Holiday Hazards for Your Pet’s Teeth

Dogs are curious by nature, and with tinsel on the trees and tasty snacks ready for counter surfing around the holidays, extra precaution should be taken to prevent a dog’s teeth from being damaged. Here are some hazards to be on the lookout for this season (and year-round):

Ice Cubes
Ice cubes can cause cracked or broken teeth. Although dogs’ teeth are notoriously tough, harder objects like ice do pose a hazard. Keep in mind: a dog may not necessarily yelp or cry out in pain if he chips a tooth. Often dogs will drool, chew on one side of their mouth, refuse to eat, or even rub their face with a paw. Some dogs will snap or snarl if they have oral discomfort, so proceed with caution in giving ice cubes as treats. Smaller chips and pieces can get lodged in their throats, as well.

Wires, Cords, and Candles
Wires and cords should be safely secured and out of your dog’s reach. If chewed, electrocution can be fatal.  This time of year wagging tails and curious noses may cause problems with lit candles, too, and even unlit candles can give off an aromatic scent that some dogs find appealing and may want to eat, which can cause stomach and digestive issues.

Act Preventatively
Make a resolution in the new year to take proper care of your dog’s teeth. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age 3. Oral disease has a propensity to affect kidneys, liver and heart, and seriously affect a dog’s quality of life.

About 18 years ago my vet shared this wisdom with me: “Brush your dog’s teeth as often as you would brush your own.” If your dog is not accustomed to teeth brushing, start slow. Dip a bit of sodium free chicken soup broth on your finger and let your dog lick. You can also use a cotton gauze pad to gently massage over Fido’s teeth and gums sans dog toothpaste.

Next, advance to a finger-style toothbrush. Put water on it only, and massage for just a few seconds, building up each day. Then reward your dog like he just won best in show. Your veterinarian can instruct you with techniques for teeth brushing, as well. Keep in mind you should never use human toothpaste on your pup, and always use a toothpaste formulated for dogs. Additionally, some water additives contain Xylitol, and these should be avoided at all costs, as they can be lethal for pets.Toys and Treats

Teeth can be fractured or broken from hard items such as a baseball, Frisbee, or even a rawhide chew or bone. Although dogs have an innate ability to chew, pay attention to the texture and material of any toys or treats to which he has access.

When treats and chews get small enough to present a choking hazard, throw them away. A bone of any size can present a choking issue, so always supervise chewing and snacking behaviors of dogs. Rough game play such as tug of war can loosen teeth, so while play is needed and encouraged for all dogs, always check for loosening of teeth while you perform regular maintenance. When a dog chews on a treat or bone, a piece of the tooth can easily flake or break off, and that piece is most often the largest chewing tooth in the upper jaw (premolar). A fracture of this, or any tooth, can cause pain and infection, so know what your dog’s teeth usually look like so that any abnormalities or changes can be easily identified. Never hesitate in taking a dog to the veterinarian if you suspect any oral issues.

The holidays are a time of fun and rejoice for all, and if you follow these tips, Fido’s jaw and teeth will be fa-la-la-ing into the New Year … and beyond.

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