Is your dog a much loved member of your family?
People in the USA own around 89 million dogs. I’m sure you treat your dog just like another kid in the house. You feed them good food, teach them some manners, give them exercise, provide a comfortable bed at night and get them to brush their teeth morning and night. Right?
Well maybe not the teeth bit..
Do Dogs Really Need To Have Their Teeth Cleaned?
You may be under the impression that dogs keep their teeth clean by chewing on their food. That may be true in the wild where dogs hunt and eat their kill. They will gnaw on the bones which scrape their teeth but they don’t eat kibble or human food.
Did you know that one of the biggest health risks for a dog is periodontal disease? This is caused by plaque building up on the teeth and causing gingivitis, just like us.
Cleaning their teeth regularly can make all the difference, especially if you start early and don’t let the tartar build up. Having a healthy mouth for a dog is so important as they use their mouth to pick things up as well as to eat.
What Happens If You Don’t Get Your Dog’s Teeth Cleaned?
If you don’t start cleaning their teeth in the first couple of years you will see that they will start to build up a layer of brown on their teeth. This is the plaque which consists of layers of bacteria hardening on the enamel like bacterial concrete.
This will start off by giving your dog bad breath. There’s nothing worse than your dog panting and trying to lick your face while you try to hold your breath so you don’t have to smell.
This then can lead to gingivitis and bleeding gums and ultimately painful loose teeth. You don’t want to take the risk of your dog being in pain and struggling to eat because it hurts. They can’t tell you, it’s up to you to be vigilant on their behalf.
What’s Needed To Clean Your Dogs Teeth
It really doesn’t take much in terms of cost or equipment to keep your dogs mouth in good condition. First you can start without having anything because you want to accustom your pooch with you touching around his mouth and lifting his lips. Once there you can move onto rubbing your fingers over their teeth. This is much easier if you start with a pup, but can be done with older dogs if you take it slowly and be patient with each step.
You will need some toothpaste that is suitable for dogs. This will be made with enzymes that will attack the bacteria and it doesn’t usually foam up like our toothpaste. Foaming toothpaste doesn’t always sit well with in their stomachs.
You can start by just squeezing a little bit of toothpaste on the end of your finger and letting the dog taste it. Move onto rubbing some toothpaste onto their front canine teeth.
Once they are letting you do that move onto lifting their lips further so you can rub against their back molar teeth. This might take quite a few days. Don’t try to hurry your dog, you want to make it a pleasant experience that they will be happy to take part in.
Soon you will be ready for the next step…
Dog Teeth Cleaning Toothbrush
Once you have your dog accepting the toothpaste it’s time to introduce a brush into the equation. You can buy a dog toothbrush but a baby toothbrush from the supermarket will do just as well, as long as it is soft.
You can start off with the paste and your finger to get the dog familiar then wet the toothbrush and with a little toothpaste added just aim to brush their canine teeth at the front. Build on that and when they are comfortable add in the back teeth.
If you find it a bit difficult to do the brushing motion you can try a kiddie battery brush. Again you will have to get the dog used to the vibration, but it’s much easier to not have to move the brush around as much.
If your dog doesn’t like that you can also try a finger brush. Its usually made of silicon with bristle-like bits on the end and fits onto your finger. It’s a very useful alternative to a brush and it’s easier for you to feel where you’re going in the mouth.
There are ultrasound pet toothbrushes available to buy if you want to go all out. These are usually just held onto the teeth and the ultrasound vibrations loosen the plaque. They can be quite expensive so I wouldn’t buy one until you know your dog will let you put a brush into his mouth.
These are disposable finger covers, similar to the finger brush. They are made of a cotton and are impregnated with some products including peppermint oil which will help to clean their teeth. Made of a thing material it’s easy to feel inside the mouth and it’s slightly abrasive so better than just using your finger tips. You can use them on their own or with some toothpaste.
You do have the option to give your dog dental treats, in place of other treats. They are usually made from food with texture that can scrape against the teeth and are moulded in a shape that also pushes the treat around the teeth. Being chewy it forces your dog to use his back teeth too. Some have a minty taste to them to help with breath freshening.
Long lasting chews made from natural product like bully sticks, antler, even toys with knobbly bits can help to scrape the tartar from your dogs teeth. They usually take a while to chew if they are edible so plenty of movement over the teeth. You might need to monitor your dog while they are eating these treats to see how the manage with them. The same with the toys, my dog likes to chew the knobbly bits off which defeats the purpose. Find what works for your dog.
If your dog won’t let you get anywhere near his teeth then your only option will be to take him to the veterinarian for a clean. This is not a cheap option as you will probably have to have your dog anaesthetised so that his teeth can be cleaned properly.
There are anaesthesia-free cleaning options but it would only work if your dog will let the vet near his mouth.
Is It Too Late To Start Brushing Dogs Teeth?
It’s never too late to improve on your dogs mouth health. As long as your dog will allow you to touch around his mouth you can build up to daily cleaning.
If your dog is already suffering from bleeding gums his mouth might be painful so take it gently to begin with and get him checked by the veterinarian to make sure he doesn’t have issues you need to be aware of.
How Can I Get Plaque Off My Dog’s Teeth?
Start putting the cleaning regime into place. Make sure you get the enzymatic toothpaste as you can rub that on their teeth with your finger even before you start introducing a brush and that will start working on breaking down the plaque.
You can add PlaqueOff powder onto their food which works through the saliva to start breaking down the plaque and it works each time they eat. This is an easy way to get started.
There is also a water additive that you put in their drinking water that does the same, working on the plaque while helping improve their bad breath.
You can buy a dental scraper and use that to remove the brown plaque off their teeth. I haven’t tried it and it looks a bit fiddly but it will certainly work if your dog is happy with it.
Dog Teeth Cleaning Naturally?
If you’re feeding your dog with food that has grains included that can contribute to the plaque as it tends to stick to the teeth so you could try changing the food to something more natural with less or no grain added.
Be more mindful of any treats you give to your dog. Again they can have grains included so you might want to try using fruit and vegetables for snacks. I give my dogs frozen carrots and the vet was impressed with their sparkly clean teeth.
Dried meat treats encourage them to chew so try things like pigs ears or bully sticks.
Chew toys that are moulded to provide edges to clean your dogs teeth while they chew can be useful.
You can also try raw bones but make sure they are safe for your dog and that you supervise so you can remove it if any sharp edges are created.
Is dog teeth cleaning important? Yes, it’s worth the effort for various reasons. Not only will it improve his quality of life but it can also save you money having a vet do it.
Another reason it’s great is that it gets you touching your dog regularly and they get to love it, which is bonding at it’s best.
Prevention is better than the cure, for us and our pets. I’m sure your dog is worth the effort.