Doggie Dental Hygiene: Brushing Your Dog's Teeth
Much the same as you would groom your dog and keep up with clipping your dog's nails, it is just as important to regularly clean your dog's teeth. Dental hygiene is not only important for maintaining your dog's teeth and breath, but also for keeping your pet in overall good health. Many dangerous health conditions can start as tooth and gum disease and can lead to medical complications with the heart, kidney, or liver. Keeping up with brushing your dog's teeth is easy if you make it part of your regular health check routine. Below we take a look at all of the details and practices that go into brushing your dog’s teeth
Getting the Basics
As tempting as it can be to purchase a human toothbrush and toothpaste for your pooch, dog dental equipment is much different. A dog toothbrush has longer and softer bristles that have a better way of getting to hard to reach places inside your dog's mouth. Dog toothbrushes come in a variety of shapes and sizes so you can be sure to get a size that suits your dog's mouth and tooth size. There is also small brusher that fits on your finger that works well for dogs. Some dogs might be afraid to have an unknown object in their mouth, but by using the finger toothbrush, it will appear to be a familiar hand. Please know that the chance of your dog biting your finger accidentally increases with this type of toothbrush.
You will also need to purchase dog toothpaste. Human toothpaste can be quite dangerous for dogs and should never be used. There are certain ingredients in human toothpaste that can be toxic to dogs including fluoride. When we brush our teeth we know not to swallow the toothpaste but dogs do not understand this. To be enticing to your pet, dog toothpaste comes in a variety of different flavors. You may need to try a few different flavors until you find one that works well for your dog.
For the best chance of success it is a good idea to acclimate your dog to having his or her teeth brushed when he or she is still a puppy. Teaching your dog a new habit can be difficult but can be made much easier when you follow proven steps for success. We will liken this new behavior training to similar training for house breaking your pet. Much the same as you would train your dog to use an indoor potty to aid in house training, you can practice getting your dog accustomed to the toothbrush and paste to aid in a successful tooth brushing session.
One way to start is to practice having your fingers in and around your dog's mouth. This way the dog becomes comfortable with having their face touched. Next you can have the dog lick some of the toothpaste off of your finger. You can then take this a step further and add the toothpaste to the toothbrush and allow your pet to lick the toothpaste off. If necessary, you can give your pet a treat after they have made contact with the toothbrush. This way the dog will have a positive association with the toothbrush and toothpaste. This is very similar to how you might give your pet a treat after using an indoor potty for dogs after they have gone to the bathroom successfully. Treats can help encourage good behavior. As the pet repeats the behavior it will become like second nature. To complete our comparison, eventually a dog will use his or her potty pad as a dog bathroom every time your dog needs to go potty. The same process is true for brushing your dog’s teeth.
Once you have your puppy successfully accepting your hand or toothbrush in his or her mouth it is time to start actually brushing your dog's teeth. Gently pull back your dog's lips and brush the teeth that are up front and easy to get to first. Gently massage the teeth and gum areas without too much pressure. Once you have the front teeth done you can move to the sides and repeat the process, moving the dog's lips out of the way as you progress through the teeth. It is important to stay calm while brushing your dogs teeth. Use a soothing voice and continually give reassuring pets and rubs throughout the process.
It is important to make your dog's brushing part of a regular routine. While in an ideal world you would be able to brush your dog's teeth everyday, we know that is not always possible. Try to brush your dog's teeth as often as possible. What can help with the brushing routine is to always brush your dog's teeth at the same time of the day so it becomes routine. If you always walk your dog at 7 after work, why not add their brushing right after their walk? Another key for success in brushing your dog's teeth is to perform the brushing at a time when your dog is calm. Following a long walk your dog will be more relaxed than when you first get home.
AlternativesSome dogs will simply not accept a tooth brush or some owners might not have the kind of time to brush their pet's teeth as often as would be desired, and that's OK. There are several alternatives you can do to still keep your dog's teeth clean. One idea is to add an additive in your dog's water that will act like a mouth rinse to dislodge any plaque or food that has built up. As the dog drinks the water will flush between the dog's teeth. Another idea is to give your dog toys that have irregular surfaces to chew on. There are many hard plastic bones with bumps, knobs and twists that will get into the tiny nooks and crannies of your dog's teeth. If you notice that your dog's teeth are still not as clean as they should be, you can always use a professional teeth cleaning service. These are available at many groomers and vet's offices and will ensure that your dog's teeth are in tip top shape.