Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.
German Shepherd dogs heavily rely on healthy teeth for a good and active life. It's paramount that an owner provides good dental care for his dog. We'll show you how to start early and ease your dog into cleaning teeth and related activities surrounding the mouth. Creating a good dental routine with your dog requires patience but pays off in the long run. What we will cover in this article:
1) German Shepherd Teeth Cleaning
- At Home Care
- How Often to Brush Your German Shepherd's Teeth
- Desensitize & Let Your Dog Adjust
2) Healthy Dog Gums
- The Importance of Color
- Blue and Purple Gums
- Pale Pink and White Gums
- Bright Red and Bright Pink Gums
1. German Shepherd Teeth Cleaning
A professional tooth cleaning from your veterinarian is the absolute best all-around way to tackle German Shepherd dental care or any other dog breed for that matter. Because your veterinarian would be able to sedate your dog, scrubbing those impossible-to-reach areas below the gum line, areas you’ll never be able to reach on your own, would now become simple.
Your vet will also be able to properly assess your pup’s oral health, on top of ensuring he or she maintains healthy dog gums. Though there are many great steps you can take, annual dental visits will only solidify your German Shepherd's dental care.
Did you know you can brush those German Shepherd teeth yourself? Believe it or not, you can purchase little ‘finger’ brushes at nearly any pet store. It might take some patience and time to allow your pet to adjust to this unusual method, which in turn will likely take some mild research on your part, but the end result will be more than worth it!
Make sure you use an approved toothpaste designed for dogs! Human toothpaste contains fluoride, in addition to xylitol, an artificial sweetener toxic to dogs. Too much fluoride can cause digestive issues, while you don’t want your dog consuming any xylitol at all.
Calcified, hard plaque deposits on teeth; bonds strongly to tooth enamel; Very difficult to remove
Plaque: Sticky film that forms on teeth when bacteria in the mouth mixes with sugars
How Often to Brush Your German Shepherd's Teeth
In a perfect world, you would brush away that plaque every day, before it ever has a chance to harden into tartar. Once the plaque hardens into tartar, it won’t be possible for anyone but a veterinarian to remove it. If your German Shepherd dog is uncomfortable, try slowly desensitizing him, little by little over time, to having his teeth touched.
Invest in a ‘soft-bristled finger brush’. They are pretty inexpensive, far less than a dental cleaning, and it shouldn’t take long to get your pup to adjust to the training. Remember to purchase special ‘dog toothpaste’!
Desensitize and Let Your Dog Adjust
Don’t rush into this! Having his teeth touched isn’t a natural feeling for your pup, and he’ll wonder what you’re doing at first. If at all possible, start getting your puppy used to having his teeth touched.
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You can ‘counter condition your German Shepherd by offering a small treat immediately after touching those teeth. Eventually, your pet will grow to welcome your hands around his or her mouth because it means that bit of food he wants. The idea may seem a little bit counterintuitive to brushing, but it is one of the best ways to desensitize, given this particular situation. Be sure to move gradually.
You can begin actually brushing those German Shepherd teeth once your dog is finally comfortable with his/her teeth being touched. Remember, this will be a gradual adjustment you both build on a little bit every day.
Toothpaste and Adjustment
Remember, human toothpaste isn’t meant to be swallowed and can be dangerous, so it’s best you use ‘pet toothpaste’. This is also going to feel strange to your dog at first, so let the pup gradually adjust to the taste.
Begin by gently brushing one tooth at a time, then very carefully brushing the gum line. Be sure not to be aggressive or do anything that might cause discomfort, because that could risk weeks of effort you spent allowing your pet to become comfortable.
As your German Shepherd becomes more and more comfortable over time, you’ll be able to brush for longer periods, or around the teeth rather than simply one surface.
2. Healthy Dog Gums
The Importance of Gum Color
Those mucus membranes surrounding your German Shepherd dog’s teeth won’t just give you wonderful insights into the wee one’s dental health, but color can offer insights into other physical aspects of your pet’s health.
Gums are normally offered a rich supply of blood, lending them their distinct pink coloring. When that color changes (i.e. grayish hue, bluish) something is probably wrong. This most commonly has to do with hydration or the lack of it.
Normal Canine Gums
A normal set of dog gums should be a ‘bubble-gum pink coloring. If you press your index finger, called capillary refill, to the gums, they should turn white then rapidly return to pink. This test is actually a quick and easy method often performed on human skin in trauma situations, in order to check hydration. If the color takes longer than two seconds to return to normal, you should contact a veterinarian.
Blue and Purple Gums
Insufficient oxygen, a.k.a. gums are cyanotic.
Pale Pink and White Gums
Lack of blood/hemoglobin. Can be a sign of anemia, blood loss.
Bright Red and Bright Pink Gums
Often a sign of overheating of gingivitis, inflammation of the gingiva.
Unlike us, dogs rely on their teeth for nearly everything from eating to simply picking things up. Staying fit and healthy even requires strong teeth. Unfortunately, the majority of dogs under three that visit their veterinarians have some form of gingivitis already. Don’t let your loved one fall into that category.
- Enlund, Brunius a.o. Dog Owners' Perspectives on Canine Dental Health, A Questionnaire Study in Sweden. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 2020.
- New RVC research gets to the root of dental disease in dogs. 2021, https://www.rvc.ac.uk/vetcompass/news/new-rvc-research-gets-to-the-root-of-dental-disease-in-dogs.
- Whitwam L., The German Shepherd Handbook: The Essential Guide For New & Prospective German Shepherd Owners, 2020, 234p.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2021 Sam Shepards