Think about it: you spend a lot of time and money trying to make sure that your dog stays healthy, right? After all, you feed him quality food, you take him to the vet on a regular basis for checkups, and you make sure he gets plenty of exercise. However, have you really given much thought about his teeth?
Unfortunately, many dog owners tend to overlook dental hygiene in their dogs- but if your dog has sore gums or a toothache, he’s under stress and in pain that you may not even realize. Bacteria can enter the affected area when an issue is left untreated and end up getting into your dog’s bloodstream, harming his liver, heart, and/or kidneys.
Vets have reported that approximately 85 percent of the dogs age 4 and over have some sort of periodontal issue, which is a very painful condition that can result in tooth loss and infections. However, there is good news: as long as you are taking him in for regular cleanings and checkups, you can prevent all of these issues.
Dental care is just like taking your dog out for exercise regularly and taking him to the groomers on a regular basis- it should be something that your dog learns to expect, part of his daily routine. However, be aware that it’s not going to happen overnight. Most of the time, you are going to have to be patient because your dog may take a bit of time getting used to someone messing around in his mouth. As his owner, you may need some time to warm up to it too!
The best thing to do is to introduce a routine of good dental hygiene when your dog is a puppy. However, don’t worry if your dog is full grown and you’ve just discovered that his teeth need attention. Just be patient and approach with caution- keeping in mind that lots of treats and love will help you to win him over.
Most of the experts do agree that brushing your dog’s teeth on a daily basis is best- but in some cases, that’s just not realistic. If this is your situation, you might want to start with three or four times each week. Don’t push it and aim too high.
If your dog is not patient enough to let you brush all of his teeth in one sitting, brush half of them one time and the other half the next- just make sure that you remember which half you should be brushing (you don’t want to keep brushing the same half over and over)!
Must Have Dental Care Products
Now, we are going to discuss the products you are going to need as well as ways that your dog can help you keep his teeth clean without him even realizing it.
We all know that a dog cannot take care of his oral hygiene by himself, right? However, they can help you with this necessity by chewing on the right product. A good, long chew can go a long way in scraping away plaque and dirt- and most dogs do love to chew.
The natural choices would be a knucklebone or a rawhide chew. A knuckle bone is much softer and gentler on the teeth. Never give your dog a harder item such as a bone from a steak or rib, a ham shank, or hooves as these can cause his teeth to fracture.
Then again, you may have a dog that doesn’t want to chew on any of these natural choices, but they do enjoy chewing on chew toys or artificial bones. If you’re not sure what your dog likes best, try out a variety of things to figure it out. You should always select nylon or rubber toys that have a rough/bumpy surface that is large enough that he won’t choke on it. The chew toy should be a bit flexible, not hard.
Most dogs also do love to eat and crunchy food/treats can be helpful in keeping your dog’s teeth clean. When you’re considering dental cleansing products, be sure to check for the VHOC-approved stamp. This will indicate that it meets the protocols for tooth cleaning set forth by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. Of course, these items are not going to replace the need to brush his teeth, but they can help with reduction of tartar and plaque buildup.
Chances are that you’re not interested in sharing your toothbrush with your dog, so when you’re ready to start brushing, make sure that you pick up some supplies just for him:
- Dog Toothbrush: a regular toothbrush will work just fine- just make sure that you choose a soft one in a size that matches your dog’s mouth. A canine toothbrush has more of an angle and comes in a fingertip style that you can simply slip on your finger. You may need to experiment to figure out which one both of you are comfortable with.
- Dog Toothpaste: your dog is not likely to develop the ability to spit, therefore you need to make sure you are using a toothpaste that is safe for him to swallow. This means that human toothpaste is out of the question due to the abrasives and detergents it contains that should not be ingested. Plus, chances are that he will enjoy the seafood and poultry flavors offered in dog toothpaste.
- Wipes/Pads: sometimes, you’re not going to have enough time to do a full brushing, so this is when wipes/pads are going to come in handy. Simply taking a few moments to wipe down his teeth and gums will get rid of some bacteria/food. You can find these at most pet stores, or simply use a gauze pad wrapped around your finger.
Now that you have gathered your supplies and you’re ready to start working with your dog on good dental habits- it’s time to convince your dog that it’s a good thing. You should not expect your dog to sit there patiently and open wide.
He is most likely to feel like oral care is along the lines of having a bath. Depending upon the age of your dog and his background, it may take you a few days to a few weeks to get him to cooperate with you- don’t rush it.
Start by spending some time handling his mouth. Dab something tasty on your finger such as peanut butter, meat flavored baby food, or nonfat yogurt and turn your finger into a treat. Then, as he licks the tasty stuff off your finger, rub his gums and teeth. You can reapply it as much as you need to, working to move aside his lips so that you can access his teeth much easier.
In addition, you’ll need to get him used to you handling his muzzle. You can do this by gently placing one of your hands under his lower jaw and one on top. Just rest your hands in that position for a few seconds, and slowly start manipulating his mouth and gently pulling his jaw open.
Once your dog has gotten comfortable with this, choose a time of day that you’re not in a hurry and can sit quietly. Then, pull out the brushing supplies.
Getting Started with Brushing your Dog’s Teeth
Start by allowing your dog to sniff/lick the toothbrush and toothpaste. Gently move aside his lips and rub the teeth you can see with your finger or the toothbrush. The toothpaste may be enough to spark his interest.
Then, slowly increase the number of teeth you are brushing, and re-apply the toothpaste as often as you need to. Make sure that you’re brushing in a circular motion along the gum line.
Once you get into a routine that’s working well with this, start gently opening his jaw so that you can reach his back teeth. If it’s too hard to get to the inside of his teeth, don’t stress too much. Most of the time, periodontal disease is much more common on the outside of the teeth, not the inside.
Even if the experience wasn’t all that you had planned or especially pleasant for either of you, be sure that you end it with a reward- whether it be playtime, a treat, or some extra affection. You want your dog to associate tooth brushing with a positive experience. A happy ending is very likely to make him be more agreeable the next time you try it.
Going to the Veterinary Dentist
At some point, you are probably going to need to take your dog to see the veterinary dentist. Here are some ways that you can make that experience much better, whether it’s for a cleaning or because he has been dealing with a toothache.
You must start by taking the time to do some research on the best veterinary dentists in your area. Unless your dog has a severe tooth problem and it’s an emergency, take the time to talk to other dog owners to get their thoughts on who is best.
If possible, visit the office to let your dog “meet” the staff, sample a treat, and sniff out the waiting room. Taking the time to scope the place out will allow both of you to feel much more agreeable to the next visit.
When you do decide to schedule an appointment, be sure to ask any and all questions that you have. You may want to find out if you can stay with your dog, if they take your veterinary insurance (if you have any), and anything else that may come up.
Make sure that you also find out if there are any instructions that need to be followed prior to his visit. After all, if he’s having a dental procedure, even a simple cleaning, he may need to be given an anesthetic, so it’s a good idea to be completely prepared.
You might be anxious about the dental visit, but you don’t have to let your dog know. He has become a master at reading you and your emotions- so when you’re acting nervous on the day of the appointment, he’s going to pick up on that.
Instead, hop in the car and head to the office just like you would for any other outing. Make sure that you have a reward tucked in your pocket. If he’s got a toothache, make sure that it’s something soft such as peanut butter or baby food.
During the appointment, if you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask them and get as much information as you need. If you’re not sure about something, go back home and do some research- or get a second opinion.
Proper dental care, both at home and services from a professional is critical for making sure your dog stays healthy. With plenty of dedication and patience, this can very easily become part of your everyday routine.