Cleaning a Dog’s Teeth at Home | Author: Cliff Redford, Veterinarian
To keep your dog healthy and happy, pet owners should understand the basics of canine dental hygiene. Diseases like tartar, plaque build-up and gingivitis along with broken teeth can lead to infections throughout the body, cause chronic inflammation and put stress on the immune system. They can also leave your dog in much pain.
The cause of dental diseases in canines is a complicated collection of factors. Diet plays a role and genetics makes some breeds more susceptible to it. Age is another factor, along with how your dog’s teeth are aligned. The good news is that dogs almost never require braces! And, you can help reduce the chances of infections by following a simple in-home oral care routine, supported by regular annual checkups with the vet. These preventative measures will help you avoid costly emergency procedures and invasive surgery.
Cleaning a Dog’s Teeth at Home
We can recommend many food items designed to clean plaque and tartar while your dog chews. Giving them chew toys and adding mouthwash additives to their drinking water will also help. However, nothing trumps a daily brushing of your dog’s teeth, if you can swing it.
With the right tools and proper technique, you can even turn this into a fun and easy bonding routine. First, ensure your dog’s toothbrush is properly sized for their mouth. We can assist you with this and recommend baby-sized brushes for small dogs. You can even find brushes that fit over your forefinger, but you need to be careful not to get bitten when you use those!
Human toothpaste can upset a dog’s stomach, so you will want to avoid them. Instead, select from a skew of flavours your dog will enjoy, such as vanilla, chicken, liver, or even cheese. Now just imagine what humans miss out on, with our limited mint flavours!
Dog Teeth Brushing Technique
Start slowly and always use positive reinforcement to help your dog along. Let him or her lick the toothpaste off the brush the first few times to get used to the taste. This will also allow them to start associating teeth cleaning with treat time. As you brush each tooth, tell them what a good dog they are, and scratch them behind the ears for good measure. If you find soft and sensitive gums starting to bleed a little, take a break and try again in a few days. Eventually, the gums will toughen up and the bleeding will stop.
Recognizing Oral Diseases in Dogs
When spending time with your dog, keep an eye out for periodontal diseases. Catching them early will allow you to seek intervention before the infection becomes problematic. Signs and symptoms include:
- Bad breath
- Oral pain, exhibited by shying away from face touches, pawing at the muzzle
- Eating slowly
- Not chewing food completely
- Disinterest in chewing toys
- Visible tartar on teeth
- Redness on gums
If your pet exhibits any of the signs and symptoms noted above, make an appointment to bring him or her in to see us. Moderate to severe dental diseases cannot be reversed by cleaning a dog’s teeth at home. In fact, continuing to do so might lead to more damage and pain. Make it a priority to have a veterinary technician conduct a free assessment, and review your cleaning tools and technique.
Canine Dental Cleaning & Surgery
Dental care is a very important part of your pet’s overall health. Unfortunately, periodontal disease in pets often goes undiagnosed until it is too late. And it is also the most common reason for urgent veterinarian visits. Dental checkups almost always require us to put your pet under general anesthetic. This allows us to conduct a thorough investigation of what is going on in the mouth, following which we can recommend a diagnosis. Healthy dogs may only require professional scaling and cleaning. If we find advanced disease, we may recommend teeth extraction surgery.
ABOUT DR. CLIFF
Dr. Cliff Redford, DVM, is an experienced veterinarian and owner/operator of the Wellington Veterinary Hospital in Markham Ontario. Fondly known as Dr. Cliff to his clients, he has tended to the wellness of pets and animals for over two decades. Hands-on experience in his clinic, combined with animal advocacy and rescue missions locally and across the globe, has allowed him to curate a vast body of knowledge on animal health and welfare, including preventative counselling, soft tissue surgery, advanced dental procedures, internal medicine and emergency care.