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Begin with Brushing: Your Dog's Oral Health

 by wai on 03 Apr 2014 |
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Do you have a hard time making your dog's dental hygiene a priority?  You're not alone.  Plenty of pet owners balk at the idea of brushing their dog's teeth.  Perhaps you simply don't think it's necessary to brush your dog's teeth.  Maybe you find it challenging to make time or muster the energy for regular brushing, especially if your dog makes the job difficult.  Although taking good care of your pet's teeth can seem like a hassle, your dog's oral hygiene is more important than you might think.

Without regular dental care, dogs are likely to develop periodontal (gum) disease from food particles and bacteria creating a build-up of plaque along the gum line.  In fact, veterinarians estimate that most dogs will develop some degree of gum disease by the time they are a few years old.  Most pet owners fail to notice oral health problems in their dogs until gum disease advances enough for obvious symptoms to occur, which can often be too late to easily correct the problem.  Periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss, abscesses, or even worse problems.  Studies have shown that oral bacteria can cause spread systematically, creating issues including heart and kidney disease. 

Fortunately, just like in humans, regular dental care can help prevent gum disease in dogs.  If you haven't done much for your dog's pearly whites in the past, make sure to have him examined by a veterinarian.  If gum disease is already present, a professional cleaning or other treatment may be required.  If not, you can begin preventative care by routinely brushing your dog's teeth.  Ideally, a dog's teeth should be brushed daily, but if this is unrealistic for you, aim to brush them a few times a week, or at the very least, weekly.   Brushing can be supplemented by giving your dog special chews and toys that promote dental health.  There are a wide variety of these items available at most pet stores, so ask your veterinarian which options are the best for your dog. 


Let's see those pearly whites!
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Before you begin a routine of brushing your dog's teeth, acquire the proper tools.  You will need to use a toothpaste created specifically for dogs, as ingesting human toothpaste is harmful to your pet.  There are several varieties of dog toothpaste available, including fresh-smelling minty flavors.  If your dog isn't keen on having his teeth brushed, you might try an enticing meaty flavor instead.  You should also use a toothbrush designed for dogs.  Long-handled models with soft bristles that look similar to human toothbrushes are great for use on large dogs or those who might  bite.  Finger brushes made of soft rubber are another popular choice, but remember that they don't provide much protection in the event that your dog should bite down on your finger. Use whatever model will be the easiest for you to work with on your dog.

To brush, apply your dog's toothpaste to the bristles and brush the outside of his teeth in a gentle, circular motion.  Be sure to do this on all of this teeth, from his front teeth to his molars.  If your dog protests, be sure to go slowly and speak to him in a soothing tone.  You can have a friend help by gently holding or petting him, and you can even pause to reward your dog with treats as you work.  Each time you brush his teeth, make sure to check for any signs of bad breath, redness, swelling, or bleeding.  Let your veterinarian know if anything in your pet's mouth looks different or unusual. 

Putting in the effort to brush your dog's teeth on a regular basis might be a challenge at first, but you'll find it's worth the trouble.  Not only will you prevent your pet from having future oral health problems, but you'll also save yourself from heartbreak and having to pay bigger vet bills.  Be gentle but persistent with your routine, and you'll find that brushing your dog's teeth may not be as difficult as you'd imagined.

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