Keeping your dog’s breath fresh might be the most obvious reason for regular tooth brushing, but it’s hardly the most important. Dental hygiene plays a significant role in your canine’s overall wellbeing. Neglected teeth can lead to bacterial buildup and eventually periodontal disease, which has been linked to organ damage along with several life-threatening infections. By keeping your pup’s chompers in shape, you not only improve their quality of life, but the length of their life as well—dogs who receive regular dental attention have been shown to live longer, healthier lives. Here are 5 tips for successfully brushing your dog’s teeth.
Get a Dog-Specific Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Human toothpaste and toothbrushes are not safe for dogs. Ingesting human toothpaste, for example, can cause your pup painful stomach problems, and in severe cases even organ damage. Choosing the right dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste will come down largely to trial and error. It goes without saying, you’ll need a bigger brush for big dogs and a smaller one for puppies and small dogs, but the style of brush will depend on your dog’s preferences. From finger-fitted to traditional-type toothbrushes, you might have to try a couple before you find one your pup responds positively to. You’ll likely have to do the same with toothpaste, trying out different flavors until you discover something your canine doesn’t reject.
Use Proper Technique
Before adopting a regular brushing routine at home, we suggest consulting a veterinary professional for in-depth guidance on proper brushing technique. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Brush in a circular motion, concentrating on the outside of the teeth (it’s usually not necessary to brush the insides of your pup’s teeth).
- Use a 45-degree angle when brushing, this will allow you to brush the gums and teeth simultaneously, helping to clear away more plaque.
- If bleeding occurs, don’t panic. Light bleeding is normal. In the case of excessive bleeding or pain, contact a vet immediately.
- Aim to brush 5 days a week, though 2-3 is better than none at all.
Pick the Right Time
Brushing your dog’s teeth is always easiest when they’re calm and content. Enjoying some shared exercise or rigorous playtime is an effective way to render your pup relaxed and docile before brushing. A tired pup is far less likely to struggle, resulting in a safer and less stressful experience for the both of you.
Ease Them into the Process
Don’t jump into regular brushing before acclimating your dog to the process and the tools involved. First, get your dog comfortable with having your hand in their mouth, then introduce them to the toothbrush and toothpaste. Let them smell and lick the brush and taste the toothpaste before attempting to place either inside their mouth. Once they’re comfortable with both, start by brushing a few easy-to-reach teeth, praising them throughout. Brush only a few teeth, making sure to stop once your dog appears noticeably uncomfortable or anxious. Increase the amount of teeth and time each day until your pup can withstand a complete brushing session.
Stop if They Act Overly Scared or Aggressive
If at any point your dog becomes extremely anxious or aggressive, stop attempting to brush their teeth immediately. Even the most well-behaved canines can act strangely when faced with their first brushing experience. To help prevent anxiety, always use a soothing voice and praise, including a reward at the end of every session. If your pup continues to act aggressively or apprehensive, consider consulting a professional for help managing your dog’s dental needs.