Every pet parent takes the health and well-being of their dogs seriously. It includes providing proper nutrition, exercise, and routine veterinary care. However, one aspect that often goes overlooked is their dental hygiene.
In some cases, it happens due to time constraints, lack of awareness, or difficulties in getting a dog to cooperate with brushing. While in other cases, pet owners are simply not aware of how often they should brush a dog’s teeth.
This can be a serious situation because neglecting your dog's dental health could lead to many health issues for your furry friend. That's why, in this article, we want to discuss the importance of regular brushing and also share some dental care techniques that will help ensure your dogs have healthy teeth and gums.
Let's dive in!
Why is Oral Hygiene Important for Dogs?
Just like humans, dogs also need proper oral hygiene. If you aren’t brushing their teeth regularly, it can lead to the accumulation of food, which will then progress to the development of plaque and tartar.
If left untreated, the buildup of tartar can cause gum inflammation, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. This would result in a lot of pain and possible loss of one or more teeth.
Not to mention, the bacteria in the plaque and tartar can also enter their bloodstream and cause health problems in other parts of their body. It can even increase the risk of liver, heart, and kidney diseases.
Thus it’s important to regularly brush your dog's teeth to prevent any serious health complications. Also, if you suspect any dental problems, it's best to first consult a veterinarian and address the issue as early as possible.
How Often Should You Brush Your Dog's Teeth?
Ideally, you should brush your dog's teeth at least once a day. However, this can be challenging for many pet parents; therefore, it’s recommended that you brush your dog's teeth at least 3 times a week.
It’s also best to start brushing your dog’s teeth early because, as puppies, they’re more receptive to new experiences, which means that they are more likely to accept brushing as a normal part of their routine.
If you are introducing tooth brushing to an adult dog, it can be much harder as they are not used to the sensation of a toothbrush or toothpaste, leading them to resist the process. You’ll need more patience and a lot of positive reinforcement to help them accept brushing as a regular part of their routine.
How to Brush Your Dog's Teeth?
Below we have discussed 5 key steps that will help you get started with brushing your dog’s teeth:
1. Make Them Feel Safe
It’s normal for a dog to be scared of getting their teeth brushed, especially if they are not used to it. You should make them feel safe by setting up a cozy spot with all their favorite blankets and toys. You can also use verbal praise and encouragement to create a positive association with the brushing experience.
2. Buy The Right Tools
You should buy toothbrushes and toothpaste that are specifically designed for dogs because they need a smaller and softer brush that can fit comfortably in their mouth. Similarly, your dog's toothpaste should be formulated in a way that it’s safe to swallow. It’s also helpful to buy toothpaste that contains flavors that your dog will enjoy, such as chicken or peanut butter.
Please note that you shouldn't use human toothpaste for dogs as it contains ingredients like fluoride and xylitol, which can be harmful to a dog. You should also avoid using household products like baking soda instead of toothpaste, as these can be abrasive and can cause damage to the enamel on your dog's teeth.
3. Let Them Taste the Toothpaste
Once you have everything ready, start by letting your dog sniff or taste a little bit of the toothpaste. This will help to familiarize them with the flavor and texture of the toothpaste, making them feel more comfortable with the brushing process.
4. Massage Their Gums
Start by rubbing a finger or a soft cloth over your dog’s teeth around the area where the gum touches the tooth surface. This will give you a good understanding of how to handle their mouth, and it’ll also help in making them feel more comfortable with something touching their teeth.
In some cases, this process even helps loosen any food that might be stuck in their teeth.
Note: You might want to leave things here if this is your first time attempting to brush your dog's teeth. You can try massaging their gums for a week or two before actually brushing their teeth with a toothbrush.
5. Start Brushing Slowly
When your dog is ready, start by slowly and gently brushing a small area in circular motions. You can use your other hand to lift their lips and clearly see their teeth and the gum line.
Remember that you don’t have to brush their entire mouth all at once. You can begin with just brushing a few of their teeth for 5 seconds and then give them a break and some positive reinforcement.
It’ll take some time to get used to the entire process, but eventually, as you and your dog will become more accustomed, it should only take 30-60 seconds to brush their teeth.
Other Dental Care Options for Dogs
In addition to regularly brushing your dog’s teeth, you can also incorporate other dental care options that’ll help maintain their oral hygiene. Below we have discussed 4 such hassle-free techniques:
1. Dental chews
Dental chews can be a great addition to your dog’s dental care routine. These delicious treats have a unique texture and ingredients that help in scrubbing a dog’s teeth while removing plaque and tartar buildup.
2. Water additives
Water additives are similar to mouthwash, but instead of spitting, your dog can safely drink them with their regular drinking water. These additives contain various enzymes, probiotics, and natural antimicrobials that can help reduce plaque and tartar buildup while promoting fresh breath.
3. Hard chews
Hard chews are also effective in removing plaque and tartar buildup from the teeth. When your dog chews on these treats, it promotes saliva production, which helps in cleaning the teeth and gums. Also, the texture of some hard chews acts as a scrub which assists in the removal of plaque buildup.
4. Professional dental cleanings
Professional dental cleaning by a veterinarian at least once a year can help prevent dental problems and promote good oral hygiene. They use specialized tools to remove the buildup of plaque and tartar that might be missed by regular brushing.
Additionally, they can even perform a thorough examination of the dog's mouth to look for any early signs of dental problems.
Note: None of these dental care options are a replacement for regular brushing. These are simple practices that you can incorporate with brushing to prevent any oral health problems in your dog.
Regular brushing is very important for your dog’s overall health and wellness. It helps prevent various dental problems, such as gum disease, tooth decay, and bad breath. However, it’s crucial to take things slow and work on making your dog more comfortable with brushing. You can start with brushing their teeth once a week and then gradually increase the frequency to at least three times a week.
In case you have any further doubts or concerns, you can consider consulting with a veterinarian before brushing your dog’s teeth.
Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about brushing a dog’s teeth:
1. Do you have to brush your dog’s teeth every day?
Ideally, it’s recommended to brush your dog's teeth once a day. However, if you find that hard, you can stick to brushing their teeth three times a week.
2. How long should I brush my dog’s teeth?
It would depend on your dog's comfort level. If you’re starting out and they’re a bit hesitant, you should give them breaks after every 5 seconds. But once you and your dog become familiar with the entire process of brushing, it shouldn’t take more than 30-60 seconds to brush their teeth.
3. Can I use baking soda to brush my dog’s teeth?
No, you shouldn’t use baking soda to brush your dog’s teeth, as it has a high alkaline content. It can be abrasive and can cause damage to the enamel on your dog's teeth.
Also, if swallowed, baking soda can upset the acid balance in your dog’s stomach and digestive tract.
4. Is it okay to use human toothpaste to brush my dog’s teeth?
No, you should never use human toothpaste to brush your dog's teeth as it contains ingredients like fluoride and xylitol, which can be harmful to a dog. You should buy toothpaste that’s specifically designed for dogs, as it’s safe to swallow. Many of these toothpastes also contain flavors like chicken and peanut butter, which encourage a dog to cooperate during teeth brushing.
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