Studies show that nearly all dogs with noticeably bad breath are actually suffering from periodontal disease, a result of plaque build-up. If left untreated, this can lead to serious bacterial infection, possibly spreading to a dog’s kidney, liver, heart, and brain. Untreated periodontal disease has been shown to cause serious illness and significantly shorten the lifespan of many pets.
Signs of doggy dental disease
- Noticeably bad breath (‘doggy breath’ is normal)
- Brown, discolored, loose or cracked teeth
- Bleeding gums
- Excessive or unusual drooling
- Painful muzzle, or pawing at the muzzle
- Appetite changes
What you’ll need
You will need doggie toothpaste, and either a doggie toothbrush or a nubbly-textured rubber tooth brushing cap that fits over your finger; all are available from any pet store. Why not use human toothpaste and toothbrush on our dogs? Because a human toothbrush isn’t soft enough for doggie comfort; and human toothpaste isn’t edible – Fido not being likely to rinse and spit. What you put in his mouth, he’s going to eat. There are lots of doggie toothpaste flavors available. Try to find one that he likes; he’ll be far more likely to let you brush his teeth without a fight if he perceives that the toothpaste itself is a delicious treat. It pays to experiment with a few different flavors until you find the one he likes best. Then give Fido a taste of the approved toothpaste as a special treat a few days before you plan on brushing his teeth for the first time.
How to brush
With your dog on a leash, have him sit with his back against a corner; in this position, he won’t be able to escape backwards. Step on his leash with just a little slack. This frees up your hands but still gives you control.
Hold the prepared brush in your dominant hand and use the other hand to hold the top of Fido’s muzzle. Open his mouth and lift his upper lips. Gently brush the back area of his teeth and gums in a circular motion, slowly moving forward to the front teeth. Now do the other side. When you’ve finished the top, move on to the bottom. Lastly, give him lots of praise and reward his patience with a crunchy treat and plenty of affection after the brushing is finished.
For best results, brush Fido’s teeth at least two times a week at home, and get a dental check-up once a year at your vet’s office; If the vet finds significant tartar build-up, they’ll need to be cleaned under anesthesia.
Feeding your pet dry dog food or hard dog biscuits every day will also help prevent periodontal disease and other infectious gum diseases.