In honor of Dental Health Month, we’re spotlighting the
at-home dental care task that many pet owners (and even some vets) are guilty of rarely — or barely — doing:
brushing their dog’s teeth. Unfortunately, periodontal disease affects most dogs by the time they are 3 years old. Thankfully, one of the best ways to help battle dental disease is to learn how to best take care of your dog’s teeth.
Check out our slideshow to learn how to fix 5 common dental care mistakes — and help your pooch enjoy the process more.
You're using human toothpaste.
It may seem easier to squeeze out a dollop of your own
toothpaste on your dog’s toothbrush, but you absolutely shouldn't do it. Many human
toothpastes contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that is toxic to dogs. Even if your toothpaste doesn’t contain xylitol, dogs can swallow foaming agents, which could lead
to stomach upset. As for toothpaste alternatives like baking soda, those aren’t
safe bets either, since baking soda can upset the acid balance in your pet’s
stomach. You should only brush your dog’s teeth with toothpaste formulated for
dogs. Another great reason to use dog toothpaste? It's usually flavored with something pooches
actually enjoy, like beef or chicken.
You're not praising or rewarding him.
It can take time for dogs to warm up to the idea of letting
someone stick a toothbrush with toothpaste on it in their mouth. Rewarding him
with extra treats and praise may help. Showing your frustration or punishing
him will not. The key is to take things slow. Start off by letting him sniff
the toothbrush and taste the toothpaste. Then get him used to having his mouth
touched. Eventually work your way up to actually brushing his teeth. This may
take a few weeks, so you’ll have to be patient. Just remember to reward and
praise him along the way. If you ever think that your dog is going to bite you,
stop what you’re doing immediately and ask your veterinarian how to best care
for his teeth.
You're not brushing your dog's teeth consistently.
Ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth every day. That’s
right: every day. Why is this necessary? The plaque that leads to dental disease
can recolonize on the tooth surface in as little as 24 hours after a dental cleaning, so brushing
every few days won’t be as effective. Remember: The key to getting your dog to
accept getting his teeth brushed is to be patient and to give him plenty of
rewards and praise.
You're ignoring signs of dental disease.
Brushing your dog’s teeth is a great way to keep track of
his oral health. If you notice any changes like bad breath, yellow-brown
tartar, inflamed gums, bleeding gums, unusual growths, pawing at the mouth, difficulty chewing
or excessive drooling, you need to take him to the veterinarian. Those could all be signs of dental disease (or other oral problems) and should not be ignored.
You've never gotten his teeth professionally cleaned.
Even for the most diligent owner, brushing your adult dog’s teeth every day isn't enough to stave off dental disease. That's why your veterinarian may recommend a professional cleaning. During this procedure, your vet will
remove the tartar buildup that brushing can't and may recommend dental X-rays to check for hidden signs of disease under the gum line and
in the bones.