Dogs are susceptible to many of the same dental problems people are, such as tartar, plaque and gum disease. Problems like these can promote infection, and those infections can become quite serious. Regular veterinary dental cleanings are recommended, but you can do some preventative work on your own to keep your pet’s teeth strong and healthy.
How often you brush your dog’s teeth will depend on his or her feeding regimen, your schedule, and how willing your dog is to let you stick your hands in their mouth! Ideally we would be able to brush their teeth daily, but that’s not something most owners have the time or dedication for. A weekly tooth brushing regimen will do plenty of good.
If you’ve never brushed your dog’s teeth or have adopted an older shelter pet, it may be difficult to get him or her to allow you near their mouth. Work with your dog to get used to the procedure by touching his or her face on a regular basis. It may take some time, but your dog will eventually learn that you’re not trying to upset it.
The first thing to do in preparation for dental hygiene is to choose a brush and toothpaste. You can use a toothbrush intended for people (make sure it is of the “soft” or “extra soft” variety), but using a finger brush that is made for dogs is best. You cannot use human toothpaste on a dog; not only will it taste icky to them, fluoride can be toxic to animals. Your local pet store or your veterinarian will carry a line of doggie toothpastes that are safe and more palatable to canines.
To help your dog recognize that the toothpaste is a treat and not a torture, let him or her eat a little of it first. Put some on the toothbrush and let the pup taste it. Chances are, he or she will like the flavor and be more willing to sit through the cleaning process because of it.
Hold your dog’s lip up so that you can see the teeth clearly. Brush the teeth and gums gently. Your dog may resist, but if you continue with regular treatments, he or she will get used to the process and allow you to brush for longer. When you’re finished with the brushing, always offer your pet a treat so that they know they’ve been a good boy or girl!
Regular dental hygiene is necessary for the health of any dog, and thanks to the wonders of chicken-flavored toothpaste, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get your pet to agree. If you have a lot of difficulty getting your dog to accept the treatment even after regular attempts, speak with your veterinarian for other options like tooth-cleaning chews or sedation.