How To Care For Your Dog’s Teeth
Dogs use their teeth for more than just eating. They use them to play, explore and carry things, so making sure they have good dental hygiene is essential for them to enjoy a full, healthy life. Not properly looking after your dog’s teeth can lead to bigger problems than just bad breath – at worst, it can cause problems with their heart and other organs.
So, to keep your dog in good health, here are a few things that you can do to take care of your dog’s teeth.
Brush their teeth regularly
Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly is the best thing you can do to keep their dental hygiene in check. You can buy a specialised dog toothbrush and toothpaste to do this, so don’t use human toothpaste as a substitute. Human toothpaste contains chemicals that can be toxic to your dog.
It is easier to teach your dogs to have their teeth brushed while they are young, but even if you have an older dog you can still introduce the habit.
Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as just holding your dog with one hand and brushing their teeth with the other. Brushing needs to be introduced very gradually before it becomes routine. To get your dog used to having their teeth cleaned, make sure your dog is comfortable and relaxed before you start:
- Start by getting your dog used to your hand being near their mouth by gently stroking their cheek. Do this for a few days before attempting any cleaning.
- Present the toothpaste on your finger and allow your dog to lick it off to get used to the taste. Once your dog has developed a taste for the toothpaste, you can run your finger along their gum line (with the toothpaste).
- After a few days of doing this, you can then introduce the toothbrush, allowing your dog to lick the toothpaste off the brush, but don’t start brushing their teeth yet.
- Once your dog is comfortable with this stage, you can start gently brushing their front teeth with round motion, allowing them to lick the toothbrush regularly.
- After your dog is comfortable with their front teeth being cleaned, move on to the canines, and once they are comfortable with that, move on to the back teeth, but make sure you stop regularly to allow them to lick the toothbrush and check they are comfortable.
- After a few weeks, your dog should be comfortable with allowing you to brush their teeth, and you can focus on brushing where the teeth meet the gums to ensure a thorough clean.
Make sure that, whenever you are training your dog to have their teeth cleaned, you give them lots of fuss and positive reinforcement so that they associate the act of having their teeth cleaned with pleasant experiences, and never try to rush the process.
Visit the vet for a more thorough clean
Whilst regularly brushing your dog’s teeth yourself is the best thing you can do for your dog’s dental hygiene, a visit to the vet is never a bad idea. The vet will be able to give your dog a more thorough teeth cleaning as well as a scale and polish. They will also be able to inspect your dog for any signs of mouth disease that you may not have noticed.
If you notice your dog’s teeth have a large amount of plaque on them, then this can be a good sign it is time for a vet’s visit. Plaque can turn into tartar if left untreated which will cause inflammation and lead to gum disease, gingivitis and a lot of sensitivity when they are trying to eat or play, which will make their lives very unhappy.
Some signs that your dog may have a dental problem and should be taken to the vet are:
- Lumps, swelling, or sores around their mouth
- Bleeding gums
- Discoloured teeth
- Refusing food
- Only eating soft food
- Loose or broken teeth
Give them dental treats
Dental treats are another good way to help your dog take care of their own teeth. Combined with a proper diet, this will go a long way to ensuring your dog’s long-term dental health. Dental treats come in different sizes for different dogs, so make sure you get the correct treat for your dog.
While dental chews are good for your dog’s teeth, they aren’t great for their weight, as many brands are quite high in calories. To counter this, reduce the portion sizes of your dog’s regular meals to accommodate the extra calories of their dental treats. The good news is that dogs usually love the taste of these dental treats, so convincing them to eat them should be no problem at all.
Give them toys to chew on
As well as dental treats, there are many different toys you can give your dog to play with that will keep their teeth healthy. Toys not only keep your dog entertained, but they can also act as toothbrushes and a relief from teething pain. The act of chewing can help to remove plaque build up and any residual pieces of food around their teeth and gums.
If you watch the way your dog plays with their toys, you’ll see how they move them around their mouths and chew on them with all their different teeth. This means dogs are quite good at looking after their own dental hygiene if given the proper equipment. You should, however, avoid hard chews, bones and stones that can wear down or break their teeth.
Monitor their diet
Finally, something you should always be doing is monitoring your dog’s diet. Everything mentioned above is great for preventing dental problems before they occur, but you are limiting the effectiveness if you’re giving your dog the wrong food.
Dry food is better for your dog’s teeth than soft food. Soft food can easily get caught between teeth and cause decay whereas crunchy kibble will not. Food made with wholefoods such as meats, vegetables and fruits will be better for your dog’s teeth and provide them with more vitamins and nutrients than foods made with byproducts.
Consider giving your dog vegetables and fruits as snacks too, such as carrots and apple slices, rather than ones that contain sugar, fats or cereal grains. These will help to clean your dog’s teeth, as will dried meat treats that require a lot of chewing.
Hopefully, this article has given you some advice on the best ways to look after your dog’s teeth!
SynergyVets is a dedicated veterinary recruitment agency, with almost 30 years of collective experience supporting the profession with locum and permanent personnel. They have a great blog which, alongside advice for veterinary candidates, includes useful animal care tips for pet owners.