Thursday, 14 February 2013

What Big Teeth You Have: How To Brush Your Dog's Teeth

Dear Pet People,

Do you brush your dog's teeth?

I know ... brushing your dog's teeth can be a bit daunting for both novice and experienced pet owners alike, but proper oral care is as important for your dog's health as it is for yours.

I think we've all seen the scary pictures hanging on the wall in the vet's examination room, illustrating in gory detail the signs and dangers of plaque, tartar and gingivitis.

When it comes to introducing a new element to your dog or puppy's grooming routine I think it's best to go slowly and remember the three P's: patience, perseverance and practice.  As pet owners it's totally unrealistic to wake up one morning and decide "I'm going to brush my dog's teeth today" and then manage a full and complete brushing of all those sharp little teeth.  Getting your pooch used to tooth brushing takes plenty of patience.  We're talking baby steps!

I've also learned that doggie dental care is as much about getting your dog used to the new routine, as it is about getting yourself used to the new routine.  With that in mind, try to tack on brushing your dog's teeth with another activity; you'll be more likely to remember to actually brush.  Also, you will probably have more success with tooth brushing when your dog is calm - after exercise, perhaps.

 What Big Teeth You Have: How To Brush Your Dog's Teeth

  • If you can start brushing your dog's teeth as a puppy, the job will be a little easier, however adult dogs can get used to brushing as well, although it may take longer.

  • Your dog needs to first get used to the idea of you sticking your fingers in his mouth.  Every day for 10 to 30 seconds gently massage his lips. Do this for a few weeks and then try to gently massage the teeth and gums.  If your dog resists, then just do a quick touch of the teeth, call it a day and then try again tomorrow. Patience!

  • When your dog seems comfortable with being touched in the mouth, put a small amount of toothpaste specially formulated for dogs and incorporate the toothpaste into the tooth/gum massage.  Do not use toothpaste meant for humans - fluoride is harmful to dogs.

  • When your dog accepts the taste of the toothpaste start to use a special dog toothbrush. For the first day only brush one tooth. On the second day brush two teeth, on the third day brush three teeth and so on.  It's difficult, but resist the urge to brush more than the recommended teeth per day.  You may end up frustrating your dog and yourself.  Slow and steady wins the race.  The goal of this slow approach is to make tooth brushing something easily tolerated by your dog.

  • If your dog resists brushing, go back to massaging the lips, gums and teeth and then try to reintroduce the toothpaste and toothpaste after a week or two.

  • Should you notice that your dog's gums seem swollen, red or inflamed, you will need to consult your vet for professional advice.

  • Once you are brushing your dog's teeth the next step is to just 'Do It'! Make tooth brushing part of your regularly scheduled grooming routine.  It should only take a few minutes, and it's really important for their health.

I offer all of this advice with a hearty dose of Good Luck!!

Enjoy your pets,