While “dog breath” has become a common joke – it isn’t actually normal or healthy for your pet to have a stinky mouth. We get lots of questions about keeping dog’s mouths clean. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about canine oral health:
- Should I really brush my dog’s teeth? If so, how often? Just like humans, dogs should have their teeth brushed twice a day and have a more thorough cleaning every 6 months. At a minimum, you could brush their teeth three times a week and get the more thorough cleaning done once a year. That being said, we recommend “skimping” in one area and making up for it in another. If you can’t bear to brush your dog’s teeth twice a day, be sure to have two cleanings per year. If you can only get them in for an annual cleaning, make good oral hygiene a priority at home.
- When should I start brushing my dog’s teeth? There is a Chinese proverb saying, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.” It’s the same for brushing your dog’s teeth. Ideally, you would start this process when they are puppies so it becomes a normal part of their life and routine. If your dog is older than that, the next best time is today.
- How do I start brushing their teeth? It may take a little time to get your dog used to the idea of a toothbrush in their mouth. And, even with a beloved pet, it is always important to be safe when sticking your hands in an animal’s mouth. For that reason, we advise you to take it slow.
First, use a soft cloth and rub it along the outside of a few teeth. Don’t worry about getting them all or getting the back side of the teeth; it is less likely to have tartar development and can put your fingers in harm’s way. (This is one reason those deep cleanings are so important!) Focus on getting up near the gumline, but be gentle to not cause irritation.
Once they’re comfortable with this process, put some dog toothpaste on your finger and let your pet lick it off to get used to the flavor. Do not use human toothpaste – more on that below.
Next, once they are accustomed to the flavor, add some to the cloth and use it when wiping their teeth.
After all that is comfortable for you and your pup, you can introduce a toothbrush into the process. Still focus on the outside of the teeth and always be diligent so both you and your dog stay safe in the process.
- Can I use human toothbrushes? While some dogs may be able to tolerate a very soft toothbrush designed for human babies, it is best to get tools created specifically for this purpose to be safe. There are several designs and options to choose from, including some that can go on the tip of your finger very similarly to the soft cloth you both got comfortable with during the training process. No matter what, never share a toothbrush with your dog, as their mouths have lots of bacteria that is not safe to put into your own.
- Can I use human toothpaste? I’ve heard baking soda is good to use – is that true? No. Both human toothpaste and baking soda can be extremely harmful for dogs and should never be used to brush their teeth with. Always use specially formulated canine toothpaste. Plus, it is made in dog friendly flavors like meat and malt that they will be more likely to enjoy having in their mouths.
- How long does it take? Thankfully, it doesn’t have to take a ton of time to brush your dog’s teeth – you can do it in a minute! Aim for 30 seconds on each side of the mouth, twice a day.
- Do I need a special dog dentist for those deeper cleanings? Nope! The staff here at Animal Family is trained to do all the dental work here in our office , so your pet can feel comfortable around their known extended veterinary family. All dental procedures are performed under sedation to and constant supervision to ensure your pet is safe and comfortable. Learn more about our process and book an appointment.
Do you have plans to have your dogs use ourboarding facility? We can clean their teeth while you’re away!
- Can I store my dog’s tooth brushing supplies with our human stuff? No. As mentioned above, your dog’s mouth has lots of bacteria that could make a human very sick. For this reason, keep your dog’s toothbrush and other dental hygiene supplies away from your human supplies and away from anywhere that could have likely cross contamination (like the kitchen).
We also recommend you wear gloves while brushing your dog’s teeth if possible, and always wash your hands thoroughly after.
- Is it really that important? What’s the worst that could happen if I skip it? Yes, it is very important to keep your dog’s mouth clean as diseases that start in the mouth can lead to sensitivity and difficulty eating, painful tooth loss, and can also result in periodontal disease which can cause bacteria to spread to the heart, kidneys, and liver. Thankfully, it can all be prevented with 1 minute twice a day and a couple appointments at the vet.
Hopefully, this has helped to answer some of your biggest questions about keeping your dog healthy with good oral hygiene. Got more questions? We’re always happy to help come up with a customized plan for your dog. Ask us any time.
Animal Family Veterinary Care offers an extensive range of services all in one place, so we can meet your pet’s needs in almost every situation. Our veterinarians in Davenport treat dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, and a variety of other exotic species, because every pet is unique and important.