Dental health is important, and can significantly enhance a dog’s quality of life. There are several ways to ensure that our dogs have clean teeth –
- Regular teeth brushing at home.
- Safe dental chews.
- Yearly professional teeth cleaning by a vet.
The amount of tartar buildup on a dog’s teeth, can vary significantly from dog to dog. For example, I provide exactly the same home dental care to all of my dogs, but Shiba Inu Sephy is the only one who has significant tartar buildup. All my dogs go for yearly vet check-ups, but Sephy is the only one that has to get his teeth professionally cleaned every year.
February is Pet Dental Health month, therefore, it is a great time for our vet visit. My vet gives a $20 discount on teeth cleanings during this month.
I brush my dog’s teeth 3 times a week. Do not try brushing a dog’s teeth if he has a bite history, or has other behavioral issues that make him likely to bite on people. In those cases, it is best to address the bite issues first, preferably with the help of a professional trainer.
How to Brush a Dog’s Teeth
This is the process I use to brush my dog’s teeth –
- I get my dog to lie down on his side before brushing his teeth. He fidgets less when he is lying on his side.
- I put some dog toothpaste on my finger and let my dog smell it, and lick it. Repeat this for several sessions, until our dog is comfortable with the above routine. I try to find a toothpaste flavor that my dog likes. Currently, I am using the Petrodex Poultry Toothpaste.
Note – DO NOT use human toothpaste on dogs. Human toothpaste contain chemicals that are unsafe and inappropriate for them.
- After my dog gets accustomed to the taste and smell of the toothpaste, I try putting my finger in his mouth, and lightly touch his teeth. I treat and praise him, for letting me do this. Repeat over several sessions, until our dog is comfortable with the exercise.
- Once my dog is comfortable with the finger touch, I put some toothpaste on a very small toothbrush, and lightly touch the brush to his teeth. I treat and praise him for staying calm. Go slowly and keep sessions short, positive, and rewarding. I start by touching just one tooth, and then work my way up from there.
- I always start with a small toothbrush. Later on, when our dog is comfortable with the teeth brushing routine, we may try different brush sizes to see which one is most effective and appropriate. Most dogs will prefer a smaller toothbrush, because it is less intrusive. However, a small brush will require more time and effort, to get rid of all the stains.
- If our dog clamps down and refuses to open his mouth, it may be difficult to properly brush his back teeth. To get my dog to open his mouth, I get my brush ready, feed him some food, and then brush while he is chewing on the food.
An alternative to using a regular stick toothbrush is to use a finger toothbrush.
A finger toothbrush can give us better control, however, it keeps falling off my finger during brushing.
A glove toothbrush (e.g. Petrodex Finger Toothbrush Gloves) is a better alternative. However, the bristles of both the finger and glove toothbrushes are not very deep, so the regular stick toothbrush still does the most effective job of cleaning my dog’s teeth.
In addition to regular teeth brushing, I also give my dog a Greenie every night, before he goes to bed. Make sure to get the right Greenie size for our dog, based on his weight.
When I first introduce Greenies to my dog, I supervise closely, make sure that he chews properly, and does not try to swallow any big pieces.
There are also additives, such as Plagueoff that can be added to our dog’s food to help fight bad breath, tartar, and promote dental health. In addition, there are a variety of dental gels and mouth sprays. According to a dental specialist that I visited, however, brushing our dog’s teeth is the best way to keep them clean.
Brushing, together with yearly professional cleanings, seem to do a good job for my dogs. As a result, I have not tried any of these additives, sprays, or gels. Before adding anything to our dog’s food or spraying his mouth, make sure to check the ingredient list carefully. It also does not hurt to discuss the various options with our vet.
Dental care is crucial if we want our dog to enjoy a long and happy life.