Just like humans, your dog needs regular dental care. A buildup of tartar or plaque can cause tooth decay, bad breath, sometimes called “halitosis”, or gum disease.
Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly is the best option. But there are other things you can do to keep your pooch’s mouth healthy and sweet smelling.
Healthy teeth and gums make your dog feel his best and act his best. Keeping a regular dental routine is the best way to ensure your dog’s teeth are healthy and strong.
Start your dog’s tooth brushing routine when he’s a puppy. At around one month old, your puppy will begin losing his baby teeth. Around six months of age, will have his 42 adult dog teeth. Give your puppy chewing treats or soft toys to chew to ease the discomfort of losing his baby teeth.
Feeding your dog a healthy diet is the first step in good teeth. Dog foods rich in calcium, iron and vitamins support good enamel and healthy gums. Ask your veterinarian which food is best suited for your dog’s dental needs.
It’s best to start brushing your dog’s teeth when he’s still a puppy to help him get used to the experience. Begin brushing only for a few minutes a day, then gradually increase the amount of time you brush.
Because dogs love routine, create a regular time time and place for the brushing. Some vets recommend daily cleaning, but every other day works fine, too.
Reward your dog after his teeth cleaning with an activity such as a walk, a game of fetch or a treat. Your dog will look forward to his teeth cleaning especially if there’s a prize at the end.
Rewarding your dog with some extra time with you is the best treat of all for your dog.Walk him or teach a new trick to stimulate his interest and help him to be more excited to have his teeth cleaned.
Pick and Choose
There’s a huge assortment of dog toothbrush products on the market. You might consider trying out several kinds to see which one works best for you and your dog. Here are a few suggestions:
- Finger brush: The spiky bristles on this plastic finger brush make brushing easy. The rubbery cap fits snuggly over your index finger. It’s a great product because it helps you get into those hard to reach places in your dog’s mouth. I use a finger brush on my dog because he’s so wiggly. He isn’t as nervous when I use this brush compared to the standard toothbrush. Another good feature is the finger toothbrushes affordability. They come with three to six in a package. Before you buy them, check out the bristles, some are flatter than others, and they don’t work as well.
- Standard dog toothbrush: Dog toothbrushes come in all shapes and sizes depending on what you want to use and the size of your dog. Most vets recommend a double headed brush because of the 45 degree angle for deeper cleaning.
If your dog is skittish like my dog, Sam, then you’ll want to slowly introduce a new toothbrush before jumping into tooth brushing. Allow your dog to smell and like the toothbrush. Add a bit of toothpaste and gently start the tooth brushing routine. If your dog pulls away, start the process over again.
How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
Learning how to brush your dog’s teeth the right way will help in the long run. I wanted to just jump right in, how hard could it be? But I realized that I needed to learn what the “experts” do first, then brush my dog’s teeth. I learned some things from watching toothbrushing videos, plus my dog gets his teeth brushed more thoroughly. It’s a win, win.
- Chewing toothbrush: This bristly stick-like toothbrush cleans your dog’s teeth as he chews. You can smear peanut butter onto the brush to motivate your pup, but some dogs simply lick it off. Dogs like coconut oil. Plus, the oil seeps into the spiky bristles which makes your dog chew harder to get at the oil.
- Dental bones or chews: Synthetic bones and dental chews can’t fully replace brushing your dog’s teeth, but these products are a quick way to freshen your dog’s breath. I like to substitute dental chews for my dog’s treats for coming or sitting. That way he gets his treat. It’s an age old debate whether or not dental bones or chews actually clean your dog’s teeth. It’s probably safe to remember that brushing your dog’s teeth is the best way to remove tartar and plaque.
- Over the counter toothpaste: There are many brand of dog toothpastes on the market. They come in an assortment of flavors-liver peanut butter,beef and chicken flavor to name a few. If your dog doesn’t like the flavor you’ve chose, keep trying until you find your dog’s favor one. This will make teeth brushing easy for the two of you.
- Natural toothpaste: If you’re more of a naturalist, you can create your own toothpaste for your pooch. Be careful to use safe ingredients in your dog’s natural toothpaste. Never use a product unless you’re sure it’s safe for your dog.
- Coconut and organic turmeric: Mix one eighth teaspoon of organic turmeric with one teaspoon of coconut oil. Dip the toothbrush in the mixture and brush. Turmeric not only effectively cleans dog’s teeth but has other added benefits, including: it is a natural anti-inflammatory and natural antioxidant, improves heart health, and aids digestion
- Dried, round up mint leaves and coconut oil: Another great natural mixture that cleans and freshens your dog’s mouth. Combine one fourth teaspoon of ground mint leaves mixed with one teaspoon coconut oil. All herbal mints are safe for your dog except Pennyroyal which is strictly an ornamental mint.
Call in the professionals
Of course, sometimes regular brushing isn’t enough, If there is tartar build up, your vet will suggest a professional dental teeth-cleaning. This dental cleaning can be done at the veterinarian’s office. Your dog will need to be anesthetized for the procedure. A dental cleaning involves scaling the teeth to clean the tartar, inspecting the teeth for decay and polishing the teeth. If your vet detects dental disease, x-rays will be included in the dental cleaning. Overall, it’s an expensive endeavor that can be avoided by regularly brushing your dog’s teeth.
Professional teeth cleaning costs vary depending upon where you live and if there are other services included such as X-rays that your vet might do during the cleaning. Ask your vet ahead of time about the costs.
Just like humans, dog’s teeth can break. Avoid giving your dog things that can break his teeth:
- Ice is a tooth breaker. Some dogs love to chew ice cubes, especially in the hot summer month. If you want to give your dog some ice to cool off, give him crushed ice to prevent broken teeth.
- Too hard bones are dangerous for a dog’s teeth. Dogs love bones, but some bones are too hard for them to chew. The marrow bone is a large bone found in the femur or humerus of a cow. These bones make great chewing toys for your dog, but it’s wise to limit the amount of time your dog chews it.
- Too hard treats- Some homemade treats become too hard for dog’s teeth. Always test treats before giving them to your dog, or break them into small pieces to prevent tooth breakage.
- Some dogs love to chew sticks, acorns, and even rocks! Keep an eye on your dog when he’s outside. If he’s constantly chewing sticks, gently pull the stick out of his mouth and give him a chewing toy instead. Sometimes, dogs chew out of boredom. Keep him busy with a game of fetch or a chasing game.
Caring for your dog’s teeth is should be a regular part of your dog’s day. Regular brushing, a good healthy diet and keeping an eye on your dog’s chewing habits will ensure that your pooch has a happy, healthy smile. And so will you!