Regular dental care is important for all dogs, but small sized dogs or toy breeds like Yorkshire Terriers, Bichons, Chihuahuas, and other similar breeds have special dental requirements that must be considered.
Most veterinarians report that progressive levels of dental disease is the most common issue seen in the clinic. Unfortunately, plaque buildup and gingivitis can lead to not only tooth loss but can also allow hazardous levels of bacteria into the bloodstream, potentially causing damage to other organs like the heart and kidney.
Small breeds add additional problems into the mix. First, their mouths are considerably smaller than larger breeds. Secondly, small breeds commonly eat soft canned food or people food which sticks to the teeth and gums. Finally, small dogs usually live longer, giving periodontal disease more time to cause problems. When puppies begin the process of losing their puppy teeth and making way for the adult teeth, some toy breeds have a harder than normal time ‘pushing’ out these baby teeth. These stubborn baby teeth will have to be removed by a veterinarian. In addition, breeds like the Japanese Chin and Chihuahua have extremely tiny muzzles; therefore, toy breeds could experience overcrowding of teeth. In order to maintain a normal bite and correct alignment, veterinarian removal of some teeth may also be necessary.
Toy breeds also seem to acquire tartar and plague buildup faster and sooner than many of the larger breeds. A good dental health routine needs to be established while the dog is still young. Here are a few suggestions for maintaining proper dental health in toy breeds:
1. Begin exposing your puppy as soon as you bring him home to the idea of touching his mouth and teeth. Put doggie dental paste on your finger for him to lick off. The more accustomed he is to the sensations, the easier to properly clean his teeth.
2. Clean the daily debris from his teeth. There are several options for keeping his teeth nice and clean. Daily cleanings are ideal, but try to clean at least a few times a week. You can use either a small baby washcloth moistened with warm water, a pet finger tooth brush, or a small extra-soft bristled child’s toothbrush (the heads on these toothbrushes are very small). Apply just a small amount of pet toothpaste and gently apply to the teeth. You can clean just a few teeth at a time until he becomes more comfortable with the process.
3. There are several liquid products that can be applied to the teeth on a regular basis to help discourage bacterial growth. Veterinarians can also apply OraVet (a plaque control gel) as well as a proper dental cleaning.
4. Toys and treats can be an essential part of dental care, but you must be careful what your toy breed is chewing on. Many small dogs have cracked or broken teeth on inappropriate chew toys. Make sure to only purchase chew treats that are specifically made for toy breeds. Other products will have warning labels stating not for use by breeds under 15 pounds. Never provide your dog with an inappropriate product. Many products have been approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (BVOHC.org) for toy breeds.
5. During your yearly veterinarian exam, be sure to heed the advice of your veterinarian. If he or she feels a thorough dental cleaning under anesthesia would be best, schedule an appointment for the procedure. By establishing a good dental care program early on and consistently doing it, your toy breed will have excellent oral health. Make sure to brush your dog’s teeth regularly, avoid chew treats that are inappropriate for it, and schedule professional cleanings when warranted. Remember to routinely inspect your dog’s mouth as well to insure there is no overcrowding of teeth or diseased teeth that might need to be removed. Lastly, note any observations of changes in teeth or gums like swelling, discharge, or growths, and be sure to point these out to your vet during a visit.
Source by Dr. Jan Bellows, DVM