Do I really have to brush my dog’s teeth? The simple answer to that question is, yes! In the wild, dogs keep their teeth clean by tearing and chewing on meat, bones and sticks. Chewing for dogs is an innate trait. And what dog owners do? We go against nature and train our dogs not to chew. Therefore, it is up to you, the owner, to care for your dog’s teeth.
I always get strangest reactions from people when I tell them I brush my dog’s teeth. Their response leads me to believe that most people don’t even think about it. If you’ve not given any prior thought to caring for your dog’s teeth, try this quick test to gage the health of your dog’s teeth.
Start by inspecting your dog’s mouth. Get your nose in there and have a smell. A healthy mouth does not smell offensive. The teeth should be clean without any tartar buildup, the gums should be pink and hug the teeth, and there should absolutely be no bleeding. If your dog’s mouth had the smell, had the tartar, or had appearance of unhealthy gums, then it’s time for you to learn how to care for your dog’s teeth.
If your dog is like mine, they are probably not going to like having their teeth brushed. But just like any other taught behavior, with time, they will slowly except it. My dog was barely 6 months old when I started noticing tartar build up. I didn’t think it was that bad at first, but when her breath started to smelled, I knew something wasn’t right.
I talked to my Vet and was told that dogs are normally anesthetized for a cleaning. The thought of having that done to my dog worried me a little. Besides not seeming very nice for the dog, it wasn’t cheap. I decided that if I could avoid it, I wasn’t going to let her teeth get bad enough to required a dental cleaning. So I started her on a dental routine. Here is what you need to do to start on for your dog:
Dental items you’ll need.
Start by getting the dental items you’ll need. First, some toothpaste formulated and flavored for animals. There are many brands on the market and I found a couple new ones on-line by Petzlife specially designed for removing tartar.
Petzlife’s Oral Care Gel and Spray are a two-part dental care system for your dog. One is a salmon flavored gel, the other a minty spray. Both are labeled as containing 100% natural ingredients and completely pet safe! If you get the spray with tartar control, just follow the instructions. However, I don’t recommend using the spray and the gel at the same time when brushing. Why? Because you’ll soon find that your dog is going to runaway when they realize you’re about to give them a shot of pet mouthwash. That is, unless you get lucky and your dog actually likes it!
Product prices vary a lot, but as the old adage goes, “you get what you pay for.” Therefore, pick your products on effectiveness and not on price. You can find many alternatives in a variety of flavors on the market. Just try a few out to find one your dog likes because the more they like it, the easier the brushing process is going to be.
Finally, you’ll need a brush. When choosing a brush, it’s alright to use human tooth brushes, but you can also find ones especially designed for dogs in your local pet shops. Choose one based on the size of your dogs mouth. You sure wouldn’t want to try an adult brush in a small dog’s mouth.
Getting your dog used to a toothbrush.
If your dog has never had their teeth brushed before, you might first want to get them accustomed to you touching their teeth. Try using a little peanut butter on your finger and rub it on thier teeth. When they are comfortable with you doing that, switch over to the flavored toothpaste to see if they like it. Hopefully, your dog will like the toothpaste you chose and won’t mind you sticking your finger in their mouth. If they do, apply the tooth paste to the brush and let them lick it off.
Removing the tartar by brushing.
If your dog’s teeth have a lot of tartar buildup, you’ll need to start their dental routine by brushing them a couple times a day. Like I mentioned earlier, just let your dog lick the toothpaste from your finger at first, then put it on the brush and let them lick from there for a few more days. Once they get comfortable with having the toothbrush around, start slowly touching the brush to their teeth and moving it around. The backs will be hardest to get at, but eventually, if you find a brand of toothpaste your dog likes, they’ll realize that getting their teeth brushed results in getting something tasty and they won’t mind too much!
Start a daily routine.
In the mornings, wait a half an hour after your dog eats, and then brush their teeth. If you don’t feed your dog in the mornings, brush their teeth anyways. Brush your dog’s teeth again in the evening. If you decide to use the Petzlife products, I recommend using the spray in between meals like around lunch time and late in the evening.
This may seem like a lot of brushing, but until you get the tartar under control, you’ll be doing it a lot. . Monitor the progress by inspecting your dog’s teeth several times a week. It may take several weeks, but don’t worry, you will eventually see some progress. When you do, you can reduce to brushing a couple times a week.
Tips & Warnings
– You should use a toothbrush made for pets, but I found I’ve been able to use a battery operated brush. My dog doesn’t mind and it seems to work better. Remember to rinse it out after each use.
– You can reward your pet with a treat after brushing, but make sure you read the product info first. The Petzlife products say not to let them eat or drink a half hour prior to and after brushing.
– To avoid germ contamination of the toothpaste, never let your pet lick the paste straight from the tube.
– If you simply can’t get the dog to accept the brush, there is an alternative. Pet dental wipes are great for use on dogs that resist brushing. Although not as effective, pet teeth cleaning pads help remove food debris and plaque, kill germs and help to control bad breath. Some dental care is better than none!
– Finally, don’t be afraid to let your dog chew as it will make a big difference in the effectiveness of your dog’s dental care routine. Real bones are nature’s edible dog chews. However, some people prefer not to give real bones to their dogs, so there are plenty of other dental chew toys and edible dog chews available that will suffice.