Dog Tip: Brush Your Dog's Teeth
Updated: Apr 14
Did you know that your dog’s teeth need to be brushed regularly? Just like their owners, dogs need regular dental care, or they will be at risk for tooth and gum diseases. Particles of food, saliva, and bacteria known as plaque can build up on the gums and teeth and cause infection. Infection in the mouth can spread if they aren’t treated, and eventually move into the bloodstream where they will cause health problems in other parts of the body.
Take a moment to check your dog’s breath. Does it smell bad? Bad breath can be a sign of teeth or gum problems. Your dog will not tell you when their mouth is hurting or when they have other dental issues. They may continue eating, drinking and playing as usual, but this does not mean that their teeth and gums are healthy.
Here are a few tips to take good care of your dog’s oral health.
Start slowly. If your dog is not used to having their teeth brushed, start off by putting a little toothpaste on their toothbrush and letting them lick it. Then try touching the brush to their teeth, and if your dog is comfortable brushing for a few seconds. Allow your dog time to get used to this new activity - it may take a month or two.
Brush gently. When your dog is ready for a full brushing, brush from the gumline to the tip of each tooth. Try to avoid forcing your dog’s mouth open, and this may cause them to panic.
Don’t forget the back teeth. For dogs, the back teeth are where dental problems tend to be the most severe. If your dog will let you, help fend off those problems by brushing them every time!
Use the right toothpaste. Human toothpaste is designed to be spit out due to the use of fluoride and other ingredients that can be harmful if swallowed. Your dog will not be spitting their toothpaste out, so be sure to use a toothpaste made specifically for them.
Make it fun. Make toothbrushing a fun, rewarding ritual for your dog! Give them lots of positive reinforcement, such as praise, pats, and maybe even a treat after you’re done. You can also brush their teeth right before feeding them so that they associate toothbrushing with mealtime.
Give them chew toys. Get your dog a chew toy that will help keep their teeth clean. There are many options out there, and they will benefit from it.
See a professional. Before you start brushing your dog’s teeth at home, consider taking them to the doggie dentist for a cleaning so you’re starting with a “clean slate.” Just like you, your dog needs regular visits to the dentist for cleanings and checkups. Talk to your veterinarian to find out what they recommend for your dog.