Although fresh breath and pearly whites are a benefit of brushing your dog’s teeth, doing so is actually a vital part of ensuring your pet’s overall good health, too. Most dog owners are unaware that their pets can and do get periodontal (gum) disease and that it can be detrimental to the animal’s health. Simply brushing your dog’s teeth regularly can help prevent the buildup up plaque and tartar that leads to gum disease and other more serious health issues.
Experts estimate that a majority of dogs over the age of five years has periodontal disease. Periodontal disease results from food and bacteria that collects along the gum line, first forming plaque, and then eventually tartar. Over time, tartar causes gum inflammation, pain and tooth loss. Periodontal disease can also lead to the spread of infection throughout the body to the heart, kidneys, liver and brain. Once a dog has periodontal disease, there is no cure, so prevention is crucial in keeping him happy and healthy.
When to Brush your Dog’s Teeth
Veterinarians will tell you that ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth every day. If this schedule does not work for you, it is very important that you brush his teeth at least three times a week.
Small dogs and those with short or flat noses (called brachycephalic breeds) may require more frequent brushing because their teeth are often crooked and/or crowded, which cause food and bacteria to become trapped much easier, increasing the risk of periodontal disease.
What you need to Brush your Dog’s Teeth
Pet stores carry pet toothbrushes in many sizes and styles. Some are just like human toothbrushes, while others fit over your finger like the finger of a glove. Still others are simple dental sponges. If your dog is resistant to these tools, a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger will do the trick.
Only use toothpaste specifically designed for your pet. Pet stores and vets’ offices carry pet toothpaste in a variety of flavors that will entice your dog to allow you to brush. Never use human toothpaste. Your dog will definitely swallow some of the paste during brushing and human toothpaste may make him sick.
Good Dog Dental Care
- Take your dog in for annual checkups on his teeth. As he gets older, your vet may recommend periodic cleanings to keep his teeth healthy.
- Make dry food available to your pet, especially if he eats a diet of mainly canned food. The crunching will help remove plaque buildup.
- Begin brushing your dog’s teeth when he is a puppy. It is much easier to continue with the practice than it is to “train” an older dog to like it.
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