Just like humans, dogs can experience oral health issues, so we dog parents need to be proactive about keeping their teeth clean. Our Medford vets share a few tips on developing a successful oral health care routine.
Tips for Keeping Your Dog's Teeth Clean
Dogs are generally very good at hiding pain from their owners. However, our canine companions can experience oral health issues just like we can.
That’s why dog parents need to be ever-diligent about their oral health and keeping our furry companion’s teeth clean, so problems can be caught as soon as possible and hopefully, both pain and uncomfortable and expensive procedures can be avoided.
Take Your Dog for Annual Dental Checkups
As part of their annual visit to the veterinarian, cats should have a dental checkup. During the appointment, your vet will evaluate your dog's oral health in addition to their overall physical health and let you know if they need a professional veterinary dental cleaning or surgery.
Implement a Daily Dental Care Routine
Just like people, our dogs need a daily oral health and dental care routine to make sure their teeth stay as clean and healthy as possible. When they’re young, it’s a good idea to get your puppy used to having their teeth brushed.
Get the okay to do this from your vet first, as even puppies may have oral health issues that will need correcting before their teeth can be brushed.
As you might imagine, you’ll want to ease your dog into this routine, so wait until they are calm and relaxed, and follow these steps:
- Gently lift their lips, then use your finger to massage their teeth and gums for a few seconds.
- Start with low-key expectations - you may only reach one or two teeth the first few times you try this. Stop before they get too annoyed.
- Give lots of praise and a yummy treat after your teeth-and-gum massage. The goal is to build your dog's tolerance to the experience, gradually increasing the length of time you spend on the task.
- Once your pup has become used to having you massage her teeth and gums on a regular basis, you can gradually introduce a toothbrush and toothpaste designed especially for dogs (never use human toothpaste, as it contains ingredients that are toxic to our feline companions). Look for flavors that appeal to them, such as beef or chicken.
- Start with the brushing as gradually as you did the teeth-and-gum massage; your dog may begin with licking just a small dab of toothpaste from your finger (you may even have the opportunity to test a few different flavors). Find a brush that has soft bristles made for dog’s delicate gums.
While some dog owners find success with a small piece of soft gauze, others find a finger brush works for their dog. Still, others apply the dental gel with the toothbrush or a finger and have the gel do the work for them.
When you do start brushing the teeth, move along the gum line, working quickly but stopping before your dog becomes irritated (it may take her weeks before you find they tolerate having all of her teeth cleaned within a session).
Beware that your dog may react by biting if teeth cleaning stresses them out too much. If you opt to spare your fingers, you can also consider dropping additives such as plaque remover into their drinking water, getting them specially designed chew toys, or providing dental treats and dental specific dog food.
Whether you use teeth brushing, special treats or food, chew toys or drinking water additives, there are several products out there that can help with keeping your dog's teeth clean. Of course, they’ll also need a regular professional dental cleaning performed by a qualified veterinarian to keep their teeth in tip-top condition.