Keep your dog healthy and yourself happy by regularly brushing your pooch’s teeth. While you may not mind the smell of puppy breath so much, you’re sure to find an older dog’s breath repulsive if it’s suffering from tooth decay and other dental issues.
Veterinarians offer teeth cleaning services at their offices, but the process can be expensive, and the dog is usually under anesthesia for it. (Often, a test is recommended prior to professional cleaning that ensures the dog won’t have an adverse reaction to the anesthesia that will be used.)
The Pros and Cons of Vet Services
While a vet’s cleaning services are worth the money, you may be able to avoid this expense if you adopt the habit of toothbrushing at home early on. Just as people help themselves by brushing, brushing your dog’s teeth can help reduce tartar and plaque buildup, prevent gum disease and tooth decay, and avoid bad breath and serious infections that can cause major problems if ignored.
Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly is a great practice to promote its overall well-being.
Special toothbrushes and paste for dogs are readily available. You will probably find what you need wherever it is that you get your dog’s other supplies, like treats.
What to Know About Pet Toothbrushes
The bristles of the toothbrush will be as soft as those on a toddler’s brush, and they’re often angled differently from the brushes used by humans. The sizes and shapes of the brushes vary; select one that’s appropriate for your dog’s size. Choose one with a small head for small or toy breeds. Dogs of this size may do best with a finger brush, a rubber contraption that fits over one of your fingers and has built-in bristles at the tip.
If your dog’s mouth is large, look for a toothbrush with a large head and a long handle. Never use toothpaste made for humans on your dog. Not only are there flavors like poultry and peanut butter but dog toothpaste is also formalized with the expectation that the dog will swallow some paste during the brushing process.
Remember that you will be working your way up to daily brushing; the first attempt will be difficult, but you can take steps to keep your pet from being frightened of it in the beginning. Introducing the brush and paste to the dog is necessary. Do this at a time when your dog is relaxed and in a comfortable place.
Tips to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
You’ll always want to seem at ease yourself, not domineering, so kneel or sit beside or in front of your dog. Let the dog smell the toothbrush and toothpaste. Allow the dog to have a lick of the paste from off the brush or your finger. All the while, continue talking calmly to your dog, praising it for its good behavior.
Work your way to manipulating your dog’s mouth and jowls with your fingers before trying with the brush. Always use light pressure and never hold down your dog as you try to do this. If your dog seems to get anxious, that’s enough for one attempt; try getting a bit farther the next day.
Once your dog has gotten acclimated to you handling its mouth, add a small amount of paste to the brush and gently expose the dog’s teeth and gums. Ideally, you’ll want to work your way from one side of the mouth to the other, brushing the teeth at the top and bottom.
The outside of the teeth will be easier to do than the inside will. If you feel you’re not doing much to the inside of the teeth, don’t sweat it; the dog’s tongue helps keep that area clean.
At first, focus on the areas that attract the most plaque and tartar buildup: the canines and the teeth at the rear. Your target is to brush for two minutes total in a circular motion. Soothe your dog by praising it using a soft voice and by stroking its chest.
As you brush your dog’s teeth, keep an eye out for problems. Occasional light bleeding at the gums is nothing to worry about; however, if it’s often or profuse, then that may indicate either you are using too much pressure or another issue like gum disease that needs attention. Do not ignore loose teeth or anything else that seems abnormal. Contact your veterinarian for a second opinion if you think symptoms need more care than you can give.
Remember that brushing your dog’s teeth is a scary situation for your dog at first. Don’t rush it. Progressing each day is key to getting your pet used to improving its hygiene. When you have finished each session, reward your dog with a dental chew or beef trachea for cleaner teeth.