One of the things that most dog owners do not do, but should, is brush their dog’s teeth. Just like your own, having clean and healthy teeth is one of the keys to long term health. When the teeth are not cleaned on regular basis, plaque can build up which causes the gums to recede. This can make eating painful and result in future teeth loss (not to mention “doggy breath”). The health problems associated with dirty teeth go far beyond the teeth themselves, however. Teeth that are not cleaned on a regular basis (2 – 3 times a week) are breeding grounds for bacteria and disease. This can put a tremendous pressure on your dog’s immune system and internal organs, which leads to premature aging. Older dogs are especially susceptible to these issues, particularly with regards to heart disease.
If having clean teeth is so important for a dog’s health, why do not more people do it? The first reason is that most people are simply not unaware of how important it is. To those few that are, they think brushing their dog’s teeth is too difficult to attempt. Although it can be difficult to brush your dog’s teeth at first, it can be done. All it takes is patience and proper training.
Like any kind of dog training, it is best to start when your dog is a puppy. However, if your dog is not a puppy, you will just have to exercise more patience and do your best. The first thing you need to do is to buy a children’s toothbrush, or one specifically designed for a dog. Next you will need to buy some canine toothpaste. DO NOT TRY AND USE TOOTHPASTE MEANT FOR HUMANS (like Crest, AquaFresh, etc) Human toothpaste contains chemicals that are dangerous for dogs, and will taste extremely foul to him. If you are not able to get your hands on canine toothpaste, you can try using baking soda as a substitute. However, one of the advantages of canine toothpaste is that your dog will not need his mouth rinsed afterwards, whereas he will with baking soda.
Once you have the cleaning materials listed above, call your dog over and have him lie down on your lap. Open his lips with your fingers, and start to gently rub his teeth with the toothbrush. At first, he may try and chew on the toothbrush. If he does so, quickly take the brush away and gently scold him. Try again. It may take awhile for your dog to get used to this, but there’s no other way. You’ll have to be patient. If you are able to brush a few teeth without your dog biting the toothbrush, make sure you praise him extensively. One of the hard things about training your dog for teeth cleaning is that you can not really reward him with a food treat. All you can do is to be patient and consistent. Still, for your dog’s sake, the effort is well worth making.
Just like your own teeth, however, your dog should have his teeth cleaned by a professional once or twice a year. Instead of a dental hygienist, however, you should take him to a veterinarian that does teeth cleaning. The veterinarian will be able to put your dog under using a general anesthetic. He will then be able to properly scale your dog’s teeth, something you can not do on your own.
Proper dental care for your dog does take some effort on your part. However, just like a human being, healthy teeth are a key to the general health of your dog.