A few weeks ago, I wrote about the single best thing you can do for your Morkie’s health and longevity: a daily walk.
But there’s actually one more key thing if you want your Morkie to have a long and healthy life, and that’s look after his teeth. That includes brushing and regular dental care.
What’s so important about dental care for dogs?
When bacteria builds up on you dog’s teeth it can lead to oral disease and increase the risk for disease in organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys, according to research.
That’s because the bacteria can make its way into the bloodstream and travel throughout their little bodies.
And like humans, dogs can get cavities and painful abscesses. They just can’t tell us about it 🙁
Why are Morkie’s teeth so bad?
Any dogs that have been bred down in size usually have very tightly packed teeth, too many for the small jaw. Dogs should have quite a bit of space between teeth so food doesn’t get caught and then rot.
Yorkies are renowned for very, very bad teeth – so weak and crammed in that most of their teeth have some level of decay by the age of 2.
And, they have VERY stinky breath as a result.
The 3 Ds of tooth care for your Morkie
I like to call the solution the 3 Ds:
- Daily Cleaning
The First D: Daily Cleaning
You can brush your dog’s teeth with special canine toothpaste (NEVER use people paste – it’s poisonous and your dog is more than likely going to swallow it)
Don’t be too ambitious at first. Gently lift his lip and rub in circular motions along the gum line with a very soft brush, or a finger brush:
Your dog won’t like it much, so keep the first sessions short, gradually doing a more thorough job as he’s more comfortable.
Sprays, Gels and Wipes?
Some dog owners and experts recommend using the new oral sprays and gels in combination. Two popular brands are Petzlife and Plaque Attack.
They work in similar ways – both are advertised as made with 100% natural ingredients. The main ingredient is grapefruit seed extract so it’s safe for both cats and dogs..
The ingredients mix with your pet’s saliva and completely coat your pet’s teeth and mouth. This kills harmful bacteria and loosens plaque and tartar.
The results will depend on how closely you follow the directions, the age of your pet, and the current condition of your Morkie’s teeth. You should notice a gradual reduction of tartar and plaque between the tooth and the gum line and less redness within the first few weeks of application.
The Second D: Dentistry
Dog dentistry was quite rare until the 1980s, when Veterinarians and dog owners began to make the connection between dental health and the dog’s overall health.
Reasons for dentistry for your dog:
Scaling and Cleaning – If you don’t clean your dog’s teeth, chances are you’ll have to get his teeth scaled at some point to remove the extreme buildup; that means anesthetic and a fairly large expense.
If you’re cleaning your Morkie’s teeth regularly, this scaling can sometimes be done without putting the dog under – reducing risks and keeping your dog more calm.
Dental fractures – very common in dogs, and must be treated right away if the tooth’s pulp is exposed. This exposed pulp is not only very painful, but also becomes dead tissue (or necrotic as scientists call it). This in turn can lead to a very painful “tooth abscess” making a root canal necessary.
The most common kinds of oral surgeries for dogs are:
- extractions – unfortunately not all teeth can be saved and extraction is often the only choice. At least techniques have improved to minimize the pain and discomfort.
- jaw fracture repair – this is a fairly common injury after a major traumatic event like a car accident. Again, new techniques have speeded our pets’ progress and comfort.
- oral tumour management – sadly, the same type of oral cancer that frequently occurs in people, is also the most common type in the dog. Watch for lesions, sores, masses or swellings in your Morkie’s mouth and report any to the Vet right away.
The 3rd D: Diet
There are two interesting – and opposite – schools of thought on how your dog’s diet can help his dental health.
For the YES side…
- some experts believe that certain foods work a bit like a toothbrush because they help “rub” the teeth clean
- this cleaning action is sometimes called ‘natural dietary abrasion’
- when your dog grinds, chews, grips, chomps and rips its food it helps the teeth, gums and jaw
Dogs who eat lots of soft foods don’t benefit from natural dietary abrasion. Soft foods include canned food, and also home-made food that’s well cooked. Dogs on soft diets can end up with worse teeth and gums that dogs on natural, meaty, and raw diets.
Some of the best foods for cleaning your dog’s teeth? Raw meaty bones are excellent toothbrushes. Please note: these bones must be RAW. Make sure there is still some meat on the bone. Try raw chicken necks, turkey necks and chicken wings.
These bones are generally considered safe and digestible for most dogs. However, uncooked meat can carry bacteria that can be hazardous to both pets and humans. So, use caution and common sense when handling raw bones.
NEVER GIVE YOUR DOG COOKED BONES – they splinter easily and can perforate intestines and worse.
Rawhide and leather chews are often recommended, but I’m strongly against these now. They’re full of deadly bacteria, and when they get slimy after some chewing, they are a serious choking hazard.
On the NO Side….
On the other side, there’s “Dry Dog Food and the Myth of Cleaner Teeth.” One expert, Mike Sagman of the DogFoodAdvisor.com site comments,
“Imagine going to your dentist and being told to forget your toothbrush. Because all you really need for good dental health… is to simply eat a few crunchy tortilla chips every day.
And like magic… your teeth will be sparkling clean. Sound absurd? Well, yes it is!”
As Mike points out, there are three kinds of dental debris…
- Food particles
- Tartar – a result of plaque
Drinking water gets rid of most food particles; dogs’ teeth are spaced so far apart it they don’t usually trap food.
Plaque — the sticky biofilm that adheres tightly to every tooth surface –requires physical scrubbing to remove it. And once cleaned away… plaque returns again within just 24 hours. Left along the gum line long enough, plaque slowly and inevitably turns into a rock-hard, barnacle-like crust referred to as tartar.
Plaque is what you remove with your toothbrush. Tartar is the hard stuff your dentist scrapes away when you get your teeth cleaned.
What kibble does for teeth
While crunchy kibble can remove some of the plaque near the tops of a dog’s teeth, it’s completely ineffective within the critical zone near the gum line. And that’s where plaque and tartar do their ultimate damage… causing cavities and gum disease.
Dry dog food does not help create healthier teeth and gums
In fact, since most kibbles are loaded with a much higher carbohydrate content… dry dog foods may actually increase plaque and tartar levels… and cause more dental problems than they supposedly prevent. It’s OK to pick dry kibble over canned food, but don’t choose it because you believe it’s better for your dog’s teeth.
- brushing your Morkie’s teeth daily is the single best way to care for his pearly whites. Can’t do daily? Even once a week – make it say, every Saturday – and do a thorough job.
- watch for tartar build up and get it removed by your Veterinarian, sooner than later. At the same time, your Vet will look for decayed or loose teeth.
- although gels, sprays, special chews like the green mini toothbrush – can’t hurt, don’t count on them as the only solution