Teeth Brushing for Dogs
|February 12, 2013||Posted by Lani Varga under Good Living||
Last week, we brought you an article about several topics to help you improve and maintain your dog’s dental health. We would like to continue to observe Canine Dental Health Month (which is all February long!) with another article along the same vein. You’ve already learned about how important it is to help keep your dog’s mouth and teeth healthy and how closely linked his dental health is to his overall physical health. In this one, we would like to get a little more specific. Here, we’d like to highlight brushing a dog’s teeth in particular, including how to train your dog to tolerate brushing, the proper method, as well as some ideas about how to control tartar buildup and avoid staining.
Every dog owner should make it a point to learn how to best maintain his or her dog’s healthy teeth and gums. However, this job will be a bit trickier and even a bit more important with regard to some breeds over others. According to Dog Dish Diet, owners of all toy breeds, many of the herding breeds (such as Corgis and Shelties), and most of the wrinklies like Boxers, Boston Terriers, and Bulldogs will all need to watch for notoriously bad teeth. This isn’t because these dog breeds attract lazy owners so much as that the actual breeds lend themselves to tartar production and even receding gums. However, no matter which breed has stolen your heart, proper dental maintenance is essential to good overall health.
The first step to clean teeth and healthy gums is, of course, teeth-brushing. However, the step before that is to help your pup become familiar with and comfortable with the process so that it’s as painless for both of you as possible. Doctors Foster and Smith have created a clear process to help both you and your dog acclimate to this new activity.
- First, you’ll want to get your dog used to you being very close to his mouth. To do this, dip your finger in beef or chicken bouillon, a flavor your dog already likes. Next, call him to you in a tone of voice you usually use for “treat” or “cookie” and when he comes, let him lick up the bouillon from your finger. Then, rub the pad of your fingertip gently over his gums and teeth in a circular motion. After doing this a few times, your dog should begin to equate the activity with ease and comfort and you can move onto step 2.
- Secondly, you’ll want to wrap your finger in a small piece of gauze and gently repeat that tooth-brushing motion you used in step 1. This will feel a lot different than your finger and will help your dog get used to a new sensation, which will help prepare him for the texture of the toothbrush, pad, or sponge you’ll be using. If your dog seems uncomfortable or unhappy, be sure to be gentle and to continue to use the bouillon and lots of praise.
- Now, it’s time to introduce the toothbrush and paste. You can use a canine-specific toothbrush, a dental sponge, or a pad for the actual brushing. The most important thing here is to help your dog learn these items and not to be afraid of them. Use the bouillon or something even more enjoyable to dip the brush in, then let your dog lick the brush to get a sense for its texture. Once he seems comfortable with the brush itself, introduce the toothpaste in a similar manner, on another small piece of gauze or your finger. Finally, it’s time to combine the two and start the brushing.
To brush, always use a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste. Your dog will swallow most of the toothpaste you use, so it’s important to find one specially made to be tolerated by their systems — even better, many come in meaty flavors, which helps dogs to enjoy them. Human toothpastes have fluoride and foaming agents in them, which can be harmful or even poisonous to dogs, so be sure to avoid these, even in a pinch. Using the same gentle circular motion you used in training, gently lift your dog’s upper lip and begin with the top teeth. Always keep a praising tone and enthusiastic attitude and remember, it’s okay to offer a treat if things get a bit difficult for him at first. Next, move to the bottom teeth, remaining especially gentle and using that same circular motion. Keep in mind that you may need to start off slowly, with just a few seconds at a time, but eventually, you and your dog should grow comfortable enough with the process to make it a routine.
Lastly, just as we do with our own dental care, it’s important to take steps to control tartar buildup and avoid staining. According to Dog Dish Diet, there are 3 key ways to help your pet avoid tartar buildup and stains: 1) Schedule regular dental-cleaning appointments with your vet, 2) Brush your dog’s teeth routinely, and 3) Encourage chewing (in a healthy way). Of course, regular vet appointments are a necessity, but often expensive. Teeth-brushing is a wonderful option as we’ve discussed above. However, healthful chewing is something we haven’t covered quite yet. By “healthy chewing,” we mean more than kibble and crunchy treats (even though some of you may find that this helps). What we’re talking about here is smoked bones (pork only), knucklebones, or frozen chicken thighs. Allowing your dog one of these every couple of weeks will help them to chew the tartar off of their teeth and subsequently help to keep everything nice and clean. An important note according to Dog Dish Diet: at all costs, avoid barbecued steak or chicken bones, which can be sharp and brittle and avoid big baked beef thigh bones, which can be so hard they may actually break your dog’s teeth. Smoked and raw chicken and pork bones are much more flexible and are the perfect size for dogs. Encouraging healthful chewing with the right kinds of bones provides a wonderful treat for your dog as well as a wonderful way to keep her teeth clean and free of both stains and tartar buildup.
Sources: Drs. Foster & Smith; National Pet Pharmacy; Dog Dish Diet; Dummies Web Series