What is the Best Way to Clean a Dog’s Teeth?

If you are a canine owner, no doubt your dog is a much-loved addition to your family, and just like the human members of their household, you want to ensure that their furbaby gets the best possible care and attention. Your pet’s health is your responsibility, but it may surprise you to learn that the wellbeing of her teeth is just as important as that of her body.

Canine dental problems

Dental problems are extremely common in animals and in addition to decay, as many as 70% of dogs will show some signs of periodontal disease by the time they are three years of age. Unfortunately, this condition can have serious consequences for your pet if left untreated. Studies have shown irrefutable links between periodontal disease and chronic health conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and even some oral cancers. This is because the infection in the gums can enter the bloodstream and pass into your canine’s body, where it causes severe and, in some cases, irreversible damage. This is in addition to pain and suffering endured as a result of problems with the teeth, soft tissue and jaw that occur when your dog experiences dental troubles.

The single most important thing that you can do to help protect your dog from developing periodontal disease, as well as other dental problems, is to ensure that her teeth and gums are as healthy as possible, and the way to do this is by brushing them as often as she will tolerate.

Brushing your dog’s teeth – an overview

The idea of brushing your dog’s teeth may seem like a joke, but periodontal disease is no laughing matter. Daily brushing has been shown to significantly reduce the likelihood that your precious canine pal will develop dental decay and disease, and so is a habit that should be introduced to your pet from an early age.

Most experts recommend daily tooth-brushing is initiated when your dog is a puppy at just 6-8 weeks old. This will enable brushing to become part of your usual routine much more quickly as your pup has much fewer pre-conceived concerns or fears about the unknown. However, older dogs who may not be used to having their teeth brushed will almost certainly benefit from a more gradual approach. This means a slower increase in the frequency with which you brush, increasing ideally to daily once your dog is happier and more comfortable with the process.

What equipment do I need to brush my dog’ teeth?

The good news is that brushing the teeth of your canine isn’t an expensive part of her care. While there are plenty of pet toothbrushes on the market, you can use a regular human variety if you want to. Just be sure to choose one with a small head, so that you can move it well around her mouth, and one with soft bristles so that you do not damage her teeth and gums.

When it comes to toothpaste however, you must opt for a specialist pet variety. This is because human toothpastes contain chemicals that are highly toxic if consumed by animals. Most pet toothpastes are available in flavors that are not dissimilar to conventional dog foods – such as beef or poultry – and as such, should be very tempting to your furbaby.

Brushing: the process

The first thing that you need to do is get your pet used to the taste of the toothpaste. Squeeze a little on to your finger or a chew toy and encourage your dog to come up close. Her natural curiosity means that she will almost certainly sniff and possible lick it. If she likes it, she will keep going until she finishes the paste. If she appears not to like the taste, you could try again the following day. However, if she really cannot tolerate the flavor then you may wish to consider changing to a different toothpaste. Finding one that she likes will make the entire process much easier.

Once she is comfortable with the toothpaste, it is time to introduce the brushing process. The best way to start is by gently easing up your dog’s lips to give access to the teeth and gums. Start brushing in gentle, circular motions on the outer surfaces of your dog’s teeth, making sure you talk to her and offer words of praise and encouragement throughout. She may only let you do one or two teeth before she resists. Nevertheless, as she builds confidence, you should find that you can continue brushing for longer, and slowly work towards brushing the canines and molars too. This is particularly important as it is these teeth which are most likely to suffer from a build-up of tartar/plaque and trigger the development of periodontal disease.

Don’t forget to make the experience a positive one for your pet by offering plenty of love and attention both before and after each brushing session. You could even offer rewards in the form of dental chews, which will also support your dog’s oral health.

If you would like further information and support, our knowledgeable and experienced team would be delighted to help. Please contact our offices today and discover everything that you need to know about caring for your dog’s teeth.