Oral disease is the most common health problem diagnosed in dogs. According to The American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC), most dogs and cats have some evidence of periodontal disease (gum disease) by the age of three years. The AVDC defines periodontal disease as the development of plaque from the accumulation of bacteria in the mouth. Periodontal disease has been linked to several health problems such as diabetes and increased severity of diabetic complications. Oral disease is also related to renal, liver, and cardiac disease.
In most cases, the only evident sign of dental disease in dogs is bad breath, therefore, pet parents are sometimes unable to detect the disease and provide the appropriate care for their pets. For this reason, periodontal disease is usually under-treated and may cause multiple problems in the oral cavity as well as in other organs.
You should start brushing your dog’s teeth at a young age to allow your dog to become used to oral care. Before a toothbrush is introduced, the puppy should be given gum massages so they have the experience of the mouth being manipulated. It is important that you use toothpaste specially created for dogs because human toothpaste can cause stomach upset in dogs. Ideally, dog’s teeth should be brushed every day; however, if that is not feasible you should try to brush your dog’s teeth a few times a week as your schedule permits.
How to Clean a Dog’s Teeth
Follow step-by-step for best results:
- Start by letting your dog lick a small amount of toothpaste from your finger. (If he likes the taste that should make the next steps a whole lot easier!)
- Introduce the toothbrush. Allow him to get close to it, smell it, or lick it.
- Apply a small amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush. Allow your dog to lick a little off the toothbrush to get him more familiar with it.
- Now it’s time to brush your dog’s teeth. Place the bristles of the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle toward the union between the gum and the teeth.
- Press lightly and brush using short back-and-forth strokes.
- If your dog is does not want to keep his mouth open, it is best to brush while the mouth is closed with access to the teeth gained by gently lifting the lips.
- Brush as many teeth as you can, and as far back as you can.
Note – No rinsing required with dog toothpaste!
Methods on how to clean a dog’s teeth will vary slightly from owner to owner. In addition, some prefer using a finger brush while others like to wrap their finger with gauze to brush the teeth. I happen to use a regular toothbrush because my dogs don’t mind it. For toothpaste, I like to use Nylabone Advanced Oral Care Tartar Control because the flavor is a winner with my dogs. One of them likes it so much that once I pop the top, she starts licking her mouth before we even get started! For more information on the Nylabone toothpaste I’m talking about, click here.
You just need to find what works for your dog.
Praise and reward your dog with a bite size treat for allowing you to brush his teeth or for whatever step your dog is comfortable with — even if that’s just getting the toothbrush close to his mouth. Once they get the hang of the teeth cleaning process, you can simply praise without the treats.
Most importantly, make it a routine. Set a calendar reminder or an alarm on your phone so you don’t forget. I tend to favor the evening time just before bed. For me that is the best opportunity I have to clean my dog’s teeth.
What kind of results can you expect?
Healthy teeth and gums into adulthood. Not to mention fresh breath! But, if your dog already has some plaque and tartar, you can expect noticeable results in 2-4 weeks with daily brushing.
For more helpful tips and info, check out this video:
When Is It Necessary to Bring Your Dog to a Veterinarian for a Teeth Cleaning?
When at-home teeth cleaning just isn’t cutting it or it’s impossible to keep up the routine, you should bring your dog in for a teeth cleaning at your vet’s office. In addition, it would be a good idea to have their teeth and gums checked by a professional every six to twelve months even if they seem okay to you.
In order to have his teeth cleaned, your dog will probably need to be anesthetized. Sounds scary, I know. But realize this: anesthesia free dental procedures do not allow veterinarians to clean beneath the gum-line to prevent periodontal disease, or to identify more serious problems before they become painful and expensive to treat. Of course, anesthesia can pose various risks, particularly for old or obese pets. Your veterinarian needs to assess the health status of your pet before he can be anesthetized and before you can feel comfortable and confident your beloved pet can handle the dental cleaning procedure.
You should seek immediate veterinary attention if you identify any of the following signs in your dog…
- Bad breath (as in smells like poop!)
- Dropping food from the mouth
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Loss of appetite and loss of weight
- Loose teeth
- Teeth that are discolored
- Teeth that are covered in tartar
- Pain when you touch your dog’s mouth
The American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC). Retrieved from: http://www.avdc.org/periodontaldisease.html on June 2, 2017.