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We adore our dogs. Our furry companions are showered with love, spoiled with toys and exercised to keep them happy and healthy. We take great care of them but often overlook our dog's teeth. Here is the hard truth. Many of us are putting our canine companions at risk by not brushing their teeth. I will be the first to say, I don’t regularly brush Rocket’s teeth. In fact, 95% of pet owners don’t regularly brush their dog’s teeth. As tartar and plaque build-up in your dog’s mouth, infections can occur leading to heart, liver and kidney disease. As if that’s is not scary enough, these infections can be extremely painful and even life-threatening.
Home dental hygiene can make a tremendous difference in your dog's overall health
I am so lucky, I know this. Rocket’s best quality is his personality. He literally has the temperament of a sloth and butterfly combined. If I feel like hiking to the top of a mountain, he happily joins. When I'm a couch potato, he's a couch potato. If I need to bath him, he calmly stands in the bath. He never puts up a fight. The same goes for brushing his teeth. When he was a puppy, I would put my fingers in his mouth all the time. I would gently rub his gums and teeth with gauze wrapped around my finger. I tried to get him used to my fingers being in his mouth. Now, at 9 years old, he still lets me brush his teeth without hesitation.
How do we properly brush our dog’s teeth?
1. A Calm Pup is A Happy Pup.
Take your dog for a nice walk or play fetch with him in the backyard. When you brush their teeth, you want your dog to sit as still as possible. By releasing energy, your dog will feel more relaxed when you start poking in his mouth.
The calmer your dog feels the more successful the brushing will be.
2. Start Slow.
Begin by letting your dog get used to your hands. As you pet your pup, gently reach your fingers into his mouth. Start by lightly rubbing his gums and teeth. Be sure to praise him when you are done. If you have a puppy, it’s best to start this as soon as possible. If your puppy feels comfortable with you touching his mouth, he will tolerate this as he gets older. You can wrap some gauze around your finger and gently rub your dog’s teeth. Only introduce the gauze once your dog feels comfortable with your fingers.
3. Pick Your Toothpaste.
Canine toothpaste that is! Human toothpaste can be poisonous to dogs so you should never use it. You can find toothpaste made for dogs at many pet stores. Here is my favorite toothpaste. Rocket LOVES the flavor. Put a little dab on your finger and let your dog smell it. Allow your dog to lick the toothpaste and then gently rub his teeth in a circular motion. Only use your finger. As I mentioned earlier, your want to start slow. Repeat this for a few days until your dog feels comfortable. Praise your dog and reward him with a treat!
4. Find The Right Toothbrush.
Not all toothbrushes are created equal. Some people don’t even use them. I am a big fan of using a piece of gauze wrapped around my finger. My vet has always recommended this to me. If you have a smaller dog, this may be a good option for you. As with the toothpaste, don’t use a human toothbrush on your dog’s teeth. A toothbrush properly designed for your dog has bristles that are softer and angled. Here are two good options. For small dogs click HERE. For medium to large dogs, click HERE.
5. Begin Brushing.
Find a comfortable position for both you and your dog. Don’t hold your dog down or stand above her. Try sitting next to or in front of her. Place a small amount of toothpaste on the brush and let her lick it so that she gets used to feeling the bristles. Place the toothbrush in your dog’s mouth at a 45-degree angle against her teeth. This will not only clean the teeth but will gently massage the gum line. Brush in small circles reaching the top and bottom of both sides of your dog's mouth. Brush a few teeth at a time and work your way up. If your dog begins to feel anxious or uncomfortable, stop and try again later. Again, go slow.
6. Stay Positive.
Talk to your dog throughout the process. Keep your voice calm and scratch your pup's head. When you are finished, praise your dog and reward them with a treat. Your Vet can recommend a healthy treat for your dog. I usually reward Rocket with his kibble because I know it's healthy and he loves the taste.
7. Stick with Dry Food.
Dry, crunchy food is better for your dog’s teeth than soft food. Soft food can cause decay because it is more likely to stick to your dog’s teeth. High-quality dry food is best. Talk with your vet for a healthy food recommendation.
8. Schedule a Professional Cleaning.
You should have your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned at least once per year. Even if you are able to brush your dog’s teeth regularly, the vet can access areas you may not be able to. Your vet will examine your dog’s mouth and look for problems. This procedure is a bit costly but can save your dog from painful complications. Every time you visit the vet, have them look at their teeth. They will tell you how often your dog should have a professional cleaning.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. Go slow and practice weekly. Over time, this can become an enjoyable experience for the both of you. It can even be a lifesaver.
Do you brush your dog's teeth? Let us know in the comments below.