Spotlight on Grooming: Brushing Your Dog's Teeth
3 min read
Importance of Brushing
One of the best things you can do to take care of your dog is to regularly brush their teeth. This often comes as a surprise to most dog owners as they feel they've taken good care of dogs their entire lives and have never done it. Unfortunately, however, gum disease is about 5x more common in dogs than it is in humans.
This is usually due to the fact that dogs cannot really tell us when they're experiencing pain or discomfort in their mouths, and they rarely show outward signs of it as they've evolved to hide signs of chronic pain that may be interpreted as a show of weakness.
Here are some signs your dog may be experiencing dental pain:
- Head shyness (not wanting their head or mouth to be touched)
- Red or bleeding gums
- Blood marks left on a chew toy
- Vocalising when they yawn or eat
- Difficulty picking up food
- Chewing only on one side of their mouth
This chronic discomfort is preventable with regular brushing sessions at home and can save your dog from potential tooth loss and infection down the road.
How to Establish a Routine
1. Work your way up slowly
If you're just starting to implement a routine, it's important to start slowly so that they get used to it and can relax. Try to find a time when they are relaxed such as after a play at the park. If they're feeling too energetic or getting nervous, it's best to take a break and try again later.
In your first few sessions try to familiarise them with the sensation of you touching their gums and lifting their lips a bit. Move your finger gently around their mouth for a bit while they get comfortable with it.
Be sure to not stand directly above them and to handle them in a relaxed fashion - holding them down will only add stress.
2. Start to introduce toothpaste
Once they've gotten comfortable with you touching the inside of their mouth, start to apply some toothpaste to your finger and spread that around too. It's best to use a toothpaste with a neutral flavour. If you find after a couple of sessions of this that your dog is resistant to the toothpaste, you may need to try a different brand or flavour until you find something they like.
3. Introduce the toothbrush
It's important to use a toothbrush that is designed specifically for dogs as the bristles are softer than those of a human toothbrush. We recommend a finger brush as your dog has already gotten comfortable with having your finger in their mouth so the sensation will not be much different.
Be sure to apply light pressure and brush at a 45-degree angle and make a circular motion as you go.
Pay special attention to the outsides of the canine teeth as well as the molars in the back as dogs tend to accumulate plaque in these areas.
Different dogs accumulate plaque at different rates with small dogs more prone to plaque buildup, so depending on your dog you may have to do this more or less frequently, though brushing at least 3 times per week for 2 minutes is recommended.
Slight bleeding may occur if their gums are already inflamed, but if they begin bleeding excessively please stop and make a visit to your vet.
4. Reassure your dog throughout the process
Be sure to keep things light and speak in a calm tone of voice while brushing so as not to cause any anxiety.
5. End things on a positive note!
Once you've finished it's a good idea to give your little furry friend a treat for their patience! With regular practice, this can become a calm time to bond a bit with your dog while supporting their health and wellbeing in the long run.