Chihuahuas. They are some of the most affable and lovable bundles of joy in the canine family. They grow to be a few pounds (around half to two pounds) and are by nature demanding to be treated with some tenderness and affection. Sadly, they are usually affected by severe dental problems and may end up losing their lives for it. Why? Having bad teeth or spoiled gums and at times jaws means they might have a problem chewing their food and might even die of either starvation or infection. Dental care for them is critical in ensuring that they run their twelve to twenty years’ life expectancy course. What are some of the problems that Chihuahuas experience related to dental care and oral hygiene?
Chihuahua Teeth Problems
It is not only humans who experience this problem. As little as they are, Chihuahuas are prone to experience severe inflammations of the gum that may lead to bleeding, serious infections and the unfortunate inability to chew food. Gingivitis is usually caused by the build-up of plaque, which is also known as tartar, on the teeth that forms a film which encourages the growth and breeding of bacteria which in turn leads to the formation of acid that attacks the gums and causes infection and results in inflammation and bleeding. This can all be avoided by a regular system of cleaning to be discussed shortly.
2. Tooth and jaw decay
The aforementioned bacteria and acid usually affects both the gum and the teeth. Having tartar (food residue) remain on the teeth too long usually leads to this and starts decaying the teeth. In severe cases, the decay usually affects the jaws of the Chihuahua and leads to a weakened root. This is why some of the teeth begin falling off and it is probably the worst case scenario for a lack of oral hygiene and dental care.
3. Tooth fallout.
This is at times a problem related to genetics and from time to time some Chihuahuas will have a weak gum and weak jaw, leaving the teeth at the mercy of food mechanics. Some will fall off and unless in the case of puppies, they will never grow back on. In the case of genetics one can do little to help but in the above-mentioned scenario, the owner of the Chihuahua is to blame.
4. Retained Puppy Teeth
In some rare cases, your dog will have puppy teeth that do not come off during the teething season. They are retained in the mouth and pose a big problem for the dog because they end up inhibiting straight and firm growth of adult teeth. This may cause infections because the teeth are ill-fitted and makes cleaning next to impossible, encouraging bacterial infection. Inward and stunted growth of the adult teeth is also possible.
Most of all the problems mentioned above can be avoided or if prevailing, halted. The section below shall discuss the role of the caregiver in this regard.
Proper Teeth Brushing and Cleaning is Essential
Most Chi owners will have an uneasy look when you tell them that they need to brush their dog’s teeth. There is no other possible way around ensuring that proper dental care and oral hygiene of your dog is maintained but for brushing their teeth! This might sound a little off for most people because animals usually have stronger teeth by sheer adaptation. This is not the case for your Chi, as illustrated by the array of issues that face the little canines. You have to take responsibility and ensure that you brush their teeth regularly. There is the option of placing this responsibility on a vet but it is both costly and unnecessary since you can handle it by yourself. How?
Ensure you have the right tools for the brushing. This may mean that you get the right toothpaste from your local pet store or get a recommendation from your Chi’s vet. You should also get the right toothbrush. Most people will use the baby toothbrush that it battery powered but caution is to be exercised. The best thing to do is to get a finger toothbrush from your pet store for this purpose- Chihuahuas have small mouths and even smaller teeth, be kind and use the right fit for them. You should also buy the right toothpaste or tooth gel for the Chi. Lastly, albeit optional, you can get an antiseptic mouth rinse for your dog for the after-job.
Do the cleaning right. This is the tricky part. the following steps are recommended:
Pick your Chihuahua up and place him/her on your lap. Some recommend using a towel to wrap it and maintain the head in sight. Be encouraging to the dog and have a light mood, exciting it to participate. This will reduce anxiety on the dog and foster calm if this is a new experience. Use your hand and fingers to open up the mouth and examine the teeth and which bits need cleaning. This can also inform you on whether you need a trip to the dentist. On this step the last thing to do is to introduce the paste with your finger to the dog. Most toothpastes are usually scented like food and might be so flavored – this is to encourage the dog to accept it and take it comfortably into the mouth as well as allow for swallowing- which would be dangerous for fluoride toothpaste.
Once the dog has been acquainted to the paste, place some on the finger brush and open the mouth, insert the brush and begin cleaning. This can be done from front to back and at times in small, circular motions to scrape off the plaque and tartar. Starting with the canines is always recommended and easier as you progress to other teeth. It is essential to place keen interest and effort near the gum – which is where most food gets stuck. This will enable you to clear up all residue that is harmful to the Chi. If bleeding is occurring, it is important that you do not panic as this is a strong indicator that your dog needs more dental care and oral hygiene attention.
Lastly, use the antiseptic to help clean the dog’s mouth and rinse any residue that ay be left hanging. After this, the dog may not thank you since it is quite an unusual experience. It is however important that you do this as often as is possible and reasonable so that the dog associates the exercise as part of its day to day life. It is also necessary for you to encourage and even reward the dog for being a good boy or girl after the exercise. This acts as positive reinforcement and ensures that future discomfort is avoided. It is good for both you and the dog – less stress and better health.
It is pertinent to mention at this point that cleaning your Chihuahua’s teeth is a rather tricky affair at first. It can be scary, which is why you need to make the Chi feel safe and comfortable. It is also good to encourage the dog to do it using positive reinforcement and encouraging words. It is not a job to be left for a stranger because the dog will not trust them and might nip at them and cause serious injuries. If you are able to take away food from your Chi without a scandal it is a good sign that the dog trusts you. If not, work on that relationship before you take on this monumental task.
Here is a nice example of teeth brushing by Holly Middleton and her lovely Chihuahuas:
Now that we have gone through the brushing process, what else do we need to remember regarding dental care and oral hygiene for your Chihuahua?
Teeth Issues and Prevention Tips
For all the aforementioned issues, teeth brushing is usually a set-in-stone way of keeping them at bay but for some cases that is not enough. What other things should you do to keep that Chi happy and teeth intact?
You might not be able to fix bigger problems such as excessive bleeding and inflammation of the gum through simple brushing of the canine. It is important to visit the vet for extreme cases and have them look at your dog. A dental checkup from time to time is also recommended.
2. Ingrown and Retained Puppy Teeth
There is no other way around this other than having those teeth taken out by the vet. Retained puppy teeth will usually cause huge malformations in the dental formula of the Chi and may cause great pain and infections of the gum as well. Having them removed – as horrifying as that sounds, is the best way to help save both the face and health of your Chi if this is the condition it faces.
Brushing the teeth is the most effective way to solve the tartar issues that lead to even bigger issues. However, since you may not brush those teeth every day, it is important for you to find other methods to remove them. Buying chew-on toys as well as Raw-hide that the Chi can chew on is also a good way to help scrape off the food residue on teeth. This is relatively safe and effortless as long as your bundle of joy is a hearty player.
Another way to deal with tartar is the avoiding of wet and soft foods for your Chihuahua. These are the ones that easily cling onto the enamel and lead to decay and inflammation. The alternative is to look for crunchy and dry foods for your dog. Encouraging them to chew on hard bone is also a good idea in clearing up the tartar as well. Do not encourage the eating of food scraps from the table as they also tend to have oils and soups that add onto the problem.
4. Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is usually one of the trickier subjects to deal with because it usually indicates that the problem has escalated. If you find signs of decay, it is always good to make contact with your vet. The most probable course of action at this point is usually taking the decaying tooth out and cleaning the mouth. Taking the tooth out will usually mitigate the progress of the decay and avoid it from spreading to other teeth or, God forbid, the jaw.
5. Tooth falling
Tooth fallout is usually a genetic disorder or condition among some strains of the Chihuahua family. In this case, it is imperative that you conduct your due diligence before you purchase that cute Chi. Check its parentage and have a look at their medical records. If this is too much to ask for, you can always seek assistance from your vet to have a look at potential Chihuahuas for you and help you get one that has been cleared of such conditions. Beyond this, there is really not much you can do besides ensuring optimum dental care and oral hygiene for the Chihuahua. This can work well to ensure that your dog is healthy and has minimal dental issues despite its genetic inclinations.
Additional Dental Tips
It might be hard to begin the tooth brushing program on your Chi but the best way to begin is to buy food-scented and flavored toothpaste. There are great options including salmon, beef and chicken. Use this as the incentive as mentioned before to begin the habit.
Chihuahuas are generally very delicate. It is thus advisable to get your toothpaste from a pet store or get a recommendation from your vet on which toothpaste and toothbrush to use. You can also buy teeth cleaning gel which is much more gentle on the teeth and gums. Do not take it upon yourself to improvise – you might end up doing more harm than good.
Remember, Chihuahuas may live long (lifespan of 12-20 years) but poor dental care and oral hygiene might cut that lifespan. Take care of their teeth and preserve their life.