How to Brush Your Dog's Teeth
Dental care is an important factor in keeping your dog healthy into their senior years. Periodontal disease can affect more than your dog’s teeth, it can also affect the liver, kidneys, and heart. Brushing is a simple way to help remove plaque and prevent tartar accumulation, keeping your dog healthier. If you have never brushed your dog’s teeth before it might seem a bit intimidating, here are some tips and tricks to get you started.
First, you need the right tools, a vet approved pet toothpaste and a toothbrush of some kind. Toothbrushes come in different shapes and sizes, some that fit on your finger, some more conventional like our own and there are even toothbrush gloves, which have little brushes on the thumb and pointer finger. Pet toothpaste comes in such wonderful flavors as chicken, seafood, and malt; choose which you think is your dog will like best.
To get started offer the toothpaste as a treat, put a small amount on your finger and let them lick it off a couple times a day, always with lots of praise. If they are accepting to the toothpaste, start putting your finger in your dog’s mouth while they lick off the toothpaste, moving your finger around a bit and getting them used to the feeling. If your dog is the type that may nip at your fingers, you might want to skip the step of using your finger and use a pet toothbrush first. If they are receptive to that, put some pet toothpaste on the toothbrush you have chosen and let them lick it off that also moving it around their mouth a bit. If all that goes well, you are ready to start brushing their teeth.
It is best to create a routine with brushing so you remember to do it everyday as daily brushing is the most effective, however, any brushing you can do regularly is beneficial. Brushing should be side to side and not up and down as up and down can push bacteria and food up under the gum line. To reach the back teeth pull back slightly on the side of your dog’s jaw to expose those top teeth; their back bottom teeth will be hidden slightly by their top teeth, this is just the natural bite of a dog’s teeth, to reach those they need to open their mouth slightly. Usually, they will be licking the flavor of the toothpaste which makes them open and close their mouth a little bit, and you can reach those bottom back teeth.
A few things to consider; every dog is different, some take to brushing right away, and some take a little practice; you know your dog best, feel free to speed up the steps if they are accepting the new routine. As always, be patient, it can take time and encouragement for some to come around, the earlier you start the better, however, your dog is never too old to start new healthy habits.
Emily Charlton is a lifelong animal lover drawing on more than 12 years experience in a veterinary clinic.