Brushing Your Dog's Teeth
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla is the managing partner at Hinsdale Animal Hospital with Kremer Veterinary Service, as well as a partner at CARE Animal Emergency Hospital. She received her BS in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois- Champaign Urbana, where she also completed her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2007. She is AO certified, USDA-APHIS accredited, and is a member of the CVMA, ISVMA, AVMA.
There's nothing like cuddling up with your four legged, furry friend at the end of a long day. You and the dog are ready for a night of your favorite T.V. shows. Just as you settle in, an unexpected blast of lethal odor hits your nostrils. Yes, it's the dog's dragon breath.
Many dogs suffer from bad breath. They can't help it, but something has to give if they are going to remain on friendly terms with you and the rest of the family. But what can be done? Getting into the habit of brushing your dog's teeth will begin to solve the bad breath problem.
How to Freshen Dog Breath
Over time, all dogs will develop plaque and tartar on their teeth, which eventually will cause bad breath. The extent of this build up will depend on breed, the dog's chewing habits, and genetics.
The good news is that there are a couple of effective strategies to help your dog regain fresher breath and maintain better overall health. Brushing teeth at home and professional dental cleanings done by the veterinarian's office are great ways to solve the problem.
How to Brush Dog's Teeth & How Often to Brush
The question of how often to brush dogs' teeth is a common one from pet owners. Ideally, professionals in the field say daily, but even 3 times a week would benefit the dog a great deal. Here are some helpful tips on how to get into the habit:
- Pick the Right Time - Choose a time when the dog is calm and relaxed. A stress free dog prior to brushing will go a long way.
- Picking the Equipment - When first starting to brush your pups teeth, it's sometimes helpful to begin with using your index finger (with dog toothpaste) to get them accustomed to having something rubbing their teeth. But eventually you will need to graduate to a dog toothbrush. You can get a tooth brush and toothpaste that are made just for dogs. Thimbles for brushing are also made if you find that easier. Make sure that you have all of your equipment nearby before you begin the session.
- User a Circular Motion - As you begin to brush, go in small circles, up and down the entire tooth, back and front.
- Don't Forget the Love - As you are going through the brushing, keep reassuring the dog with affirmations and gentle touching. This will help keep the animal calmer.
Once you learn how to brush and how often to brush your dog's teeth, a regular routine will rid the mouth of any current build up and help prevent it in the future. However, all dogs will eventually need to have a professional cleaning done by the veterinarian. Brushing dogs' teeth alone will not be adequate.
Professional Dental Cleaning
Like us humans, dogs also need to have their teeth cleaned on a deeper level than just mere brushing. When you bring your dog into the veterinarian for a dog dental cleaning, here's what to expect:
- Before the Cleaning - Because dogs don't open up wide and say "ah" for the dental team, the animal will have to go under anesthesia. In order to make sure that the dog is healthy enough for the dental procedure, the veterinarian's office will conduct a general physical examination of the animal and send a blood sample to the lab for some testing.
- What to Expect During a Dog Dental Cleaning - Once the dog is put under general anesthesia, a thorough inspection of the teeth can be done. The doctor will look for broken or rotted teeth. Sometimes they may recommend an extraction of any severely damaged teeth to improve oral health. Once it's time for the cleaning, the doctor will then ultrasonically scale and polish the teeth. After the procedure is done, the animal is allowed to slowly and safely come out of the anesthesia. Many pet owners worry about the anesthesia process, but the risk is very low. In fact, the dog is much safer during the procedure while under anesthesia, as the intubation prevents them from "inhaling" the water. The process of dog dental cleaning is very safe!
- Post Dog Dental Cleaning Treatment at Home - After your dog's dental cleaning is complete, continued brushing at home will help a great deal in keeping the newly polished teeth clean and breath fresh. A safe chew toy is also a great way to help the dog keep it's mouth clean. There are also special dental chews that you can buy. Some owners feel that a rawhide chew is a good option for keeping the teeth clean. For more information about rawhides and dogs, check out our recent article: Are Rawhides Bad for Dogs? In addition, you can purchase products that go in the dog's water or gets applied directly to the teeth that contain antibacterial properties and a sealant.
Your dog's bad breath isn't pleasant, but it's a good indicator that a dental cleaning should be done. In addition, your dog's oral health is very important as neglecting it can lead to other serious illnesses, such as heart, liver and kidney disease. Learning how to brush dogs' teeth and how often to brush will take time and practice. Learning how to freshen dogs' breath isn't always fun, but it promises to be a win-win for your dog and your nose!