How to Care for Your Dog’s Teeth at Home
Tooth and gum problems can pave the way for serious health issues for your canine buddy. Thus, it’s important to observe a good home dental regimen and take your pet to your veterinarian for an annual dental exam. Without appropriate treatment, your dog may experience tooth loss, painful abscesses, and systemic illnesses. Continue reading for expert advice on current home care options to keep your dog’s mouth and teeth healthy.
Oral health is often overlooked by many pet owners when it comes to keeping dogs healthy. Periodontal disease is one of the most common diseases affecting dogs, with a reported prevalence of at least 80% in dogs over 3 years of age.
Bad breath (halitosis) is often a primary sign of early dental issues in dogs, but this red flag often goes unnoticed by pet parents because they simply think that their pet’s bad breath is just normal doggie breath.
At-Home Oral Care Tips for Your Dog
1. Brush Those Teeth
Dogs need to have their teeth brushed regularly to prevent the buildup of tartar. The regimen should be introduced to your dog as early as possible. If your dog is not too fond of the idea, be consistent with training and make each tooth brushing session a positive experience with lots of your pet’s favorite treats and other forms of positive reinforcement.
To meet your pet’s dental needs, make sure you are using a toothbrush and toothpaste that is specifically made for dogs. Toothpaste products that are used by people often contain ingredients that can be toxic to dogs. Also, dog toothpaste comes in chicken, peanut butter, and other tasty flavors that your pet will surely find hard to resist. If you’re not sure which one is best for your pet, you can always ask your veterinarian.
How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
Ideally, daily tooth brushing is recommended for dogs. Start while your pet is still a puppy and be consistent with the schedule. Prepare what you need ahead of time - a doggie toothbrush, toothpaste, and your pet’s favorite treats. Schedule tooth brushing sessions when your dog is calm and relaxed.
Doggie toothbrushes have softer bristles that are specially angled. There are also finger brushes that can be used in smaller dogs (under 30 pounds).
Make sure that your dog’s comfortable before starting to brush his teeth. Try placing him on an elevated spot or you can kneel or sit in front of him so you will be at eye level. Don’t stand over your pet or restrict his movements by holding him down. If he tries to resist, don’t force it; stop and try again later.
It’s also important to teach your dog to tolerate having his mouth touched and examined. Put some of the tasty toothpaste on your finger before lightly rubbing it on your pet’s upper gums and teeth. The rubbing action can help him get used to the feel of something against his teeth. Having a taste of the flavored toothpaste can also perk your pet’s interest and taste buds. If your dog allows you to examine his mouth regularly, you will be able to spot early signs of tooth and gum problems that should be brought to the attention of your vet at the soonest possible time.
If your pup does not show any resistance when you open and touch his mouth, you can now start using the toothbrush and toothpaste. Lift the upper lip and brush the upper teeth, angling the brush at a 45-degree angle to reach and massage the gum line and remove away plaque.
Brush your dog’s teeth in small circles, from top to bottom on each side. Some slight bleeding may occur and this is usually normal. But if bleeding is heavy or doesn’t seem to stop, you may be brushing too aggressively or your dog may have dental issues. In this case, you should make a dental appointment with your vet sooner rather than later.
During the first few sessions, brush only a few teeth at a time, adding more each day. Aim for at least two minutes per session. Start on the external part of the canine and back teeth (premolars and molars) where plaque usually collects. If your dog won’t allow you to brush the insides of the teeth, let his coarse tongue do the job.
Make each brushing session a fun experience for your pet. Keep the mood light by talking to your pet while brushing and offering positive reinforcement to tell him that you’re pleased with his behavior. Pats on the head, lavish praise, stroking his jowls, and a bite or two of his favorite treats can go a long way in ensuring that your dog will always look forward to tooth brushing sessions.
2. Dog Dental Wipes
Dog dental wipes are great when you’re unable to brush your pet’s teeth or just want to add some variety to your pet’s dental routine. Dental wipes are made of material that rubs against your pet’s teeth and helps remove plaque in the process. Unlike a toothbrush, dental wipes are unable to get in the nooks and crannies in the mouth.
3. Dental Treats and Chew Toys
Dental treats are formulated with ingredients to remove any plaque that has accumulated, as well as freshen and clean the dog’s mouth. They are available in various flavors, shapes, and sizes. Most dental chews are formulated with enzymes that support dental health. And some chews have zero calories, which are great for dogs that are obese or overweight.
Chew toys also benefit your dog’s dental health while providing your dog with hours of mental stimulation. Gnawing scrapes off any plaque that has accumulated on your pet’s teeth.
Dogs love treats and they will surely appreciate them much more than a toothbrush or dental wipes.
4. Dental Diets
Dental diets for dogs are formulated by nutritionists to help reduce plaque and tartar build-up. The shape and texture of the kibble exerts an abrasive action on the teeth and gums as the dog chews. There are also dental diet recipes that have been clinically proven to freshen your dog’s breath while eating.
5. Water Additives
Water additives are like oral mouthwash products for dogs. These are formulated with enzymatic ingredients to eliminate bad breath, as well as control plaque and tartar buildup. A certain amount is added to your dog’s drinking water each day to help support oral health.
Take note, however, that water additives are not a replacement for regular brushing or annual dental care. These products are only used to complement your dog’s overall dental care plan.
When choosing dental products for your canine buddy, always look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal. This shows that the product has met scientific standards in managing dental disease in pets.
Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your dog’s teeth or another condition?
Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.