Periodontal disease occurs frequently in dogs, and can have scary consequences—in addition to leading to large vet bills. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, over 80% of dogs have some kind of dental issue by age 3. If you’re not sure how to brush your dog’s teeth, and you haven’t started a routine yet, never fear! We’ve got you covered.
You can encourage healthy teeth with a regular brushing routine for your dog. It’s never too late to start, and you can help your dog adjust with plenty of praise, treats, and patience. Read up on how to brush your dog’s teeth, starting with the basics.
Select the right dog toothbrush
The first step to pearly whites is finding the perfect canine toothbrush. Dog toothbrushes are similar to human toothbrushes, but are smaller and have much softer bristles.
Another option? A finger toothbrush, which fits over your finger and makes cleaning those hard-to-reach areas all the easier. If you’re in a bind, a clean scrap of gauze or a washcloth will do the trick, too.
Find a dog-friendly toothpaste
Never use human toothpaste for your dog. Most contain fluoride, which is extremely toxic—and sometimes fatal—to dogs.
It’s vital to find a pet-friendly toothpaste (in fun flavors such as poultry and beef), or take the old-fashioned route and whip up a paste of 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon water.
How to brush your dog’s teeth: the technique
Ideally you’ll brush your dog’s teeth every day, but aim for at least two to three times a week.
- Try brushing your dog’s teeth when he’s worn out from play time or a good walk.
- Work in small circular motions, moving from the back of the mouth to the front and lifting the lips where necessary.
- The outside surface of the tooth sees the most plaque and tarter buildup and is the most important area to tackle.
- If your dog allows it, try to clean the inside surface of the tooth, too.
- If your dog is scared, simply give him TLC, offer a treat, and try again the next day.
Pro tip: To warm your dog up to the idea, try dipping your finger in dog-safe natural peanut butter before lifting his lips and massaging his teeth and gums. Next, tease him into licking or smelling canine toothpaste.
Warning Signs of Dog Dental Problems
If you’re wondering about how to brush your dog’s teeth, you may also be concerned about your dog’s current dental health. Trust your gut if you’re worried about your dog’s teeth, and consult with your vet when in doubt.
Keep an eye out for the following signs of tooth trouble in your dog:
- Worse-than-normal breath
- Excessive drooling
- Swollen or bleeding gums
- Loose or missing teeth
- Tumors and cysts in the mouth
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s definitely time to pay a visit to the vet. Oral disease can lead to life-threatening issues, so get your furry friend checked out ASAP.
Top photo via Flickr/Karen
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