Dogs are not as likely to develop cavities compared to humans. However, unless your dog can brush his own teeth, practising good dog dental hygiene is still necessary for your canine’s overall physical well-being. Owners who overlook dog dental health expose their pets to the possibility of gum disease and tooth decay. If left unattended, these oral issues can lead to fatal illnesses such as liver-, heart-, and kidney-related issues.
Veterinarians noted that around 85 per cent of dogs above age four have some form of dental condition. To keep your pooch from becoming a statistic, the key is in prevention. Although adult dogs can learn to be comfortable with teeth cleaning, it will be easier if you start doing this whilst he’s still a puppy.
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The Right Way to Clean a Dog’s Teeth
With a puppy, introduce a dental regimen gradually. After his adult teeth appear on his sixth month, use a doggy toothbrush.
Here are the four steps on how to clean your pet’s teeth:
1. Handle his mouth and muzzle until he’s comfortable with your fingers.
Put something delicious on your finger and let him lick it as you carefully rub his gums and teeth. Replenish the finger treat as needed and continue by moving his lips aside so more teeth are visible.
Gently put one hand beneath his jaw. Then, put the other hand on top. After a few seconds, slowly move your hands to his mouth and move his lips apart. Try to open his jaw gently. Proceed to the next step if your dog allows you to do that.
Tip: Give a command whilst training your dog to cooperate; a simple command as ‘teeth’ will be enough. So later on when your dog is fully trained, you could use the command to let him know that you are about to clean his teeth and he needs to be cooperative.
2. Introduce the toothbrush and toothpaste to your dog.
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. A finger brush or gauze wrapped around your finger is also suitable. Never use human toothpaste as fluoride is very toxic for dogs; use dog-friendly types in tasty flavours.
Have your dog smell and lick the brushing gear. After moving his lips aside, rub his teeth with your finger or the toothbrush. You can put a bit of toothpaste to get him interested.
3. Start brushing with one tooth and gradually move to more teeth.
Brush gently in a circular motion and follow the gum line as you go. Focus on the outside surfaces as dental diseases in most dog breeds commonly develop there.
If you cannot reach the inside surfaces of your pet’s teeth, attempt on another day or when your dog is more cooperative. Do not force the brushing if he resists.
4. Give a reward at the end of the session.
Praise, playtime, petting, or treats are some of the rewards you can give to your cooperative canine to positively reinforce the dental cleaning.
Trick: If you find using a toothbrush on your dog is too challenging, you could try dental wipe as an alternative option. This way, your dog doesn’t have to open his mouth as wide as when a toothbrush is used.
How Often Should You Clean Your Dog’s Teeth?
Cleaning your dog’s teeth daily after his last meal is ideal, especially if he is prone to periodontal disease or gum inflammation. Small breeds, such as chihuahuas, dachshunds, Pomeranians, schnauzers, and Yorkies, are likely to develop this dental issue at a young age.
If daily teeth cleaning is not possible, brush your pet’s teeth three or four times a week. If your dog cannot endure a full cleaning in one sitting, you may brush just half of his teeth one day and the other half on the next day.
Other Ways to Maintain Your Dog’s Dental Health
Feeding your dog dry kibbles and providing chew toys are good for his dental health, as these strengthen his teeth and gums and don’t decay on his teeth as easily as soft food. Avoid giving chew items that are too hard, such as very hard plastic and bones from ham shank or steak, as these may cause broken dog teeth.
Giving your dog dental chews after his last meal is also good dental hygiene. Some veterinarians recommend giving water additives or an oral rinse that you can squirt in your dog’s mouth to freshen up his breath and remove plaque.
Bring your canine companion to a veterinarian yearly for professional teeth cleaning to prevent tartar build-up and life-threatening health complications. This can also serve as his annual health check-up.
With patience and consistent practice, dental cleaning will become a natural part of your dog’s routine. Keeping your pet’s mouth clean gives you more reasons to look forward to a happy and long life together!