Periodontal disease is the most common health condition seen in adult dogs. Sadly,, it's also the most preventable. The majority of pet owners don't realize that learning how to brush a dog's teeth could actually add years to their pooch's life.
Most people assume that all dogs have bad breath, but that's actually a common misconception. Most dogs already show signs of periodontal disease by age 3. The buildup of plaque and tartar in their mouth fosters the growth of bacteria, which leads to bad breath. Learning how to brush a dog's teeth can drastically reduce the smell of his breath.
As I mentioned, keeping up with your dog's oral hygiene can also aid in his overall health and well-being. If you don't care for your dog's mouth it could lead to conditions including:
- destruction to and loss of the gum tissue and bone around the teeth
- fistulas (holes leading from the oral cavity to the nasal passage)
- osteomyelitis (bone infection)
- weakened jaw bone
- bacteria entering the blood stream and having a negative effect on the heart, liver and kidneys
In my video I explain the supplies you'll need when learning how to brush a dog's teeth. They aren't expensive, and you need to be sure that you buy products specifically designed for dogs. A toothbrush made for humans will not contour to your dog's mouth, and human toothpaste has chemicals in it that are toxic to canines.
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How To Brush A Dog's Teeth
1. Choose the right time
When brushing a dog's teeth, it's best to do it during a time that he is relaxed and calm. You'll have a much harder time doing it if he's full of energy. I try to do it after a play session when my dog's are tired. I wait until they've been relaxing for at least 15 minutes and then we begin brushing.
You need to take this seriously. As I mentioned earlier, learning how to brush a dog's teeth could add years to your pet's life, and who wouldn't want that? It's a very important responsibility that many pet owners overlook.
For this reason, you need to set aside a special time every day to brush your dog's teeth. I like to do it right before bedtime. My dogs are tired from their busy day, and it's easy to remember as it's the same time I brush my own teeth. Of course, brushing a few days a week would be better than nothing, but in order to keep your pet as healthy as possible you need to do it every single day.
It's easiest to work with a puppy, because you're essentially starting with a blank slate. Their teeth are clean and healthy, and you can help keep them that way. However, if you adopt an adult dog you still need to start caring for their oral hygiene immediately.
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2. Assume the position
As I mention in my video, if you're learning how to brush a dog's teeth, you need to be confident in your abilities. If you're nervous, your dog will sense that. There's nothing to be worried about. As long as you are gentle, you won't do any harm to your pet and you'll be helping to keep him healthy.
When you're just beginning, or rather when you dog is just beginning, you'll need to ease him into the brushing process very gradually. Start by simply touching the outside of his mouth. When he's completely comfortable with that, you can start putting your fingers in his mouth. Use one finger to rub his teeth and gums.
Don't worry if he fidgets or tries to get up and walk away from you. This is to be expected.
In the beginning you'll want to try these steps multiple times per day. The more often you can do it the better. As I explain in my video, the longer you wait between these trials, the more likely it is that your dog will not put the pieces together. If you try to work with him every few hours throughout the day for multiple days in a row, he'll associate what you're doing and eventually allow you access to his mouth.
Once you've gained your dog's trust and he allows you to access his mouth, you can begin working with the toothpaste. Put a little bit on your finger and let your pup lick it off. When he's completely comfortable with the toothpaste, you can add in the toothbrush.
Learning how to brush a dog's teeth isn't a quick process, but it's worth it and even necessary.
Getting your pet comfortable with the toothpaste and toothbrush may take a couple of weeks. Don't get frustrated. As I mention in my video, when learning how to brush a dog's teeth you need to be patient and stay calm. If you become anxious or frustrated your dog will pick up on that.
You'll need to hold your dog firmly but gently. Tip him onto his side and gently hold him. Don't apply pressure. This could make him feel intimidated. Do not place your arm or leg over your pet to hold him down, and don't try to restrain him in any way. If he gets up to leave, let him. You can try again at another time when he is feeling more comfortable.
3. How to brush a dog's teeth
Brushing a dog's teeth isn't difficult, once you get him used to the idea. It's similar to brushing your own teeth. Start by brushing one or two teeth at a time – whatever your dog will let you do. The front side of the back teeth and the canine teeth should be your first priority.
Dogs have a rough tongue. It helps scrape some of the plaque off of the interior of their teeth. The interiors still need to be brushed, but in the beginning you can focus on the outside of the teeth and the canines.
You want to apply slight pressure and move the brush in small circles. Just like when you brush your own teeth, if you apply to much pressure you could damage your pet's gums. Brushing at a 45° will allow the toothbrush to clean the gums and teeth properly.
Toothpaste formulated for dogs, which you need to be using, does not require rinsing like toothpaste for humans. Once you've brushed your pet's teeth for about 2-3 minutes, you can simply let him lick the remaining toothpaste off his teeth and your task is finished.