The obvious and hilarious question when considering how to brush dog teeth is: who brushes the teeth of the dogs in the wild, like wolves?
It’s fair to say that wild animals have an innate sense of how to take care of themselves, but domesticated animals need a helping hand from their owners.
It’s important to make sure that the teeth and gums of your canine friend are kept healthy to prevent dental problems and to maintain overall well-being. It’s also important to start early when they’re pups so they become accustomed to the ritual of brushing.
What Happens if You Don’t Brush Your Dog’s Teeth?
8 out of 10 dogs over the age of 3 have dental problems and gum disease can’t be reversed, but it can be prevented if the right care is taken. When left untreated, diseases can spread and evolve into infections that affect your dog’s mouth, blood and organs. You know how you feel when you have dental problems, so imagine how your pooch feels when in pain and they can’t tell you with words.
To take it a step further, it really makes you feel for those wolves and other animals out in the wild – but thankfully your pet has someone like you to take care of them.
Like humans, when food particles in your dog’s mouth evolve into plaque, it can start the process of dental disease if the teeth are not brushed, due to plaque turning into tartar, which aggravates the gums. Many dog owners think that special chewing treats are enough to keep their beloved pup’s gums and teeth clean, but the following signs can indicate dental disease…
Signs of Dental Disease in Dogs:
- Weight-loss or difficulty chewing and eating
- Discolored teeth and bad breath
- Drooling and red or swollen gums
- Blood in the saliva
- Swelling below the eye or excessive tears
- Nasal discharge
- Missing or loose teeth
4 Steps for Maintaining Healthy Teeth and Gums for Your Dog
Many dog owners focus more on aesthetics when considering canine grooming, like brushing their dog’s coats to keep them shiny and clipping their nails. Dental care is even more important as neglect can result in pain and suffering, so take the following into consideration.
1) Start Early in Your Dog’s Life
As mentioned previously, your pup should be introduced to a regular dental hygiene routine when young. Training includes teaching them not to nip and bite during the process and you might consider giving them a treat or reward afterwards to encourage enthusiasm. Allow them to get used to you touching their muzzle with playful but gentle games.
2) Use the Right Utensils
Although most veterinarians recommend using a proper canine tooth brush with soft bristles, you can use a child’s toothbrush or any of the following, depending on your dog:
- Special finger brushes
- Gauze or a cotton swab around the finger
- Pre-treated dental wipes
- Dental treats (if the dog is difficult or stubborn)
Here’s a good, cheap finger toothbrush set for dogs:
- Dog Toothbrush Finger Toothbrush Pet Toothbrush Dog & Cat Toothbrush Pet Tooth Brushes Eight brushes...
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3) Use Proper Canine Toothpaste
Human toothpaste can contain fluoride, sodium or baking soda and other ingredients that can make your dog sick, especially considering that they cannot spit, which means that they will swallow whatever you use. Toothpaste made for pets includes ingredients and flavors such as beef, malt and poultry, which encourages your dog to look forward to brushing.
4) Make Toothbrushing a Calm Event
Never scold your dog for not sitting still or being reluctant, and telling them to relax is a moot point. You’re doing something they might consider strange or threatening, so it’s important to ease into it in stages, not only to get them used to the routine but to make it easier for you.
Here’s a few tips when setting the tone for toothbrushing:
- Perform the task when they’re calm or worn out from activity
- Make sure you have your pup in a quiet room without distractions
- Use good lighting that will let you see their teeth and gums
- Speak in quiet and soothing tones and constantly praise them for being good
- Make them feel like it’s a gentle bonding game followed by rewards for good behavior
- Touch their teeth in different places with the brush to get them used to it
How To Brush Dog Teeth at Home
It goes without saying that feeding your dog properly with good quality food and treats will help with overall dental care. Ask your vet about the foods you should avoid, like chocolate, onions and other foods that can be fatal or at least detrimental to good dental and general health.
After establishing a quiet space and mood for brushing your dog’s teeth, remember the steps you take so that they can be repeated and set a regular time for the brushing. In the future, your pup will recognize the signs when you begin the toothbrushing routine and if you make it a calming event that they will look forward to, the process will be a lot smoother.
Also, if you can’t brush their teeth every day, 2 – 3 times a week should suffice.
Professional cleaning should be done at least once a year to prevent tartar buildup, gingivitis and other gum diseases that can result in life-threatening conditions like heart disease and organ failure, if left untreated.
Here are the general steps for doggie toothbrushing:
- If it’s the first time, calmly approach your dog and gently play with their mouth
- Pull back the upper and lower lips to get them used to the process
- Let them lick the doggie toothpaste off your fingers or the toothbrush
- Lift the lip so you can get to the teeth and gums
- Try to hold the brush at a 45-degree angle for best results and brush in circles
- Brush the outside surfaces gently (most dogs won’t let you brush the inside surfaces)
- Make sure you brush the back upper molars and canine teeth, where tartar can build up
- After brushing for up to a minute, reward your dog with praise and treats, if needed
In the beginning, you might only be able to brush for a few seconds, but it’s important to build up to 60 seconds for a proper cleaning as time goes on. If your dog shows signs of aggression, back off and start again when the time is right, remembering to keep calm and praise them.
Other Considerations for Maintaining Dental Health for Your Dog
Finding a good dental formula when shopping for dog food will go a long way in maintaining oral health for your pup, so ask your vet for a trusted source or brand. The type that helps with scraping plaque and reducing bacteria is one to look out for.
Make sure that your pup has a variety of chewable toys and treats, such as rawhide and bones. You can also get water additives and oral sprays, but you should check with your vet first if you decide to consider these options.
Dry dog food or kibble is usually a better option for your dog’s dental health, especially if you don’t brush often. Wet food is more likely to stick to the teeth and cause problems. Try not to feed them scraps, even when they plead with whining and begging. Also, you should check their mouth every week to keep an eye on any dental problems surfacing.
Take your pup to the vet if you notice anything like depression, excessive whining, pawing at their mouth or growths, including the signs mentioned previously.
To Brush or Not To Brush: “Should I Brush My Dog’s Teeth?”
After all is said and done, there are some dog owners and even veterinarians who believe that brushing your dog’s teeth is unnecessary, if you feed them properly and make chew toys and treats available. Some owners even state that they don’t brush their pup’s teeth at all and their oral health is fine.
The thing is, there’s a wide variety of canine pets out there with different dietary needs and habits, but that’s not to say that dental care is not important. At the end of the day, you should always consult with your vet when it comes to your dog’s health and well-being, which usually includes teeth brushing.
Learning how to brush dog teeth is just as important as taking care of their general health, if you want to make sure they don’t suffer from the nasty diseases that can result from neglecting their pearly whites. Ensuring that your pooch is happy and healthy is just as important as taking care of your own or a child’s well-being.