Daily Doggie Dental Care

February 28th, 2007 by Alexis

It was not so long ago that I asked a grooming client if she would like me to brush her dog’s teeth while he was there to be groomed, the response was a stare of disbelief followed by “That’s ridiculous! Uh, I mean, no thanks.” These days I am more likely to hear “No thanks, I give him Greenies.” “No thanks, he eats a dental diet.” or “No thanks, I brush his teeth every night.” The last answer is excellent! The first two responses are not ideal, but they both show that the pet’s parent has at least awareness that dental health is a part of their dog’s total health. It also gives me an opportunity to improve a dog’s health by sharing a few important nuggets of information with his parent.

For some of same reasons that we brush our teeth (at least) daily, we must do the same for our dogs. We want to prevent periodontal disease and gingivitis which can lead to bacterial infections in the joints, kidneys, liver or heart. You know about plaque—it is that nearly invisible, thin, sticky, bacteria-filled stuff that develops on teeth throughout the day. If you brush daily to remove plaque you will avoid that nasty looking brownish yellow gunk called tartar. After tartar builds up, your vet will likely recommend a professional cleaning, which is expensive (think hundreds) and preventable.

Even if your dog has never had his teeth brushed, even if he hates having his mouth touched, the most difficult part of brushing your dog’s teeth is making it part of your daily routine. In our house, the best time to brush dog teeth is right after I brush mine, just before bed. If you have a puppy, adult or senior dog, start daily plaque prevention now. Begin slowly, this needs to be a pleasant experience for both of you. Preferably at about the same time every day (dogs love routine), have him watch you while you brush your teeth. Put some of his toothpaste on your finger and let him lick it off. Put some toothpaste on your finger and rub it on his teeth or gums; you may need to stay at this step for quite a few days as your dog gets used to you touching his mouth. From this step it is an easy transition to a finger brush. Put some toothpaste on his toothbrush and let him lick it off. Now he should be used to having your finger in his mouth and you can work up to brushing each tooth. Let each step take as many days as it takes until he is ready to move on to the next step. You can use a long toothbrush too; just take baby steps from this totally unknown experience to a regular daily activity.

Please make sure you always use toothpaste that is made specifically for pets. Pet toothpaste is made to be ingested while people toothpaste is made to be spat out. Besides, your dog is probably going to prefer his beef, poultry, or peanut flavored toothpaste over mint.

Greenies are a fun and irresistible treat that help reduce plaque and tarter build-up, but they are not a substitute for daily brushing. Similarly, oral care diets or dental diets help reduce plaque and tarter build-up between brushings, but they should not replace brushing. Run your tongue over your teeth after you have not brushed for a few hours. Then eat an apple, make sure you really chew it up and move it to different parts of your mouth when you chew. Run your tongue over your teeth again. Better, right? Do you think eating an apple will replace brushing your teeth? Unlikely, I would guess. Apples do about the same thing for us that chews and crunchy treats and foods do for our dogs; they are good and helpful, but not a replacement for daily brushing.

If you already brush your dog’s teeth every day, keep it up! If you do not brush your dog’s teeth yet, today is a great day to start (slowly). Share your tooth brushing experiences with other pet parents and help raise awareness of the importance of dog dental health.

Happy brushing!

Also check out this article on how to freshen your dog’s breath.

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