DOGS DENTAL HEALTH
Did you ever lean down to pet your service or companion dog and pull back in horror as his or her breath hovers over you like a toxic cloud? Yep, that’s bad pet breath, just like the kind human’s get when they don’t brush and floss. And, like a human, your dog’s bad breath isn’t just gross, it could be a sign of serious gum disease.
Approximately 80% of dogs (and 70% of cats) get some form of periodontal disease by the time they’re 3 years old. So, what to do? Well, just like us, your dog’s teeth need the same kind of attention – in other words, brush-a, brush-a, brush-a.
Here’s some tips to help you brush your dog’s teeth. It’s best to start when your pup is a pup – the earlier you apply these tips, the faster and easier it will be to do this throughout your dog’s life.
GETTING STARTED WITH SIT/STAY
Before you start to handle your dog’s mouth (which you’ll do before trying to brush his/her teeth) make sure your dog is in a good position, so that both of you will enjoy the process without physical strain. For some people, putting their dog between their knees and reaching over or around its head is the easiest position; others put their dog in a “sit-stay” and kneel in front of him or her. Whatever works for both of you is the correct position. The important thing is that both of you are comfortable. Work up to having your dog sit and stay in this position for 3-5 minutes.
Pet and message your dog’s muzzle while his/her mouth is closed. Doing this regularly helps your dog get used to having his or her mouth handled. This is a very important step in helping your dog become used to having its mouth touched. After all, you don’t want your pup, (especially when fully-grown) to panic and bite down on your little fingers after you’ve stuck your hand in there!
GET YOUR DOG TO SMILE
Periodically, lift your dog’s lips and touch his or her teeth and gums. Gently, open and shut your pet’s mouth. Do this for a couple minutes twice a day, until your dog seems comfortable and used to having his/her mouth handled by your dainty human fingers.
THE RIGHT TOOTHBRUSH
For any dog, look for a toothbrush with soft bristles.*
If your dog just can’t handle a toothbrush working inside it’s mouth, start off with a piece of gauze or a specialty wipe (try Earthbath Tooth & Gum Wipes, $10, wag.com). Once your dog is accustomed to having his/her teeth wiped, periodically switch over to using a toothbrush until your pup is used to it.
*(You can buy the same kind of brush sold for the human mouth. It’s often cheaper and, as long as the bristles are soft, it’s fine to use.)
YUMMY IN THE TUMMY
Today’s pet toothpaste for dogs is formulated with flavors like peanut butter. One particularly successful paste is Nylabone Advanced Oral Care Natural Dog Toothpaste ($8, petsmart .com). Put some on your finger first, and let your dog smell and taste it before applying it to the toothbrush.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Handling a dog’s mouth and brushing his/her teeth shouldn’t continue beyond a few minutes. Every few seconds stop, release his mouth, and praise him. When you’re done, give your pet a favorite toy or a treat. The most important part of the process is to have this be enjoyable so that when you get out the toothbrush, your pet quickly sits in anticipation of good flavors and fun!
Taking care of your dog’s teeth is more than cosmetic. Brushing your dog’s teeth can prevent some serious canine health problems. And, you will have a happy, healthy dog who loves to smile!