Attend to your dog’s dental health. The condition of your dog's teeth and gums have an impact on overall health. According to Dr. Peter Dobias, "Toothache, compromised immune system, heart valve infections, and kidney failure are the most common result of neglected teeth."
In addition to regular teeth and gum check-ups by your veterinarian, the most important element in dental care for your dog is daily brushing. Our Golden Retrievers have always enjoyed having their teeth brushed; in fact, our "Jazzie" used to beg for it every night before bedtime. But not all dogs love it quite so much. The Senior Dogs Project's most recent adoption, "Woody," has taken more than a year to become accustomed to having his teeth brushed. It's true that we had to administer a treat in-between swipes at his teeth, but we're winding down the treat-to-brushing ratio gradually, and soon we'll be good to go full-brush-ahead.
Doggie toothpaste, toothbrushes, and other devices for at-home teeth cleaning are widely available. Beef- or chicken-flavored toothpaste will make your dog think that teeth-brushing is a treat. There are so many choices on the market now. You can do an online search for the offerings of toothbrushes (different sizes for small vs. big dogs), flavorings, and systems.
If your dog doesn't appreciate teeth brushing at first, your patience will be needed to introduce it and make it a regular part of a routine. Here's a YouTube video we love on the proper way to brush your dog's teeth. Don't give up if it doesn't work so smoothly the first time. And try different techniques and different flavors of paste if the suggested ones don't suit your dog. By experimenting, you and your dog will learn how to cooperate to get the job done. Regular brushing of your dog's teeth will extend the time between the need for professional cleaning by your veterinarian, which also means your dog won't have to go under anesthesia as often.
In fact, a dog must be under anesthesia to have teeth properly cleaned. Modern monitoring equipment and drugs make it safer than ever for all dogs, including seniors, to come through anesthesia without undue side effects. Although some pet grooming shops offer teeth scaling without anesthesia, it is ineffective in getting under the gums, which is where serious dental problems reside. A fully awake dog simply will not tolerate the kind of intrusion that is necessary to complete this type of cleaning. Signing up to clean your dog's teeth without anesthesia will result in (1) wasting your money, and (2) exposing your dog to potential trauma and injury. Anesthesia for senior dogs is generally safe. Just be sure you inform the veterinarian about any supplements or medication you are giving your dog, as some can interfere with clotting or with the drugs used during the procedure.
Here's the link for you to print out a chart that summarizes the Senior Dogs Project's Ten Tips to Keep Your Senior Dog Healthy.