppy teeth – just like a human child – and will then grow in his permanent ones. This happens between 8-12 weeks of age, but can vary by breed and size. In most cases, all dogs will have their full set of 42 adult teeth by 7-8 months of age. It is important to monitor his progress because if the baby teeth don’t fall out or if the adult teeth fail to come in, there could be a problem.

If your puppy hasn’t gotten his adult teeth by 12 weeks, make a visit to Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth to get him checked out. Your vet can do x-rays to find out what’s going on with his teeth. In some cases, the vet will need to work the tissue that is over the missing teeth to encourage them to come in all the way. If the baby teeth don’t fall out before the adult teeth start coming in, your puppy could end up with a crooked adult tooth and have to deal with canine dental care issues in the future.

Tip #3 – Provide Appropriate Chew Toys
As puppies lose and gain new teeth, they will often just start chewing on everything from couches to cupboard doors, your new shoes or a pair of sweatpants. Unfortunately all of that chewing can be very destructive and dangerous for your puppy’s health. The experts at your local Dartmouth animal hospital can help point you to some recommended chew toy products that will help provide some relief from teething pain and pressure.

Make sure to be firm on the things that are not okay for your puppy to chew on when he is teething and exploring the house. He could break a tooth if he chews on something that is too hard, could choke on something that might get stuck in his throat or have to have surgery to remove items that can impact his stomach or bowels. All this chewing can quickly become a very serious, life-threatening and expensive situation for you and your puppy. Providing proper chew toys is one of the most important puppy health care tips because it can prevent a disastrous situation from developing.

Tip #4 – Choose a Healthy Diet
Your veterinarian at Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth can help you select a proper diet based on your puppy’s nutritional needs based on his age, size, breed and level of activity. As he is growing he will need a quality diet in order to build strong bones and healthy teeth. You don’t need to go broke buying the most expensive dog food on the market, but make sure to choose the best quality that you can afford for the future health of your new family member.

Dry food is good for canine dental care, as the crunching can help to scrap bacteria and food from the surface of his teeth, reducing the amount of plaque that develops. Wet food will get trapped more often between the teeth, but if you alternate dry and wet, you will make sure that most of the remaining food gets scraped off. Be careful with the type of treats that you choose. Your veterinarian can suggest treats that are beneficial to good canine dental care that are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) to ensure that the treats are dentally beneficial.

Tip #5 – Brush, Brush and Brush
The best puppy health care tips with regard to dental care is to brush your puppy’s teeth on a regular basis. Not brushing can lead to periodontal disease and gingivitis, which can cause other health issues as your puppy gets older. Veterinarians, like the ones at Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth, recommend daily brushing and can offer professional treatments that will help do a more thorough cleaning on an annual or quarterly basis.

Start slow by showing your puppy the toothbrush so he can get used to it. Choose a canine toothpaste and let him lick it and smell it. Brush just one or two teeth and gums. The goal is to build up his confidence in the process. In a few days or weeks of short brushing sessions, your dog will get used to it and allow you to do it without much protest. Some dogs relax so much and enjoy it so much that they begin to think of it as part of their nighttime routine.