Whether you are new to canine ownership, or you are an experienced doggy handler, you are probably aware that your dog’s dental health is just as important as your own. Our canine companions rely on their teeth to bite and chew just like we do, and while cavities are fairly rare thanks to them following a diet that is much lower in sugar than our own, as many as a third of dogs will suffer from periodontal disease by the time they reach their third birthday. Unfortunately, this dental disease can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms, from pain and difficulty to eating to tooth loss. It has also been shown to contribute to general health problems in both humans and dogs.
The best way to protect your pet from periodontal disease and ensure that her teeth and mouth are as health as possible is to clean your dog’s teeth at home. If this is your first dog this may sound like an arduous if not impossible task. However, with a little patience and practice, and the co-operation of your canine, most owners find that they can clean the teeth of their furbaby with minimal fuss. In fact, some dogs do not only learn to tolerate the process, but they actually enjoy it – making it an ideal time to enjoy some daily bonding with one another.
Get the right equipment
Before you can start brushing your dog’s teeth you need to make sure that you have the right equipment. Firstly, you need to get a toothbrush. You can use a special veterinary variety, but a soft-bristled human toothbrush works just as well.
The other thing you need is toothpaste. However, you must never give your dog – or any other animal for that matter – human toothpaste. This is because it contains ingredients that are highly toxic to pets and could make your dog extremely unwell. Instead, opt for a pet-approved toothpaste which you can usually buy from any good pet store.
Master the brushing process
Once you have the tools in place, it is time to introduce your dog to the wonders of daily teeth cleaning! Start by getting her used to the taste of the toothpaste. Squeeze a little on to your finger or her favorite chew toy and encourage her to come up and sniff and taste it. If she likes the flavor she should lick it clean. If not, you may have to consider swapping to a new flavor.
Once you know that she likes the taste, start the brushing process. Place a small amount on to the toothbrush and start working it over the outer faces of her teeth in small circular motions. Offer lots of praise and encouragement while you brush and don’t be disheartened if your dog refuses to tolerate more than a minute or two before pulling away. Over time she should let you brush for longer and longer until you can work your way around her whole mouth. Try and pay extra attention to the area where the teeth meet the gum, and the canine and molar teeth as these locations are more likely to accumulate plaque/tartar which leads to periodontal disease.
Reinforce cleaning at home with dental chews and chew toys
Chewing produces saliva which is your dog’s natural defence against plaque and tartar. However, you don’t want to encourage your furbaby to start chewing everything at will, so we recommend that you invest in a steady supply of dental chews, most of which contain ingredients which have been shown to boost oral health. One or two robust chew toys are also a good addition and can help reduce boredom.
While brushing at home is the most important and effective thing that you can do to help keep your dog’s teeth clean, you should also ensure that you get the advice and support of your veterinary dentist on a regular basis. Your vet has the training and experience to be able to conduct a thorough examination of her teeth and mouth to ensure that everything is as healthy as it can be.
Another very important service that your veterinarian can offer is a professional-grade clean. This is a dental clean that is performed while your furbaby is under the effects of a general anesthetic. The main reason for this is that it ensures that your dog remains completely still while the clean is carried out, enabling your vet to take their time and perform a truly thorough clean. Another key benefit is that it renders your dog unconscious for the duration of the procedure, which means that she will not become stressed out or frightened.