Cleaning your dog’s teeth

We all know how important it is for us humans to brush our teeth daily for good health, clean teeth and fresh breath. But did you know that your dog can benefit from this daily habit as well?

Besides taking your pet in for annual dental examination with your veterinarian, a home brushing program will keep your dog healthy and happy. While you can begin this habit with your dog at any age, starting when he’s a puppy will make the process a bit easier on both of you in the long run.

So how do you begin? The first step is to get your dog used to you fussing around in his mouth — and this can be easier said than done! You can start by dipping your finger in some beef bouillon, and rubbing it gently along his teeth and gums.

Once your pet gets used to this process, introduce a gauze pad on the tip of your finger. Always focus first and foremost on the gum line, since this is where bacteria can hide and cause plaque and periodontal disease. Work from the front to back of the mouth and from the upper to the lower teeth, always moving in a gentle, circular motion.

Once you and your pet have the gauze routine down pat, it is time to introduce a toothbrush. Select one that is specially designed for dogs, or choose a human model with very soft bristles. Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle along the gum line, and move in an oval motion around the teeth. You can eventually add a toothpaste that is designed for dogs (most will love the meat flavor), but never use toothpaste made for people on your pet since it can upset his stomach.

Tooth-brushing tips

Once you decide it is time to start brushing your dog’s teeth, there are some guidelines that you can follow to ensure that it is a success. First, place your hand on top of your dog’s muzzle, and pull his lip up on one side as you gently squeeze to keep his mouth open. Carefully tilt his head back and brush the teeth on the opposite side of where you are holding.

Repeat this process on the other side of his mouth as well. This brushing should not take you any longer than a minute or two to complete. It is important to keep these sessions brief and finish with plenty of positive reinforcement. In time, you and your dog won’t mind this task in the least!

There are some additional steps that you can take to keep your dog’s teeth clean and healthy, and avoid the dreaded dog breath that comes from poor hygiene in this area. Always feed your dog a dry food and hard biscuits that can be used as a mild abrasive against the teeth to keep plaque at bay.

It is also a good idea to examine your dog’s mouth and teeth regularly for signs of periodontal disease. If you discover symptoms like red, swollen or bleeding gums; chronic bad breath and brown coloring on the teeth; missing, broken or loose teeth; or signs of infection like pus around the gum line or any type of growth in your dog’s mouth, contact your veterinarian right away.

Healthy teeth are a sign of a healthy dog. Do your part to keep your pet feeling his best with regular teeth brushing — you’ll both be happier for it.

Source: Adapted from the American Animal Hospital Association