Oral hygiene is an often-overlooked but important factor in your dog’s overall health. If he has toothaches or sore gums, he is dealing with unnoticeable pain and stress. Left untreated, bacteria introduced by the problem can enter the bloodstream and affect his heart, kidneys or liver.
1. Purchase a Dog Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Even if your dog has a sparkling set of teeth worthy of a toothpaste commercial, it is still advisable to brush his teeth at least every few days. Waiting until the damage has already been done will result in pain, gum problems and the removal of teeth, albeit a weighty vet bill that could run to several hundred dollars.
Most pet stores sell specially designed dog toothbrushes with extra-long handles. Alternatively, you could also purchase the type that slips over your finger. Always purchase specialist toothpaste from a pet store as human toothpaste contains fluoride that is highly toxic to dogs.
2. Start Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth as Early as Possible
With a little patience and determination, you can get your dog used to having his teeth brushed at any age. However, it will be much less stressful for the both of you if you start him off as a puppy. Start by placing a little of the toothpaste on your finger, and rub it across your dog’s teeth and gums.
Continue this for a few days until he gets used to it. Slowly start introducing the toothbrush for only a few seconds at a time. Gradually build up the amount of time until you are able to brush your dog’s teeth for at least one minute every day.
3. Establish a Routine
The best time to brush your dog’s teeth is just after a walk when he will be more likely to sit still. Try to stick to a set routine so your dog knows what to expect. If he needs a little extra incentive to allow you to clean his teeth, prepare his food first, and then leave it up on the table or kitchen counter.
Show your dog the toothbrush before gently trying to open his mouth. Every time your dog allows you a little further into his mouth with the toothbrush, praise him enthusiastically and immediately put down his food.
4. Regularly Examine Your
At least once a month, lift your dog’s lips and thoroughly examine his teeth and gums. Always look out for any discoloured, chipped or misaligned teeth and any that have a brown or yellow
build-up of plaque. Also check your dog’s gums for signs of swelling, bleeding, pain or redness. Run your finger along the gums and under the tongue to look for any cysts or tumours that may be present.
While dog’s breath is never particularly sweet-smelling, an unusually foul smell could be a sign of periodontal disease. This is a serious infection that can spread throughout the body if left untreated.
5. Include Dry Biscuits in Your Dog’s Diet
Always include some form of dry biscuits in your dog’s diet. Crunching dry biscuits helps to clean the teeth and remove tarter build-up. Wet dog food coats the teeth and will quickly result in discoloration, decay and possibly even broken teeth. Purchase the appropriate dry food according to your dog’s size as smaller breeds will struggle with regular size biscuits.
If your dog refuses to eat biscuits, try mixing them in with his regular wet food, or wrap them in pieces of chicken or ham. Even if the biscuits soften a little before eating, it is still better than consuming wet food alone.