We all know the importance of good dental hygiene. We go to the dentist a couple of times a year, and there are hundreds of products to helps us keep our mouths healthy. Dental health is just as important in man’s best friend. Despite some of the questionable things they like to eat and chew on, healthy teeth and gums are a vital part of maintaining your pup’s overall health.
Over time dogs can get severe build ups of plaque and bacteria that can lead to gingivitis and lost teeth. Dogs can break teeth chewing on things they weren’t supposed to, which can lead to infection and abscesses. Bacteria from poor dental health can eventually work its way into the rest of your dog’s system and cause serious issues, including heart problems.
February is Pet Dental Health Month! Brushing your dog’s teeth can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Read on to find out how.
Finding the Right Toothbrush
The dog toothcare section can get a little confusing. There is such a variety of dog toothbrushes that the choice can be overwhelming. Think about the size of your dog, and how comfortable you are brushing their teeth; this can help guide your toothbrush selection. A finger brush can be an excellent choice for any size dog. It slides onto your finger and gives you easy control. If you don’t feel comfortable putting your finger in your pup’s mouth, there are many types of toothbrushes with handles.
Double-sided brushes can reach the top and bottom row of teeth, and double-ended brushes cover a large surface area with one end, and can get in the nooks and crannies with the other. Try to avoid using a toothbrush designed for adult humans. The bristles are harder and can cause bleeding or discomfort. An exception would be a toothbrush designed for babies or children; the bristles are extra soft and would not tear the gums.
Selecting A Dog-Friendly Toothpaste
There are a variety of kinds of toothpaste designed for dogs on the market. Most of them are meat flavored to encourage your dog to allow you to brush their teeth. Many of them have enzymes to prevent tartar build-up and kill bacteria. Toothpaste designed for dogs does not foam and is safe to swallow. Never use human toothpaste for dogs. They are not meant to be swallowed, and quite a few contain xylitol or sorbitol, which are dangerous (and potentially deadly) for dogs to ingest.
Preparing to Brush
Things will go much more smoothly if you gently prepare your fur baby to have their teeth cleaned instead of going full steam ahead. Get your pup used to you touching his mouth. Practice lifting their lip and touching their gums and their teeth. This is easiest if you start them as a puppy, but even an older dog can be trained to allow this. Praise them, and possibly reward them with a treat if they allow you to touch their mouth.
Introduce them to the toothbrush. Allow them to sniff it. Try lifting their lip to touch their teeth with the brush. Work on getting them to allow you to place the brush on all sides of their teeth. If they allow you to do this, praise them and give them a treat. Praise and treats will help your dog associate the brush with something pleasant, and make it easier for you to train them to allow a toothbrushing. It may take them some time to get used to this step but keep working at it, regular dental care at home will save on trips to the vet.
Let them try the toothpaste, allow them to lick the paste to get used to the flavor. With any luck, your pooch will enjoy the taste and think they’re getting a treat. Next, try putting the toothpaste on the brush. If you’ve been working with them for a while, they will be used to the sensation of the brush and will allow you to scrub their teeth gently. Brushing two to three times a week will help maintain your dog’s dental health, and will enable you to see if any changes have occurred that require the veterinarian’s attention.
It might seem like a daunting task, but approach it slowly, and you will be a toothbrushing pro in no time, and your dog will have fresher breath and a healthier mouth.
Still not comfortable with making the attempt? Make a visit with your veterinarian for more toothbrushing tips. Don’t have one? Check out our blog post on finding a vet in the Brevard County area.
Going out of town, and want to make sure your pup stays on his or her health routine? Take a look at our pet services page!
Melanie is the owner and founder of Brevard’s premier trusted in-home pet care company. With a Sociology & Criminal Justice degree from the University of Tennessee, in 2016 she took her corporate security background and combined it with her lifelong passion for animals – that’s how Space Coast Pet Services was born! She is certified in Pet First Aid & CPR, bonded, insured, and proudly completed a full background check successfully. She is committed to ongoing training and education for herself and her team. To learn more, click here.
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