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FAQs - Brushing your dogs teeth

Brushing your dogs teeth

Not as scarey as it sounds...

Your vet will of course tell you what state your dogs teeth and gums are in and how best to deal with any problem. In the mean time be suspicious about light browny tartar building up on his teeth, or a red rim appearing along his gum line, or bleeding gums. These are signs of poor tooth/gum health.

If your dog has serious tooth/gum problems nothing will be anywhere near as effective as brushing. Whatever the promotional literature says, commercial chews alone will not cure a serious gum problem. The good news is that if you introduce brushing carefully, it will become a no-fuss, effective, pleasant process. I brush my two dogs teeth in five minutes.

Most dogs naturally have an inbuilt 'taboo' about letting people fiddle with their teeth. With progressive and gentle handling this can be overcome to make toothbrushing a welcome excuse for a cuddle. I've used the following procedure successfully with four dogs, one with a major hang-up about having his mouth touched.

Before you start brushing his teeth

If you clean his teeth while he is laying down it reduces the likelihood of him moving away from you, and he'll eventually come to relax more. If you can anticipate which way he will keel-over, choose the side he will go towards, that way he will roll onto your lap rather than away from you. Because he's almost laying in your arms, you'll be able to tell if he's relaxed. If he's not relaxed, don't do so much. You'll feel him tense up if he's not happy, or he'll get up and walk off. Don't try and hold him still, let him go and do something he can handle more easily next time.

Remember that you only need to brush the outside surfaces of the teeth, he'll keep the inside surfaces clean. Like your own, brush his teeth with little circular movements on the gum line.

You can buy proper dog toothbrushes, or use a small headed human toothbrush with soft bristles. When I've finished with my own small head Oral B's for sensitive teeth, I pass them on to my dogs. Some people like the little rubber thimble things with soft fat bristles (vets usually sell them), personally I've never got on very well with these.

While you are both on the 'learning curve' don't approach his teeth if you are in a hurry. Be relaxed, be patient.

The key thing in the learning stages is not to do too much at once and don't rush on to the next stage until he is relaxed at the current level. Even if you move on to bicarbonate of soda (cheap + effective) later, I'd suggest starting with a meaty flavour toothpaste (more expensive + very effective) from your vet, which the dogs seem to love. Don't use human toothpaste as it froths up and dogs don't generally like the flavour.

Warning: Do not be tempted to chip tartar off his teeth, dog tooth enamel is much softer than ours, and you'll probably scare him.

How do I brush his teeth?

I took one dog through the process outlined below in three weeks, while another took six months. Don't move on to the next step until he is relaxed at the current stage.

  1. Start by feeling his teeth gently through his cheeks.
  2. Put some dog toothpaste on one finger and rub it on an easily accessible front tooth and associated gum area. He'll have minutes of fun licking the toothpaste off, starting to build a positive association.
  3. Gradually increase the number of easily accessible front teeth and gum area you rub toothpaste on.
  4. When he's happy with all the front ones being touched, start to work backwards towards the back teeth, one tooth at a time.
  5. When he'll let you rub all of his teeth with your finger, repeat from step 2 with a toothbrush. Rub with your finger the teeth not being done by the toothbrush.

Easy-peasy! Now the only thing to remember is not to leave the toothbrush on the floor or he'll probably try to eat it.

Not from the SpeakEasy, unfortunately this wasn't really covered by a thread, but its worth documenting so I put this together based on my own (non-commercial, non-professional) experience. Jill


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