An Overview of Recommended Dental Care for German Shepherds
Many people do not realize how important it is to care for their German Shepherd’s teeth; a need which increases as a dog ages. The ideal way to ensure proper dental health for your dog is to start when they are young assuming you get your dog as a puppy. Otherwise start immediately on caring for your dog’s dental health regardless of what age they are when you adopt them.
The best way to achieve this is to begin touching your puppy or adult dog from the outset so that a veterinarian will be less likely to have problems when they need to examine your dog.
You may begin by touching the lips, opening the mouth, and touching the teeth in a relaxing and calm way for a couple of minutes each day until your pup is used to being handled in such a manner.
Make this a regular part of the interactions with your dog to ensure that he remains calm when any kind of preventative dental care is being done on him.
Proper dog dental health is a small investment in effort and time on your part, but be assured that it will result in numerous dividends for your dog. Besides eliminating many potential health issues such as certain types of heart disease, liver and kidney disease, clean teeth can result in extending your German Shepherd’s life.
Keeping Your German Shepherd’s Teeth Clean
According to experts, up to 75% of middle-aged dogs develop canine periodontal disease with much of this being attributed to the progressive buildup of tartar.
However, the good news is that with the appropriate dental care, gum disease is largely preventable, it is simply a matter of having a regular cleaning routine and making the right food choices for your dog.
Studies also continue to reveal a clear statistical link between heart problems in dogs and gum disease, with significant associations being detected between the severity of periodontal disease and the risk of cardiovascular related conditions such as cardiomyopathy and endocarditis. It can also lead to serious problems in the liver and kidneys as well.
For any German Shepherd owner, this should serve to illustrate the point that good dental hygiene for dogs goes beyond fresh breath and sparkling teeth, desirable as these qualities may be. It has real implications for their health, affecting both the potential duration and quality of a dog’s life.
What Should a Canine’s Healthy Teeth and Mouth Look Like?
A healthy mouth should have pink gums and white teeth with no tartar build up, however the best way to illustrate this is by showing you a picture rather than just explaining it. Please see the picture below. This is an ideal healthy dog mouth and teeth.
Keeping your dog’s teeth clean can be achieved in the following ways:
Vets recommend brushing your dog’s teeth at daily if possible, and at a minimum of at least two to three times per week. Use dog toothpaste (NEVER use human toothpaste) and a child’s toothbrush or alternatively, pick up a kit with both paste and brush from your local pet store or vet’s office.
When brushing, pay special attention to the back teeth, especially the upper ones. You only need to clean the outside as the inside of the teeth tend to stay clean on their own.
2. Chewy Bone Treats
Greenies in conjunction with other hard bone-like treats (such as Checkups) are recommended, both as an aid in keeping teeth clean, and for the jaw exercise involved and healthy gum massage effect. While these are not a substitute for brushing, they, nonetheless, help in keeping your dog’s teeth clean.
3. Dry Food
Of the available commercial food choices in the market, feeding your German Shepherd dry food is advisable since while eating it will provide some mildly abrasive action against the teeth which will slow the tartar build up. However, you still need to brush.
4. Meaty Bones
Besides being a great food source, a great natural teeth cleaner is, arguably, providing your dog with real bones. A dog that is on a weekly regimen of raw bones is likely to keep its teeth clean without having to brush them too much.
Additionally, the exercise provided not only to its jaws but to the rest of its body is a further health benefit. My German Shepherd loves the filled femur bones. They are large and very hard, and they last for months, plus my GSD loves to chew on them.
5. Dog Dental Chew Toys
Besides being fun for your German Shepherd to play with there are many toys out there that are designed to help clean teeth. Some great ones are ropes for chewing and playing tug of war, Nylabone dental chew toys, and the Kong dental chew toy, just to name a few.
The best part about these is that they are toys so your dog can help clean its teeth while having fun playing.
6. Tartar Removal
Even well maintained dog teeth may have some areas where there is a buildup of tartar. However some dogs, just like with people will have bad teeth. Unfortunately genetics can effect dog’s teeth just like it can with people. This is why brushing is so important.
Even if your dogs has its bad genes stacked against them, teeth brushing can help minimize dental issues that they are predisposed to thanks to genetics. Either way, when tartar and plaque does build up on the teeth it needs to be removed.
Variously referred to as calculus, tartar is mineralized plaque (the white stuff on teeth that is usually found around gum lines) which if not cleaned off regularly, hardens into nasty looking tartar which must be scraped off using a dental scaler by a veterinarian while under anesthesia.
Risks of Poor Mouth Hygiene
By their nature, German Shepherds tend to heavily tear apart large chunks of meat into smaller pieces, gnaw on bones, branches and tree trunks, eat vegetables like carrots, and green beans. This type of diet has a significant cleaning effect on the dog’s gums and teeth. This is referred to as a raw diet.
However, the majority of German Shepherds across the world are fed on canned dog food and kibble, supplemented by the occasional piece of meat and commercial dog treats; a diet that involves a high risk of gum and dental disease.
Such a modern lifestyle for these dogs often leads to dental and gum problems such as:
1. Tartar and Plaque
Every treat or meal that your dog eats (especially canned dog food) contributes to the buildup of plaque. And when this plaque mixes with bacteria and saliva in the mouth, it turns into tartar (easily identified as a yellow-brown substance along the gum line and on the teeth).
If not removed completely by brushing teeth regularly, the tartar hardens and protects numerous bacteria which subsequently freely attack gums and teeth and savage any wounds that may be present in the dog’s mouth.
If you do not brush your dog’s teeth in the right way and regularly, food particles and residue are likely to start accumulating in gum pockets and between and behind the teeth.
This provides bacteria with an ideal environment to live and multiply resulting in gingivitis (inflammation of the gums). Left untreated, this can in turn lead to periodontitis (inflammation and infection of the ligaments and roots of teeth). Such infections, while hidden from you, may leave your dog in considerable pain which can result in not eating, and even behavioral issues such as dog aggression and biting.
If you’ve ever had a tooth ache or mouth pain of any kind you know how excruciating it can be, and it can definitely make you grumpy. The same is potentially true for any dog as well.
Signs of Poor Dental Care
Your dog’s teeth serve as a mirror to its overall health. White pearl-like teeth are often an indicator of good health while yellow teeth can be an early indicator of poor health. Some of the signs you need to be on the lookout for include:
- More than usual drooling
- Bad breath
- Yellow-brown tartar along the gum line or on teeth
- Bright red or swollen gums.
- Decreased appetite or difficulty eating
- Pawing at the mouth
- Sudden dog aggression and biting
Therefore, if your German Shepherd exhibits any of the above signs, it is advisable to first take your dog to the vet to be examined, and then put in place a better or improved regiment of regular dog mouth care. Otherwise, you may have to take your dog to the vet sooner rather than later again in the future. By all means, aim to avoid this, and not just for reasons of cost.
However if cost is a factor then you definitely want to take good care of your pets teeth and mouth. I recently had to take one of my cats into the vet and have a dental cleaning and a few bad teeth pulled. It cost me almost $1,000, so dental work for animals just like people is very expensive.
What If My Dog Does Need A Dental Cleaning?
Many people have no idea that they should be brushing their dogs teeth, and if that is the case for you reading this article then don’t worry, it is never too late to start caring for your pet’s teeth.
However, your dog may already have severe tartar and plaque buildup and potentially other dental issues as well. If that is the case then a trip to your vet’s office is in order.
If your dog does need a dental cleaning or as they are known in the veterinary world a dental prophylaxis, I want to you to understand what is involved and why they are expensive.
Here is a picture of a dog’s teeth that is in desperate need of a dental cleaning prior to a dental cleaning being done:
First of all, a good veterinarian will want to do some blood work prior to doing the dental cleaning. The reason for this is because they are going to have to put your dog under general anesthesia in order to complete a dental cleaning, and doing blood work will let them know whether your dog is healthy enough to be put under anesthesia. However, there is always a risk when putting your pet under anesthesia so be sure to discuss this with your vet.
German Shepherd’s or any dog for that matter will not sit patiently in a dental chair while the dentist x-rays, then numbs, and cleans teeth, etc. so they must be anesthetized during the procedure.
Once your dog is anesthetized the vet will do a thorough oral health exam. They will also typically get dental x-rays to evaluate the teeth and supporting roots, etc. Then they will clean the teeth using a dental scaler. After the teeth have been cleaned the doctor will extract any bad or infected teeth if necessary.
After a dental cleaning your German Shepherd’s mouth may be very sore for a few days, just like your’s would be after getting dental work done. This is perfectly normal.
Because you now know what is involved in a dental cleaning I hope you can understand why they are expensive, and why brushing your dog’s teeth daily is definitely the better way to go.
Remember a clean and healthy mouth will help prevent many other health issues for your dog in future.
Once your dog’s mouth has healed from its dental procedure then you can start the process of brushing your dog’s teeth to keep his teeth and mouth healthy in the future.
Here is a picture of the exact same dog’s mouth right after a dental cleaning, so you know what to expect your dog’s teeth to look like after getting them cleaned by your vet.
How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
By now you are probably wondering, okay how exactly do I brush my dog’s teeth?
I realize that it helps to see how something like this is done rather than trying to figure it out through trial and error by yourself, so below is a great video I found to show you exactly that.
Although it isn’t a German Shepherd in the video, it still does a great job of explaining more about dental care, provides great tips, and shows you how to brush your dog’s teeth.
I know I have provided you with ton of information here on your dog’s oral health and I hope you found this useful, but most importantly I hope you start caring for your dog’s dental health.