What’s the point of brushing my dog’s teeth?

brush a dogs teethThis is a question that you may well find yourself asking from time to time. It can be a frustrating task to undertake if your pet pooch decides that he likes having stinky teeth, thank you very much, and the temptation exists to wrestle your dog to the floor and prise his mouth open to give them a much needed scrub. Try this however, and there’s only one of you who will come off better. Here’s a clue as to whom – it’s not you.

Pretty much like humans, the lack of any dental care results in catastrophic gum disease, namely gingivitis. Dogs are not prone to developing cavities in their teeth, but instead accumulate a brown deposit around their gums. Known as calculus, it can cause your pet’s gums to recede and expose the roots of their teeth. This can cause the teeth to become loose in their sockets, and expose your dog to infections. Worse still, the infection can spread – known as pharyngitis, it can enter the blood stream and cause heart and kidney disease.

As with most things concerning teeth, prevention is better than cure. The build-up of tartar in your dog’s mouth can be prevented to an extent with the use of tartar control treats and bones. However, these can only target build up above the gum line – in order to get to the nasty stuff, you will need to break out the tooth brush.

It’s best to purchase a toothbrush especially designed for a dog. If you’re in a pinch and have to use a human toothbrush, make sure that it’s the soft bristled type. For a smaller dog, use a child’s toothbrush. As regards to toothpaste, it’s essential that you use one specially formulated for dogs. Your pooch can’t rinse and spit, and human toothpaste contains ingredients which can irritate his stomach.
Allow your dog to taste his toothpaste from the end of the toothbrush. When he has a taste for it, put a little more toothpaste on the brush and begin brushing in a gentle circular motion. It’s important to keep him calm at this stage with some praise and by stroking his neck. When’s he’s comfortable and relaxed, pull back his lips to get to his back teeth.

You should aim to brush his teeth twice a week and a professional cleaning should be carried out between every one and three years, depending on the breed of dog. This involves a general anaesthetic, so it’s best to consult your vet before undertaking this.