Even more so than we do, German shepherds rely on their teeth. They do not have hands or opposable thumbs that make it possible for them to pick up and carry anything other than with their teeth. They need clean teeth to eat, to groom themselves, and to stay fit and healthy.
An infection in the mouth can actually spread to the rest of the body, causing more serious problems than just painful gums or losing teeth. If you have a German shepherd, you know that brushing their teeth is not always a viable option, even if they are very well behaved.
The right dental care can make your shepherd’s life much happier and healthier. Here’s everything you need to know about his teeth and how to care for them.
German Shepherd Teeth Health: Basic Info
Just like in humans, dental health has a lot to do with general health. Infections in the mouth can spread to the heart and to the rest of the body. Keep a dog’s mouth clean does not have to be time-consuming or difficult. A well-behaved German shepherd will sit to have its teeth brushed, but as most owners know, this is not always the best way to keep his mouth clean.
Your German shepherd should have teeth along the top and bottom length of his jaw. He should have two longer canines on the bottom jaw and two longer canines on the top jaw. You’ve probably never experienced the sheer force of being bitten by a shepherd, but you can see how damaging those teeth can be.
When you play tug with your dog, you might get some sense of just how strong his jaw is. These shepherds were bred specifically for that bite power, which even today is used to subdue criminals and to defend families.
A dog needs a healthy mouth because his teeth are used for far more than just eating. Following are some of the most common dental issues German shepherds experience.
Possible German Shepherd Teeth Issues
Plaque and tarter buildup is not just annoying, it can be an indicator that your dog has cavities and even more significant dental health problems. Plaque is a film that builds up on his teeth after eating. As the dog salivates and as bacteria in the mouth work on the plaque, it can become tarter. If your dog has yellow or brown spots on his teeth, that is tartar.
Gingivitis is actually a surprisingly common problem for German shepherds. Most shepherds today are not fed the diet their ancestors would have eaten. Many of the foods they would have eaten would have acted to clean the teeth. Today, if a dog is given only canned food, for example, he may have enough bacteria and tartar in his mouth to start experiencing gingivitis. This condition inflames the gums, and can cause periodontal disease if left untreated.
Periodontal disease is an infection in the gums and the teeth. Because the infection is inside the gums and under the teeth, you might not see any significant problems when you look at your German shepherd’s teeth. If his gingivitis, however, has progressed to this state, he may be in significant pain.
While German shepherds are unlikely to whine when they are in pain like other dogs will, they might become aggressive or angry, especially if you try to touch their teeth. You might observe that his appetite is reduced and even that he may avoid drinking water because the temperature of the water huts his teeth.
If left unchecked, this disease will cause your dog to lose teeth, develop ulcers in his mouth, and even to develop infections in the rest of his body.
Taking Care of Your German Shepherd’s Teeth
In order to avoid any of these dental problems, know what signs to look for. If he has bad breath, drools, has discolored or swollen gums, and has visible tartar on his teeth, he needs better dental care. Here are some techniques you can use to help your dog keep his teeth clean.
Brush your Shepherd’s teeth
You can use a regular toothbrush, but get some dog-approved toothpaste from your vet or from a pet store. There are natural brands, if you do not want to introduce more chemicals to your German shepherd’s diet. Pay special attention the upper back teeth, as these are most likely to collect tartar. Do this once or twice a week—or every day, if his teeth really need cleaning.
Feed your GSD dry food
Dogs need something to crunch into. Not only does the texture of dry dog food help to clear away built up tartar and plaque, it can also help to strengthen the bones themselves. As the body experiences pressure like it will when chewing crunchy, dry food, it will strengthen the bones that are impacted by this pressure to prevent injury.
Rawhide for dental care
Let him chew on some rawhide. Rawhide is great way to get your dog to “brush” his own teeth. Vigorous chewing on a rawhide will clean away any leftover food particles and plaque, can help relieve tension in the jaw, and strengthen the muscles in the jaw. There are even rawhide bones designed specifically to help keep your dog’s teeth clean.
Rope toy for your dog
Give him a rope toy. While your German shepherd probably has plenty of toys to chew on (and rip apart), add a rope toy to the mix. The texture of the rope will help clean away anything sticking in between or to his teeth and he will have great fun chewing away (and ripping apart) his new toy. You can even squeeze a line of dog toothpaste onto the toy, for further cleaning.
Dental health spray
Get a dental health spray. There are sprays made specifically for dogs that you can spray into his mouth to help fight the buildup of plaque. Look for one that is supposed to improve fresh breath, but does not contain any kind of alcohol.
Your Aging’s German Shepherd’s Teeth
As shepherds grow older, their teeth will become more likely to break or fall out, and they may be more susceptible to infections. As he grows older, it will become more and more important to take care of his teeth. Make sure that he has plenty of things to chew on—not your shoes or furniture, but toys that he knows are his. Chewing can help relieve pressure and pain in the jaw and in the teeth and can prevent him grinding his teeth while he sleeps, which is likely to result in tooth breakage or loss.
Keep up your routine of brushing and if you start to notice a serious problem developing, do not be afraid to take it to your veterinarian, who might be able to suggest a technique or a product that can relieve pain and keep your shepherd’s mouth healthy and happy for as long as possible.