Good oral health is a critical piece of the overall health of your dog. Bad oral hygiene leads to the build up of plaque and tartar on the gums and teeth causing periodontal disease. While periodontal disease can cause tooth decay and gum disease, it can also lead to heart, kidney, or liver disease and have a fatal effect on your dog. The best way to combat periodontal disease is by regularly brushing your dog’s teeth.
Statistics show that by the age of three, 80% of dogs will have some kind of oral disease. That means that out of the almost 90 million dogs in the United States, 72 million have oral disease. That’s a pretty crazy number! And the even crazier thing is that it’s such an easy fix. You brush your teeth twice a day every day. Think of how simple that is for you. Well, boom! It’s just as easy to take care of and brush your dog’s teeth as well.
Supplies to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth at Home
First, let’s talk supplies. You’re going to need a dog specific toothpaste. Human toothpastes have xylitol which is a toxic substance to dogs. There are lots of options and they have great dog-friendly flavors like peanut butter and chicken. That way you can choose a flavor based on your dog’s preferences. The second thing you need is some sort of toothbrush. You have a couple of options here. One option is a dog specific toothbrush that you can get at your local pet store when you get your dog toothpaste. Another option is to use a little kid’s toothbrush. These have soft bristles so they’re safe for your puppy. If your dog is totally adverse to having the brush in their mouth, you can try a finger brush. It’s a little rubber fingertip covering that has bristles on it.
Steps to Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth
Once you have your supplies, it’s time to start training your dog to sit still while you brush. Ideally, you want to brush your dog’s teeth when he’s calm and relaxed. This should become a daily routine, so pick a time that works best for both of you and try to stick to it. Grab your brush and toothpaste and kneel next to your dog or sit in front of him. You don’t want to take a threatening stance or grab him and hold him down. This will make him scared of the idea of getting his teeth brushed. Next, gently rub your fingers along your dog’s gums to get them used to the feeling of pressure. If they fight back, stop and come back to this later. Some dogs may need you to take things slow, especially if they were adopted as adults or if you’ve never brushed their teeth before. After rubbing the gums, you should put a little toothpaste on your finger and let your pup give it a taste. This will allow them to realize that it’s tasty and good. If he doesn’t like one flavor, try another.
After your dog is comfortable with feeling pressure on his gums and has a toothpaste flavor that he likes, it’s time to combine everything and start brushing. You want to come in with the brush at a 45-degree angle and start with the top teeth. Gently massage the teeth and gums to remove plaque and tartar build up. Brush in small circles over all of the teeth, top and bottom. There might be some light bleeding which is totally fine. Heavy bleeding could be a sign of gum disease. If your dog does have heavier bleeding, you may want to call your veterinarian to seek further advice. You might need to take him in for a professional dog teeth cleaning to get him back to zero. The goal should be to brush for about two minutes, reaching all of the teeth. As your brush, give your pup positive feedback and make them feel reassured. Once you’re done, give him a little treat as a reward for being such a good boy and sitting still.
Get Started by Creating a Routine
Overall, the process is really simple, but it could take a couple of weeks to get all the way up to the full two minutes. Dogs can have a hard time with a new routine. Most vets will tell you that daily brushing is best, but if you can do three times a week you’re definitely helping your dog’s oral health. Any prevention that you can do at home is good. Depending on when you’re starting, you may want to make a vet appointment to see what they say about your dog’s oral health status. If you adopted an old dog whose teeth have never been brushed, your vet may recommend a professional dog teeth cleaning to get in there good. Just remember to brush and keep those teeth clean!
Are you interested in talking to a veterinarian about a professional dog teeth cleaning? Call Veterinary Dental Services at (978) 929-9200 today!