Chihuahuas are known for having relatively few health problems compared to other dog breeds. Like most small dogs, though, Chihuahuas tend to have oral problems that can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, tooth loss and even stroke. One of the reasons for this is simply due to their small mouths, which generally force teeth to become impacted as they grow in. While some Chihuahuas may live long and happy lives without experiencing dental problems, most will have at least some oral issues arise. Thankfully, however, there are certain things we can do as owners to help maintain good oral health for our Chihuahuas.
To put things into perspective on just how serious Chihuahua oral problems are, studies have shown that roughly 3/4 of Chihuahuas will develop at least one form of gum disease by the age of 4. It may only cause bad breath at first, but all types of gum disease are progressive; therefore, it's only going to get worse unless you take action to stop it. Chihuahuas haven't developed the ability to brush their own teeth yet, so it's up to you to do it for them.
How To Brush Your Chihuahua's Teeth
Brushing your Chihuahua's teeth is arguably the single most important thing you can do for their oral health. When food particles and residue gets stuck on their teeth, it turns to tarter. Small amounts of tarter here and there isn't going to cause any serious problems, but over time it can and will lead to tooth decay, gingivitis, tooth loss and other forms of gum disease. You can think of a toothbrush as your weapon in the fight against tarter and tooth decay.
Some owners may simply try to brush their Chihuahua's teeth with an old toothbrush and regular toothpaste, but this isn't recommended. Chihuahuas, like most dogs, will probably try to eat anything you put in their mouth. Regular toothpaste that we use in our mouths contains fluoride, which can be harmful if swallowed. Even small amounts of fluoride can make a Chihuahua sick to their stomach. So, how are you supposed to brush your Chihuahua's teeth? There are actually toothbrushes and toothpaste designed specifically for dogs. The toothbrushes come in a wide range of sizes designed to fit all breeds of dogs. Some of them are even sleeve-like pieces that fit over your finger with stubbles on one side. Canine toothpaste is made with delicate ingredients that are completely safe for small dogs. In addition, they come in a variety of flavors so your Chihuahua will likely enjoy getting their teeth brushes. You can find canine toothpaste available in beef, chicken, salmon and malt flavors.
Once you've acquired a canine toothbrush and toothpaste, refer to the following steps to brush their teeth:
- Step One - Sit down comfortably in a chair and place with your Chihuahua comfortably in your lap. Some Chihuahuas may be nervous and anxious when you try to brush their teeth, especially the first few times. To make things easier, you should continue to talk, praise and pet your Chihuahua throughout the process. Ensure them that everything is okay and try to maintain a positive attitude, as this will likely spread to your Chihuahua.
- Step Two - The next step is to coerce your Chihuahua into opening up their mouth. If you purchased a flavored canine toothpaste, chances are they will be more than happy to open their mouths when it's placed in front of them. Dab a little bit of the toothpaste on your finger and place it in front of their mouth. Hopefully they will open up and start licking it, at which point you can gently hold their mouth open with one of your hands.
- Step Three - With your Chihuahua's mouth open, you should now have access to their teeth and gums. Take a minute to closely inspect their mouth to see if there's any serious signs of tooth decay or gum disease. As long as everything looks good, place a small amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush and gently run it over their teeth. There's really no one particular way to brush a Chihuahua's teeth, as all Chihuahuas are different. If your Chihuahua is trying to close their mouth, just focus on the large canines and then work your way to the smaller teeth.
- Step Four - After you've brushed your Chihuahua's teeth, let them know how good of a boy/girl they were by giving them lots of praise and petting. Positive reinforcement in the key to making your Chihuahua enjoy having their teeth brushed. If you continue to give them praise each time you brush their teeth, chances are they will grow to love it.
Other Ways To Improve Your Chihuahua's Oral Health
In addition to brushing your Chihuahua's teeth, there are a couple other things you can do to improve their oral health. For starters, you should only be feeding them a premium solid dog food. Soft canned dog food can be a real treat for a small Chihuahua, but it can also increase the chance of tooth decay. The soft moist food particles will stick to their teeth where they slowly eat away at the enamel. If you decide to give your Chihuahua wet food, only give it to them as an occasional treat and not an everyday meal. A good crunchy dog food will naturally help to scrape tartar off their teeth as they eat it.
Rawhides and tough chew toys are also helpful in removing built-up plaque and tartar. There's no denying the fact that Chihuahuas love playing with their favorite toys, so why not give them a toy that's going to help clean their teeth? A simple rawhide chew is all it takes to help remove some of the food particles and tartar on their teeth. Just remember to closely watch over your Chihuahua anytime they are given a treat.