Bad breath doesn’t have to be a necessary evil of having a dog. Like humans, your dog needs proper oral care, not only for the fresh-breath benefits but also to keep his teeth and gums in top health.
Why do dogs need tooth brushing? According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, most dogs can show signs of periodontal disease as early as three years old. By age five, it strikes 85% of dogs. If that bacteria is left to grow and fester without regular cleaning and treatment, it can lead to a host of problems, sometimes painful, but always foul-smelling, including tooth loss, abscesses and infections. In the worst cases, this can lead to problems with the kidneys, liver and even heart muscles.
Despite this encouraging evidence, few pet parents are following through! Only 7% of dog owners said they brush their dog’s teeth on a daily basis, according to an Ipsos poll. The key to a fresh mouth that’s free of periodontal disease is practicing good canine oral hygiene, and that includes regular tooth brushing. Here’s what you’ll need to know.
The basics to brushing your dog’s teeth
How often do canine teeth need brushing? Once-a-day brushings for 60 seconds should be fine for most dogs. Because plaque can build in the mouth over a 12-hour period, adding a second brushing to your routine is optimal.
What you’ll need for canine brushing
- Canine toothpaste: Your independent local pet retailer will have some safe, effective brands to recommend for your dog’s breed. Even better, these toothpastes come in flavors like beef, chicken and peanut butter, so they’ll (hopefully) be more willing to sit and endure this daily practice. Whatever your do, don’t share your favorite brand of human toothpaste with your best friend! Xylitol, a sweetener and common ingredient in human toothpaste, is toxic for dogs. Plus, they may not be fans of spearmint.
- A soft-bristled toothbrush: There are brushes designed just for dogs. Some will even fit over your fingertip for easier brushing. As an alternative, pet parents find that a child’s toothbrush works just as well in cleaning those chompers.
- Does your dog dislike the brush? Another technique is to purchase some sterile square gauze pads you can find at any drugstore. Apply the toothpaste to one piece of the gauze, wrap it around your finger and use that to rub and clean your dog’s teeth.
- What about dental treats and dental chew toys? Dental treats and nylon dental toys that tout their plaque-scraping abilities do sound promising. And it definitely sounds easier than training your dog to endure a tooth brushing. Yes, they may help remove some of that excess plaque and tartar, but since you can’t be sure how thorough a job it’s doing, it’s not a substitute for cleaning and tooth brushing.
Do dogs need professional cleanings?
When it’s time for that annual wellness visit with the vet [LINK], be sure and include a professional oral exam and cleaning. The vet will have the skills and know-how to identify and treat any problems that arise, and your dog will get a thorough cleaning. Doing this can assure you your dog’s oral health is on the right track. The good news here is that dogs are less prone to getting cavities than humans. At least you won’t have fillings to contend with!
The struggle-free guide to brushing a dog’s teeth
Teaching your dog to stay calm and sit through a daily brushing seems like an impossible task. After all, no one likes having someone else’s fingers poking around their mouth. This is a matter of making your dog accustomed to tooth brushing. Bear in mind, progress depends on your dog’s comfort level. Getting there will take patience, consistency and heaps of praise.
Start slow by petting your dog’s muzzle. When she responds calmly reward her with enthusiastic praise and a small treat. This is a sensitive area with lots of nerve endings, so be gentle!
Then, focus on gumwork. Once your dog doesn’t overreact to being touched outside of the mouth, work your way to the inside. Put some peanut butter on your finger and allow your dog to lick it off. Raise your dog’s lip and rub your finger along the gums, rubbing peanut butter along the gums, if you like. After a few days of this, you can then try brushing the outside of your dog’s teeth and along the gums.
Open Sesame! The next step is making your dog comfortable having his mouth opened, and depending on the dog, this can take some time. Once you can hold it open for a second or two, work on increasing the time gradually. Be sure and follow up with praise and treats. If your dog starts to struggle, be sure and end the training with something else that you know he can handle. That way, things end on a positive note that involves his favorite treat.
Finally, work toward a full brushing. Once you’re in a place where your dog lets you hold his mouth open, start brushing both sides of his teeth. Your first sessions may last less than 60 seconds at first, but keep a timer going and work on increasing your sessions so your dog can start having a clean mouth.
Always be considerate. There are many sensitive areas in and around a dog’s mouth. Dogs really hate having their noses touched, for example, and bumping that wet nose would be very easy to do while you’re brushing your dog’s teeth! Too many bumps, and that can “train” your dog to avoid letting you brush his teeth. Be aware of your dog’s responses and do your best to keep your dog comfortable.
Eliminate the “inner” cause of funky dog breath with a good diet
While good oral hygiene goes a long way in achieving good oral health, foul breath can also be a sign of other issues. For example, bad breath can originate from gut and digestive issues in your pet. If your pup is sensitive to a food ingredient, or he’s not fully digesting the proteins, funky breath is just one of the pet problems that start showing up. Keep your dog’s digestive tract in balance with plenty of “good bacteria” by choosing a diet with at least 80 million colony-forming units of probiotics. Also, biomos is a powerful prebiotic that removes unwanted pathogens and bacteria that cause digestive issues. All of the supplements in NutriSource pet foods have been proven to be effective through peer-reviewed journals and published white papers. You’ll be rewarded with fresh kisses!
When choosing a high-quality diet that brings results, look for NutriSource. Each bag and can of NutriSource contains Good 4 Life, an exclusive blend of supplements that offer your dog all the minerals and probiotic nutrients they need to build a healthy gut and a healthy body. Our food has more probiotics, with a minimum of 100 million cfu in every pound, for better digestion. Plus, NutriSource is family-owned. We grind our meats in our own facilities, creating foods that deliver nutritious solutions for your beloved pets. Find NutriSource at your local, independent pet supply retailer.