Dogs and other animals are not as prone to cavities compared to humans but this does not make them immune to dental infections. In fact, they can develop gingivitis as a result of tartar and plaque accumulation. When gingivitis and other periodontal diseases are not treated, they can cause life-threatening problems. Therefore, brushing dog and other animals’ teeth is as important as brushing your own teeth.
The following explains how to go about brushing your dog’s teeth for a desired and healthy dog life.
When to brush your dog’s teeth
Just like your own, dog’s teeth should be brushed daily. However, if you are too busy, create a schedule to do it at least a few times a week.
Some dogs e.g. brachycephalic breeds (with broad, flat, short snouts), bulldogs and smaller ones need frequent brushing compared to others. This is because their teeth are crowded together thus allowing more plaque accumulation and therefore a higher risk of suffering from periodontal diseases.
What you need to brush a dogs and other animals teeth
For a successful brushing exercise, you need a toothbrush and paste:
Toothbrush: Pet stores have toothbrushes that are designed for dogs. Choose bigger toothbrushes for bigger dogs and smaller ones for smaller dogs. In addition to toothbrush, consider a finger brush and special dental sponges to protect your fingers in case your dog accidentally bites you.
It is important not to share your brush with your dog.Again, don’t use one of your cast-off brushes for brushing your dog’s teeth. Ensure to start with a new brush.
Tooth Paste; from your veterinarian or pet store, obtain toothpaste specifically for dogs. Most pet toothpastes are flavored to make your dog enjoy the teeth cleaning process.
Example of flavors include; chicken, liver, peanut and mint. Firstly, experiment with different flavors to find out the one your dog prefers most. Human toothpaste should not be used as it contains fluoride, which may cause stomach upset to your dog if swallowed.
Dog training before brushing
For the first time, your dog will feel nervous as you poke around his mouth. For him to be calm, slowly introduce teeth brushing and allow him to associate it with good things. Before brushing therefore, let your dog be accustomed to his mouth and muzzle being handled.
Firstly, dip your fingers in whatever your dog likes e.g. peanut butter, chicken or broth and allow him to lick them. As he does, gently rub the fingers against his teeth and gum. Also, lift his lips the same way you will be doing it when brushing. Repeat this twice each day for approximately three days. In some occasions, use toothpaste for the dog to get used to both its taste and smell,
After a few days, your dog should be comfortable with you poking fingers in his mouth. At this stage, teach him to be comfortable when his muzzle is being handled and mouth opened. to do this prepare his favorite treats e.g. chicken, beef, hot dog etc. and look for a calm place with your dog and practice the following;
Let his headrest in your hand. With the other hand free, place it on the dog’s muzzle and pretend to open his mouth. Release his muzzle and give him his favorite treat. Repeat this for up to ten times then end your session. Do it again the following day and the day after for around three days.
As you carry on with the first step, do not release his muzzle this time round. Instead, use the hand on the muzzle to lift the lip up for approximately three seconds keeping his teeth exposed. After that, release his muzzle, praise him then give a treat. Repeat this for up to ten times then end session. Do the same for the next three days.
Repeat step 2 and from three seconds, increase the time taken to hold the muzzle and lift the lip. I.e. from 3 seconds to five seconds, then five seconds; progressively to around ten seconds after which you can move to the next step.
Position your hands in such a way that one hand is under the dog’s lower jaw with the other on the muzzle. Now, don’t just lift the lip but open his mouth to about one inch. After opening his mouth, touch the inside of his mouth with your fingers for approximately one second then release him, praise him and give a treat. Do the same for up to ten times then end session. Each time try opening his mouth wider until you can have a clear view of his back teeth. Care should be taken not to cause pain and discomfort when opening his mouth wide.
As in 3 above, try touching his teeth and gums for much longer, if he seems relaxed and comfortable, praise him and give more treats; he is ready for the brushing exercise.
With the required tools i.e. toothbrush, special toothpaste, gauze and treats, move with your dog to a calm and quite area. It is advisable to use a leash to minimize his movements and to keep your hands free while brushing. Tie the leash on any immovable object and leave sufficient slack for your dog to sit or lie comfortably. The following steps should be followed while brushing:
Put toothpaste on a toothbrush and with one hand over the dog’s muzzle, lift his lips gently and brush a few teeth and the outer surfaces of his gums and teeth with the other hand. Brush for approximately three seconds then release his lip and muzzle. End session but not before praising him and offering reward.
Repeat the above session for up to three times each day for around two weeks while gradually increasing the time used on brushing. After some time, you should be able to brush the entire outer surface of teeth in one session.
At this time, your dog should be comfortable with you brushing while his jaws are closed. Gradually start opening his mouth as you did before in the training session and brush a few teeth for 2-3 second. Release his muzzle, give treat after praising and end session. Repeat the same in the next session (trying to keep his jaws open for longer) for around three days.
You can now alternate brushing the outer and inner surfaces while keeping each session as short as possible. If possible, brush your dog’s teeth daily to ward off periodontal diseases and to maintain his healthy gums and teeth. Do not forget to praise and give treat after each session.
ALTERNATIVE WAYS TO BRUSHING TEETH
Other than brushing, there are other ways of keeping your dog’s teeth clean. These include:
Use of Chew Toys; examples include; rawhide, rubber chew toys, nylon. Apart from wiping away soft tartar, chew toys massage gums and reduce dog stress. They are however meant to supplement the dog’s dental health and should therefore not be solely used instead of brushing.
Teeth Cleaning Foods; even though there are specifically designed foods for cleaning dog teeth, they do not have the power to attack and eliminate all forms of tartar and plaque.
Raw Meaty Bones; raw meaty bones are abrasive and therefore can easily grind away on tartar and plaque. However, poultry and cooked bones should not be used as they splinter easily causing harm to your dog’s mouth. They can also puncture the stomach.
Use of Dental Sprays; when used, they form a protective coating to ‘fight’ plaque and gingivitis. Care should be taken not to purchase the ones containing alcohol.
If your dog is completely not receptive to brushing, apply some toothpaste on a washcloth (already wrapped around your finger) and rub the outside surface of his teeth without worrying much about the inside surface. This ‘better than nothing’ approach is helpful compared to when no cleaning is done completely.You can also use chew toys and teeth cleaning foods. Anesthesia-free teeth cleaning-by veterinarians is another viable alternative.
Important points to remember
Don’t wait until your dog has matured; start brushing its teeth early enough from puppy age.
Visit a veterinarian at least once a year for an Oral Examination and professional cleaning.
In addition to brushing, learn how to scrape or scale your dog teeth.
Always seek services of a professional dog trainer or certified veterinarian In case you need professional guidance on dog teeth cleaning.
Don’t always feed your dog with canned foods as these lead to plaque and bacterial build up. Instead, provide chews e.g. natural bones, rawhide and pig ears.
Seek the services of a qualified professional if you realize your dog is overly aggressive, drooling, growling, snarling, trembling, panting and staring.
COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT BRUSHING DOG TEETH
The following are commonly asked questions with regards to brushing dogs and other animals’ teeth.
Why is it important to brush dog and other animals’ teeth?
According to research, approximately ¾ of dogs suffer from periodontitis. Periodontitis is as a result of gingivitis (caused by plaque) and if untreated, it will lead to teeth loss.
How often should I brush my dog’s teeth?
Brushing should be done at least twice each day. Many dogs enjoy and embrace brushing when they get used to it. If you are too busy, plan your schedule well and spare some time to brush your dog teeth at least twice a week. Remember that teeth brushing should be started earlier early enough when the dog is still a puppy.
What is the best brush for brushing dog and animals’ teeth?
There are brushes specifically designed for cleaning dog teeth. Most of them have angled handles with multiple heads and are small enough to fit perfectly in your hand. There are also finger toothbrushes that fit over the fingertips.
Choose a bigger brush for big dogs and a smaller brush for smaller dogs. There is actually no best brush, so long as the available one is used dexterously while following the manufactures guidelines.
Can I use human toothpaste or baking soda for brushing my dog’s teeth?
No. this is because human paste contains fluorides, which may cause stomach upset when swallowed. Again, paste designed for dog use is flavored with poultry, mint and beef among other products to make the dog enjoy the whole brushing exercise.
Other the other hand, baking soda should not be used for brushing since its alkaline and if swallowed, it may affect the acid balance in the dog’s digestive tract
How much time should I take when brushing my dog’s teeth?
Brushing each side should take approximately thirty seconds
My dog does is not receptive to teeth cleaning. What should I do?
Arrange for an anesthesia-free teeth cleaning with your veterinarian. Also, consider use of teeth cleaning foods and chew toys.