Let’s face it, as much as we may think our fur babies are the best thing ever, doggie breath is not pleasant. Tartar and plaque build up and cause issues just like in our mouths. The good news: dogs are not prone to cavities like humans. The bad news: dogs, like humans, that build-up can cause more than just bad breath and yellow teeth. By the age of 3 many dogs already have some dental disease. This disease can lead to disease of the heart, liver, or kidney or even life-threatening infections. But just like with humans, good dental care can prevent disease and keep your dog healthy. Here are some tips on brushing your dog’s teeth to allow him a long and happy life:
- Brush Daily: Brushing your dog’s teeth even one time can seem like a daunting task, but daily may feel impossible. Rest assured it isn’t. Make it part of your routine, just like walking or feeding her. Choose a time of day when she is usually calm or relaxed, like after exercising. Start slowly and talk to her in soothing tones. Pretty soon your dog will get used to it and it will hopefully even become a pleasant experience.
- Dog Toothpaste: NEVER use human toothpaste when brushing your dog’s teeth. The fluoride in it is highly toxic for dogs. Use a specially formulated dog toothpaste. Ask your vet for recommendations or look at your local pet store. They come in yummy dog-friendly flavors, too. Also, use a dog toothbrush. They are specially designed with softer bristles and longer handles to make brushing canine teeth easier.
- Prepping your dog: Make sure your dog is in a comfortable position and as mentioned earlier, calm and relaxed. Start by rubbing her gums and teeth with your finger to acclimate her to something foreign in her mouth. If she resists or becomes agitated, stop and try again another time. You might need to do this a few times before actually getting a toothbrush in her mouth. Let your dog lick the toothpaste off your finger to make sure she likes the taste. You may need to try a few flavors before finding the right one.
- Technique: Starting slowly and talking to her soothingly is the best start. Don’t hold her down or stand over her in a threatening manner. Kneeling or sitting in front of her is the least threatening position. Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against the teeth. Use small, gentle circles across teeth and gum line. Be sure to brush the entire tooth. It is possible there will some slight bleeding. This is normal. However, if you see heavy or excessive bleeding, it could indicate gum disease or that you are brushing too hard. Contact your vet to have her gums examined.
- End with a reward: Always end each brushing session with a reward. A teeth cleaning chew bone or crunchy treat can make tooth brushing time a happy time. And always give extra affection for a cooperative pup. Remember, at home cleaning is not a substitute for regular veterinary cleanings. Talk with your vet to determine the best schedule.
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