How To...Brush Your Dog's Teeth

DrPaul -

How To...Brush Your Dog's Teeth

In my ‘How To…’ series I will be providing advice on how to provide routine health care for your dog from the comfort of your home.

This post is all about keeping your dog's teeth in tip top condition.

We all know how important oral hygiene is for our own teeth and most people have a daily routine for tooth care. However, it seems we don’t take the same approach with our pets. ? In a recent study only 25% of owners questioned would physically brush their dog’s teeth at least once a week and only 4% made it a part of their dog’s daily routine.

It would be great if we could all brush our dog’s teeth twice a day however most owners would find this difficult. Brushing three times a week is the minimum recommendation and this will help to remove plaque, prevent tartar accumulation and gingivitis. Once you have established tooth brushing as a part of your dog’s daily routine and got the hang of your technique it will become as natural a habit as brushing your own pearly pegs.

Before you start it is always a good idea to speak to your vet in order to better understand your dog's particular jaw alignment. Some breeds such as brachycephalics (French Bulldogs, Pugs) often have poorly aligned jaws with crowded or absent teeth. These dogs are more susceptible to dental disease and ensuring your brushing technique is effective is also important.

Starting daily brushing at a young age is preferable but it isn’t impossible to introduce this practice slowly to an older dog. As the saying goes; It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.

Here are my top tips to getting those canine pegs brushed;

What do you need?

● Either a finger toothbrush or a child's toothbrush
● Specially formulated pet toothpaste (human toothpastes are not safe or palatable)
● Lots of treats for positive reinforcement!

A step by step approach…

1. Begin by rubbing toothpaste on your dog's teeth with your finger to get them used to the taste and the idea of having something rubbed onto their gums and teeth.

2. When it comes to introducing the brush you could start with something extra delicious on the toothbrush to make it a very positive experience. Peanut butter, yoghurt or cream cheese are great options and may make your dog more receptive to the idea of having a brush being placed in and around their mouth.

3. Start with the teeth you can see easily before attempting to clean those hidden out of sight. Increasing tolerance little and often is the trick here.

4. Keep brush strokes to the same pressure you would brush your own teeth. Do not worry about brushing the tips or insides of the teeth unless your dog is very cooperative. Most periodontal damage occurs on the outer surfaces of the teeth and this is where you should direct your efforts.

5. Build up to approximately 30 seconds per side.

Despite your best efforts, tooth brushing might not be an option for some dogs. There are other products on the market that may not be as effective as physical brushing, but could be better than doing nothing at all.

These options may include specialist dental diets, tasteless granules added to food that help to dissolve plaque and specially formulated mouth washes which are flavourless and can be added to your pets water. Remember to always provide an untainted water source as well just in case your dog gets really picky. See my earlier blog linked here:

If you have serious concerns about your pets oral health such as sore red or bleeding gums, halitosis or visible tartar build up, always consult your vet. If dental disease is too advanced your dog may need to undergo a dental procedure which is usually performed under general anaesthetic.

Paul Manktelow

Veterinary Surgeon

Dr Paul Manktelow is a vet who's worked for almost 20 years on the front line in some of the UK's busiest veterinary hospitals. Paul also appears regularly in the media as a TV and radio presenter, writer, public speaker and podcast producer.