Taking Care of Your Dog’s Teeth

We put a lot of thought and effort in keeping our furry friends safe and healthy. We take them to the vet regularly, feed them healthy food, walk them every day, we even take them to the park for fun exercise. But what about taking care of their teeth?

We all do things routinely to take care of our own teeth, such as brushing, flossing, and going to the dentist regularly.  Yet many of us don’t bother to give our dog’s teeth and gums the same kind of attention.

Probably most of us believe that oral hygiene for dogs isn’t really necessary. Many believe that dog’s teeth maintain themselves. This might have been true for dogs in the wild whose diets do not include the processed stuff we give our dogs. If you do not take your dog’s dental care seriously you will regret it.

Dogs can get toothaches and sore gums like humans, and we might not be even aware of it. What is worse is if a dog does have dental problems, and does not get treatment, it could lead to bigger and more serious health issues.

The most common dental disease dogs get are periodontal or gum related. For instance, untreated tooth decay or gum disease can provide bacteria a way to get into the bloodstream, which in turn can cause heart, kidney, or liver problems. It can also lead to infection and tooth loss. Losing teeth is probably one of the worse things that can happen to dogs as it can affect their overall health.

The good news is that with the right information and proper care, such occurrences are preventable.

So, what do we and our dogs need to do to take good care of their teeth? It’s actually mostly the same as the regimen of people that take good care of our teeth with a few variations.

Brushing Teeth

For regular cleaning, let’s start with choosing the right toothbrush. You can use a tooth brush for people. if you do, choose a soft bristle one and make sure it is small enough to fit comfortably into your dog’s mouth.

However, it is best to get a toothbrush designed for dogs. They typically come with angled handles or finger slip-ons that make it easier to use on dogs.

The ones with angled handles work more or less the same as human toothbrushes. The finger slip-ons are a little different. They slip over your finger and rub their teeth with it, much like baby toothbrushes. Any of these will work, so choose the one you are most comfortable using.

Next, choose the toothpaste. Do not use toothpaste for people on your dogs. Human tooth paste includes ingredients that may be harmful to dogs when swallowed. In fact, in large quantities they might be harmful to humans as well, except we don’t swallow. If you can teach your dog to spit it out like we do, you can probably use human toothpaste safely. Since this is unlikely, better to choose toothpaste specially formulated for dogs, which is safe for them to swallow. 

Now we get to the fun part: getting your dog used to regular toothbrushing. It is different for each dog. Some take to it right from the start. There are even dogs that get a kick out of it and look forward to every toothbrushing moment. Others are not so adventurous. They will resist and get anxious, making the process stressful for both dog and human. If this is the case for your dog, here are some tips on how to make it pleasant and easy for both you and your dog:

  • If you can, start them young. It’s easier to teach puppies.
  • If your dog is already older by the time you start, do not lose hope. It will just take some effort, but it is not impossible.
  • Before you begin, make sure you have a positive and relaxed attitude. Your furry buddy can pick up on your attitude, so if you will anxious or stressed, they will be, too.
  • Go slow and easy. They do not have to adapt to it on the first try. The goal is to make the toothbrushing experience a fun and good one for your dogs. When you achieve this, brushing becomes a treat for both you and your dog.
  • Get them acquainted with the toothbrush and toothpaste. Let your dog sniff and touch them. Let them have a taste of the toothpaste.
  • Don’t take too long, especially during the first few times. It isn’t important to actually finish brushing your dog’s teeth. It is more important to get them feeling relaxed and at ease during the process. As soon as they seem agitated or anxious, stop. You might get further in the next session.
  • Although it is ideal to brush their teeth once daily, you should start with regular brushing every other day, or even three times a week.
  • If a daily brushing is still a hassle even after doing it for a long time, don’t stress over it. If once or twice a week is the best you can do, that is fine. Just make sure you do it regularly and on a schedule.

Now that you know how to get started with brushing their teeth, this is how you do it:

  • Start with the outer portion of their teeth using soft strokes.
  • When they seem more relaxed, brush the inner portions of their teeth as well.
  • Brush along the line of the gums in a circular motion. Do not put too much pressure on the teeth and gums during brushing.

It also helps to give them positive reinforcement after each brushing session, whether successful or not. Giving your dog a hug, a pat on the head, or a treat after each toothbrushing session will make them associate the process with good vibes. This will make it easier for you during the next session.

Regular Dental Checkups

Like us, our dogs should also go to the dog dentist for regular checkups. Find out if your vet is qualified to do this. If not, ask your vet, friends and relatives with dogs for recommendations for a good dog dentist.

Like tooth brushing, going for a checkup can be a nerve-racking experience for your dog. It is a good idea to get them accustomed to the activity by making a test visit before the actual checkup. This will also give you the chance to check out the place.

Taking these simple steps can make oral hygiene fun and easy for our canine companions. This can go a long way in giving them healthier, longer, and happier lives.

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