Our regular vet moved so we decided to visit a new Veterinarian’s office. One of the first things he did was open Clayton’s mouth wide and sniff. I had never seen this done by any vet and was taken back. We soon learned stinky breath could signify a health problem from potential tooth and gum disease to serious internal organ failure.
To help pet parents address the significance of oral health care, the American Veterinary Medical Association sponsors National Pet Dental Health Month every February.
While caring for your pooch’s teeth isn’t just a February thing, veterinarians across the country take this time of year to remind pet parents dental health is a concern all year long. Warning signs of gum disease include “bad breath, red and swollen gums, yellow-brown crusts of tartar along the gum lines, and bleeding or pain when the gums or mouth are touched,” according to Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. chief veterinary medical officer Dr. Carol McConnell.
As with many health issues, prevention is always the best medicine and brushing your dog’s teeth is an important part of their overall care. Clean teeth can help boost the health, happiness and longevity of your pup. Dental hygiene issues can lead to life-threatening and painful infections that can damage the kidneys, heart and liver. By regularly brushing your dog’s teeth, you will not only help to improve its quality of life but yours as well.
How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
Get a dog toothbrush and toothpaste. Dog brushes have softer bristles and are designed to give you easier access to those hard to reach areas. Like brushes, there are many different types of toothpaste made for dogs. Human toothpaste contains fluoride and sometimes other ingredients that can be toxic. Do not ever use human toothpaste to brush a dog’s teeth.
Find a good time. Try to brush when calm and relaxed. A good time is after exercising or playing. Your dog will hopefully be tired and less likely to struggle.
Let the dog lick some toothpaste off your finger. Start the process by letting the dog lick a small amount of toothpaste off of your finger.
After the dog licks the toothpaste, rub your finger along the teeth and gums while lifting the lips. This is the same motion that you will use when brushing and will help with transitioning when using a brush.
Show the toothbrush to your dog and let him inspect the brush before putting it in its mouth. A little toothpaste on the brush will help to become accustomed to the brush.
Don’t forget lots of praise for good behavior.
Brush one or a few of the easiest to reach teeth. Gently lift the upper lip and place the toothbrush onto the teeth. Then, slowly brush back and forth. Increase the number of teeth you brush each time until the dog is comfortable having all of them brushed.
Limit early brushing sessions to just a few minutes each. It may take a few sessions to get your dog used to the process.
Make it a routine. This will make brushing easier over time. If you are unable to brush every day, brush as often as possible.
If your dog has loose teeth, seems sensitive around its mouth, or is bleeding orally, consult a veterinarian before you continue brushing.
Keeping on top of your pet’s dental health has lasting positive effects — some studies suggest that maintaining oral health can add up to five years to your pooch’s life.
For more information on National Pet Dental Health Month and a video on daily tooth brushing visit the American Veterinary Medical Association.