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After a long day, what dog owner doesn’t love the joyful welcome they receive from their beloved pets when they walk in the door? But when you bend down to greet your happy hound, does their bad doggy breath make you cringe?
That halitosis could be more than just a sign that Fido ate something he shouldn’t have. Often bad breath, just as for humans, is a sign that your dog’s dental health is not what it should be. So what does a responsible dog owner do?
Do You Really Need To Brush Your Dog’s Teeth?
Many doggy owners often ask do I really need to “brush” my dog’s teeth? Can’t I just give them a chew treat or rawhide to clean their teeth? Well, the good news is that the occasional dog chew, if given responsibly to your pup, is a good idea but that’s not all she wrote. Lucky for dogs, they aren’t as prone to cavities as humans. However, veterinarians estimate that almost 85% of dogs over the age of 5 have periodontal disease.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal what? Just like us, our pets can develop periodontal disease when food particles get stuck in their teeth. These particles along with bacteria lead to plaque (cue toothpaste commercial music). This plaque, in turn leads to deposits of rock-hard tartar along the gum line. If it isn’t removed, the tartar will irritate and inflame your doggie’s gums that then can begin to separate from the teeth. These separations become a haven for more bacteria and worsening periodontal disease. All of this can lead to severe pain for your dog, tooth loss, abscesses in their mouth, and/or bacterial infections that can spread throughout the blood stream to the kidneys, liver, heart or brain. Unfortunately, periodontal disease is irreversible but all of this can be helped or even prevented with regular dog teeth cleaning.
How To Brush Dogs Teeth?
The best advice is to take it slow and always reward your canine after so that they know good things come from having their teeth brushed. If you are a “puppy” owner, then you have an advantage to get your dog used to this new routine early. If you have an older pup, you can still work this into your overall care regimen for your pet.
- Before using a brush or paste you need to teach your dog that it can be fun to have your fingers in his mouth. Dip your finger in something like peanut butter (or anything else they like) and let your dog lick your finger. As they do this gently rub your finger along the sides of the teeth and gums. Gently lift their lips as you would when brushing. Repeat a couple times a day for 2-3 days. Towards the end of the process introduce the doggie toothpaste you have chosen (do NOT use human toothpaste) to get them used to the smell and taste.
- When your dog is comfortable with your fingers in his mouth you can move on to teaching him to accept you opening his mouth. Make sure you have lots of treats on hand as positive reinforcement. Gradually work up to opening his mouth for just a few seconds increasing the time slowly. Always reward with treats and do this 8-10 times a session over several days.
- If your dog struggles during any of the exercises above, gently but firmly continue to hold his muzzle until he stops. As soon as he stops struggling and holds still for one second, release his muzzle. You may have progressed a little too fast, so go back and practice the previous steps for a few more days. When he seems comfortable at that step for two or three days, try moving to the next step again.
- Once you have gotten him used to you exploring his mouth and moving your fingers along teeth and gums you can move on to brushing. Make sure that you start slowly once again and increase time over days. Again, always follow with favorite treats so that your pup is happy to let you brush his teeth.
What To Brush Dogs Teeth With?
There are many options for brushes and toothpastes out there for pups. Always pick something that is designed for a dog. From toothbrushes that look like they are for humans to finger brushes, find one that fits comfortably in your dogs mouth and is soft enough to not irritate their gums. Doggie toothpastes come in many flavors including: liver, mint, chicken and peanut butter. But, remember NEVER use human toothpaste for a dog. Although your pooch may love the taste of mint, most human toothpastes have higher levels of fluoride in them. Your dog can develop fluoride toxicity much quicker than a human. Also, most human toothpastes have salts, detergents and baking soda, all of which can harm your dog’s teeth.
If you are not sure were to start, we recommend the Nylabone Advanced Oral Care Kit (View on Amazon)
How Often To Brush Dogs Teeth?
Dogs eat every day and just like humans it would be ideal to brush your pup’s teeth after every meal. In the real world, many of us would never have the time for this. Once a day is the best recommendation of brushing their teeth, but if your schedule is still tight, aim to brush several times a week. Try to brush for at least 30 seconds per side of their mouth during each session. One important thing to note is that smaller dogs and pups with flat or short broad snouts (i.e. pugs, bulldogs, etc.) often require more frequent brushing. Because of their smaller mouths, these dogs’ teeth are more crowded together. They are more prone to plaque build-up and thus more likely to develop periodontal disease. Learn more about how often to brush from Pets Best Insurance:
Tips For Brushing Dogs Teeth
- Start sooner than later brushing your dog’s teeth. The sooner you start the healthier their teeth will be throughout their whole life.
- Regular annual vet exams that include a dental check-up are a good idea.
- Hard dog food is better than soft on a daily basis as well as the occasional chew treats (given under owner supervision).
- Do not try to overpower your furry friend or punish him if he resists tooth brushing. Forcing him to submit will only make him more reluctant to let you brush his teeth—and it might even cause defensive aggression. Instead, slowly and gently accustom your dog to tooth brushing.
- If you need help learning how to brush your dog’s teeth you can always consult a Certified Professional Dog Trainer to help you.
- If you feel your dog needs a more intensive cleaning, take them to a professional veterinarian that has the right training and can properly administer anesthesia. Your pooch will thank you in the long run.
Cleaning Dogs Teeth Is Important
Remember that your dog’s overall dental health contributes to their general health and happiness. And as all good owners know: a healthy happy dog makes us all smile.