Do you think you’re in the running for the #1 pet parent? If you don’t brush Fido’s teeth, puppy dog breath could cost you the title.
Veterinarians generally recommend brushing your dog’s teeth every day and at least two to three times a week.
And even if you love your Goodest Boy and give out endless belly scratches, we know you probably don’t (guilty 🙋😫).
Here’s why helping your dog with oral hygiene should actually be part of your routine and how it can keep your pup healthy.
If you don’t brush your dog’s teeth, he becomes susceptible to periodontitis, mouth sores, tooth loss, infections, and other health problems. (poor dolls!)
Just like our own chompers, plaque on your canine teeth hardens into tartar if they are not brushed regularly. Tartar under the gum line causes inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), which can lead to painful periodontitis.
“Dental disease is the most commonly diagnosed health problem in dogs,” says veterinarian Douglas Kratt, past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “In fact, by the age of 3, most dogs are showing signs of dental disease. All dog breeds are susceptible, although toy and small breeds are particularly at risk.”
“Dogs with dental disease are also at risk for other health problems, like heart and kidney disease,” says Kratt.
*Adds dog toothbrush to cart*
The American Veterinary Medicine Association recommends daily brushing, but they say brushing a few times a week can be effective.
So make it a goal to brush your doggo teeth every day, and give yourself a pat on the back if you can do it two or three times a week. Brushing is the best way to keep Borky Boop tartar build-up under control and prevent serious dental disease.
The short answer: very, very carefully.
If you and Rover are new to brushing, take your time. Do not proceed to the next step until your dog is cool on the previous step. Treating your dog’s mouth and brushing it completely can take a few weeks. (Spoiler alert: Princess Pooch will likely HATE it.)
Try these steps suggested by the American Kennel Club:
- time it right Pick up the grooming routine when you and your dog are relaxed.
- Brush in a well-lit area where your dog can be comfortable.
- Start by simply touching your dog’s teeth with your fingers. Gently move his lips, touching the top and bottom teeth on each side.
- Insert the brush and just touch as before. Every step your dog tolerates is closer to a thorough brushing.
- Show him the toothpaste and give him a taste.
- Put paste on the toothbrush and start brushing his upper front teeth.
- Stop often to give praise!
- Work around by brushing the top side and molar teeth. (These are the areas most prone to plaque.)
- Continue with the bottom front teeth, working your way to the sides and back.
- Stack praise and rewards throughout the process. Follow the brushing with something like a walk or playtime to keep your dog looking forward to it.
The best dog toothbrush has soft bristles and a long handle to reach the molars. A human toothbrush could fit that bill, as many dog-specific toothbrushes look a lot like human toothbrushes.
However, when you choose a dog product, you can choose the brush that is best suited to your dog’s age and size.
There are also small “finger” brushes made out of a flexible material that fits over your finger. These can be helpful in the early stages of brush training when your dog is just getting used to the process.
That’s a hard yes. Human toothpaste isn’t good for puppeteers, so don’t even try it.
Some ingredients in human toothpaste can be toxic to dogs. Human toothpaste often contains the sugar alcohol xylitol, which is extremely dangerous for dogs to ingest.
Dog toothpaste is safe to swallow and comes in flavors that Fido will turn heads. Chicken, beef or peanut butter? These are much tastier options for your canine friend than minty fresh.
🚨 If your dog has swallowed human toothpaste, call your vet, emergency room, or animal poison control center as soon as possible. 🚨
You may be tempted to make your own dog toothpaste with baking soda, but that’s not a good idea.
1). Baking soda just tastes bad, so Mr. Floof won’t like it like his favorite chicken-flavored paste. 2). It can also give your dog stomach pain if swallowed.
With Fido unleashing his rage every time you reach for those teefers, don’t panic. In most cases, dogs will accept brushing their teeth, but it can take some time to get used to the idea.
For the best chance of success, follow these tips from veterinarian Douglas Kratt:
- Start brushing when your pup is young so it becomes a familiar routine.
- Brushes and toothpaste for dogs make the experience more palatable for them.
- Introduce the tools to your dog along with praise and treats so they have a positive association.
- Go super slow. Don’t worry if it takes several weeks to brush for a few seconds.
Sure, brushing these Teefers when they’re puppies is ideal, but if you’ve just realized you’ve never touched your dog’s teeth, better late than never.
If you have an older dog, you may want to start with an annual checkup and professional cleaning to make sure there aren’t any problems.
After a professional teeth cleaning, wait a few weeks to begin the gradual process of toothbrush training.
There are many toys, treats, and other products that claim to improve your dog’s dental health. But Kratt says they’re not always effective.
Get advice from your veterinarian on whether a product is a good choice for your Little Cutie Pie Wiggle Butt. Some chew toys and treats can mechanically clean teeth while your dog is chewing, but first you should make sure these products are doggo safe.
If you suspect your dog already has dental problems, their teeth may be too sensitive to brush.
“Remember to always use caution when examining your pet’s mouth because an animal in pain — even a beloved pet –– can bite,” says Kratt.
Your vet will perform an oral exam at your pup’s annual visit and alert you to any signs of concern. Regular brushing should keep a dog’s mouth healthy between these yearly check-ups and can prevent the need for a professional cleaning.
If you notice any of the following symptoms, consult your vet sooner for a dental exam. These could be signs of painful dental disease.
- bad breath
- broken or loose teeth
- Teeth that are discolored or covered with sludge (plaque and tartar)
- bleeding from the mouth
- swelling around the mouth
- unusual chewing, drooling, or dropping food
- decreased appetite, not eating or drinking water
While regular brushing can reduce your dog’s risk of dental problems and related diseases, your veterinarian will need to step in for annual checkups, cleanings, x-rays, and treatment of existing oral issues.
To keep your pup’s mouth fresh and healthy, you should brush his teeth every day, or at least a few times a week.
If your dog isn’t used to being brushed, it can take weeks for even the Goodest Boy to warm to the routine. Once you make it a habit, brushing your dog’s teeth should be quick and easy, and help prevent painful inflammation and infection.
That means more cuddles, boops, and splots with your furry friend.