Did you know that February is Pet Dental Health Month? As February paws to a close, we want to send you off into spring with a helpful how-to guide to keeping your pet’s dental health in check.
Before we dig into the how, we must face the dirty truth. According to VCA Hospitals, over two-thirds of dogs aged 3 and up have dental health problems, like periodontitis, inflammation, or gum infections. Many owners dismiss bad breath as something all dogs have when it can actually be a sign of serious dental health problems, even from an early age. Other signs to watch out for are excessive drooling, discolored, broken or missing teeth, changes in eating habits, swollen or bleeding gums, and any unusual bumps and growths inside the mouth.
Slacking on healthy habits now can cause serious problems later on, like tooth loss, abscesses, and painful infections that can spread to the entire body. Luckily, there are many ways to do this, some of which I will touch on in the following Q&A questions commonly asked by dog owners.
Q: How often should I brush my dog’s teeth?
A: The good news is, you don’t have to brush your dog’s teeth every single day. Try to aim for 1-3 times a week, but the more the better.
Q: Can I use my own toothpaste on my dog?
A: ABSOLUTELY NOT! Human toothpaste contains ingredients that are toxic to dogs. You can purchase dog toothpaste online or in any pet store. You’ll want to purchase a canine toothbrush as well. My go-to is the Well & Good Dental Health Kit including a 2-sided angled toothbrush, paste, & two finger brushes.
Q: Help! My dog refuses to let me brush his teeth. What do I do?
A: Most dogs aren’t too keen on the idea of having their teeth brushed at first. However, if you do it often enough, you can easily train any dog to sit still, just as with bathing and nail-trimming. It's helpful to give your dog plenty of exercise beforehand to hopefully get them to sit still. Most dog toothbrushes are flavored, so turn tooth brushing time into a treat. As with any training, it's important to give lots of positive reinforcement and reassurance along the way. If you are really struggling, you may also seek advice from a veterinarian or trainer, or book a professional teeth cleaning service for your pet.
Most dogs aren’t too keen on the idea of having their teeth brushed at first. However, you can easily train them to ease into the habit, just as you did with bathing and nail trimming. Try using a delicious meat or peanut butter flavored toothpaste to make teeth brushing a treat instead of a chore. Remember to give lots of positive reinforcement and reassurance along the way. If you are really struggling, you may also seek advice from a veterinarian or trainer, or book professional teeth cleaning service for your pet.
Q: Besides teeth brushing, how else can I be proactive about my dog’s dental health?
A: Another great way to promote dental health are doggy dental treats. There are a variety of treats and dental chews that contain enzymes that help to break down plaque and tartar, in addition to the scraping of the teeth from chewing. Dogs love these delicious, healthy treats a LOT more than having their teeth brushed, so this is a good way to maintain a healthy mouth in between brushings. Some of my favorite affordable brands of dental chews/treats are Arm & Hammer Multi-Care Dental Mints and Bones & Chews All-Natural Dental Chew Sticks. Plus, what dog doesn't love treats?. Long-lasting treats like Nylabones are another low-effort, high-reward way of polishing up your pup's pearly whites.
Even if your dog's teeth appear to be perfectly healthy, it's important to have them checked properly every 6 to 12 months and manually check and clean your dog's teeth regularly. Dental care can be a hassle for canines and humans, but being proactive and consistently maintaining a healthy mouth will be a money-saver and potential life-saver in the long run. Keep your dog’s mouth clean, and you’ll both be smiling!