November 28th, 2021

Brushing up on dog hygiene a real bark


By AlBeeber on November 6, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

A cervical fusion in 2002 prompted me to adopt a black lab at the Humane Society as an exercise companion since I wasn’t allowed to lift weights, and from the day Jessie came home, I’ve been a dedicated doggie dad. Without Jessie, who I wrote about several times, I wouldn’t have kept up a semblance of a workout regimen after four discs were removed from my neck and my spine fused. Thanks to Jessie and then Roxie whom we adopted shortly after, I discovered the joys of Lethbridge’s abundant outdoors spaces. In all kinds of weather from sunshine to sub-zero temperatures, the three of us explored the city year-round until cancer tragically ended Jessie’s life far too early.
I’ve always made sure my dogs get their regular checkups at the veterinarian because they are part of the family. Their vaccinations have always been up to date and I’ve done my best to keep them active and healthy.
Recently, the black lab cross, who I brought home a few years ago without telling anyone in the family because I thought our German shepherd needed a young companion, started developing breath that smelled like a combination of butt and death.
It was awful, just absolutely stomach-churning wretched. And Ben has been to the vet often for his regular checkups. While I’ve heard of brushing dogs’ teeth, I’d never done it because all of our dogs have been bone chewers and their teeth have been perfect even as they aged. Ben is the exception; he doesn’t like bones. He doesn’t like to chew anything to be honest. He likes soft stuff and he’s more particular than any dog I’ve owned about what goes into his mouth. As a pup, I had to hand-feed him because he was intimidated by Rio, the shepherd and wouldn’t eat out of a dog dish.
He’s a sensitive fella but it never occurred to me his disinterest in bones would be problematic. A pet store recently suggested I look at his teeth and sure enough several were covered in plaque.
So recently I started brushing Ben’s teeth every day with chicken flavoured toothpaste and I added a plaque remover – also chicken-flavoured to the water dishes inside the house and on the deck.
The brushing helped immensely; his teeth were getting cleaner and his breath improved enormously .
But a trip to the vet recently showed that work was too little too late. Ben needed dental surgery thanks to gingivitis. And two molars were recently extricated out of necessity.
Ben, being Ben, had to be carried by me into the vet’s office because he’s a different dog dude and I was truly worried that he might not survive the anesthesia.
Before undergoing the dental work, I asked the vet if he’d still be able to live a normal life with a few teeth missing and I was assured he’d be fine. Given how I haven’t lost a pound with a mouth missing a bunch, I guess it was a dumb question.
Ben survived his surgery with flying colours but when I greeted him on knee with open arms, he bolted past me to the door of the vet’s office. And he shunned me for the rest of the day.
The difference in his breath was immediately evident.
Unfortunately, he had to eat soft food for five days so the sutures wouldn’t rip and nothing in my experience is more awful than the smell of wet dog food. It’s putrid, even the stuff that costs $7 a can. And I fed both dogs the soft stuff out of convenience for what turned out to be a five-day olfactory nightmare. I did come across dog food in a tube that was way easier on the nose and it was still fairly malleable, for lack of a better word. And for $9 a day for the two dogs, it was slightly better price-wise than the high-end canned slop.
The impact of the canned food on my dogs’ bowels was so bad I couldn’t even watch baseball in the same room with them. Hearing a dog pass gas was momentarily funny in a juvenile kind of way, then it became obnoxious. And I couldn’t escape either dog because they follow me everywhere.
Finally they’re back on a regular diet and the house doesn’t need Scentsy in every room to disguise their flatulence.
Since I started reading about dental issues with dogs, I’ve really become enlightened. And when the day comes that Rio and Ben pass, I’ll be prepared if I get another dog. With Rio being almost 11 and Ben turning 9 next year, I know their best days may be in the past, especially Rio’s given his arthritis.
Should another dog or two be in my future, they’ll be having their teeth brushed daily from the get-go. We have to take care of our four-legged family members and part of that includes dental care.
It may seem odd brushing a dog’s teeth – it certainly was to me – but that chicken-flavoured toothpaste is the cat’s meow. And Ben is going to be getting it every day when his gums have sufficiently healed.

Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter

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