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Dog Dental Health 101

Oral disease can lead to a variety of other serious health problems for your dog, such as heart, kidney, and lung disease. That’s why prevention is so important and encompasses several aspects of your dog’s life:

EDIBLES – The food your dog eats and the treats he enjoys play a vital role in the overall health of your dog’s mouth. Hard kibble and long-lasting chews help to scrape away plaque and tartar. Consuming edible dental chews can also help to freshen breath and remove plaque and tartar buildup.

CHEWS & TOYS – Keeping your dog busy with chews and toys is not only good for your dog’s mental well-being, but it is also good for his teeth and gums. Giving your dog chews and toys daily helps to mechanically remove plaque and tartar, and is likely the easiest thing you can do for your dog.

MAINTENANCE – Feeding your dog the right food and giving him toys can only do so much. In order to completely care for your dog’s teeth and gums it is necessary to brush daily. Supplementing with plaque-inhibiting foams, mouthwashes and sprays can also reduce the incidence of plaque and tartar buildup.

Simple Steps for Teaching Your Dog to Accept Dental Care

The first step is to teach your dog to accept having his mouth handled, which normally occurs during puppyhood but can be taught to an adult dog as well.

Always begin this process slowly and gradually, and be sure to make it a positive experience. If your dog becomes upset, stop and return to the training another time. Again, keep all sessions short and positive—make it fun!
  • When your dog is relaxed, let him sniff your fingers. You may want to dip them in something tasty, like beef bouillon.
  • Next, see if you can get your dog’s mouth open so that you can gently rub your index finger along his front teeth and gum line. Once he accepts this, move to the back teeth and gums.
  • Talk in soothing tones and offer praise throughout this handling process.
  • At the end of each handling session, offer your dog a tasty treat and thank him for being such a good dog.
After a week or two, wrap a clean washcloth or piece of gauze dampened with warm water around your finger. Slowly massage the outside of the upper teeth. After a few days, substitute doggy toothpaste for the water.

If your dog accepts this, substitute the cloth with a doggy toothbrush and toothpaste. (Never use human toothpaste, because it can make your dog ill.) Before using the toothbrush and toothpaste, give your dog an opportunity to get used to these new tools, then attempt to brush.

How to Brush Your Dog's Teeth

  • Place a small amount of toothpaste on your finger and let your dog sniff it or lick it off.
  • Next, try spreading some toothpaste on a doggy toothbrush and let your dog lick it off.
  • Reapply some toothpaste on the toothbrush and gently lift your dog’s lip. Apply the toothbrush to the teeth at a 45-degree angle and try brushing a few teeth in a circular motion.
  • Once your dog gets used to this, see if he will allow you to brush a few more teeth. If not, try again another day using the same procedure. Eventually, as your dog becomes comfortable with this routine, you will want to brush all of his teeth thoroughly, including those in the back, as these are most susceptible to periodontal disease.
As in all training, linking this important part of your dog’s grooming routine to a positive experience will increase the likelihood that he or she will learn to look forward to it as an opportunity for positive attention and a reward from you. Just a few minutes of time spent on this vital part of your dog’s care will not only increase the bond between the two of you, but it will also play a vital role in helping your pet live a healthier, longer life.

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