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No Dentures for Fido!

Dog Teeth
Taking care of puppy's teeth is very important. Thankfully, the pet care industry has made it very easy.

Every time you visit the dentist, you no doubt get the encouragement to thoroughly brush all of your teeth and the gentle (or maybe not so gentle) reminders about the importance of flossing. Those reminders are always good for us humans in order to maintain bright and healthy teeth and gums, but who reminds our furry friends to brush and floss? More to the point, have you ever seen a boxer or Jack Russell terrier pick up a toothbrush or spool of floss?

As important as dental care is for us humans, it is just as important for our canine and feline friends, but they need to rely on us for help. For decades, there was a common belief that just giving your pets bones or specific chew-toys would be enough to fight tartar and plaque and gum disease, but veterinarians now say it’s not enough.

Fortunately, the pet care industry has caught on and is trying to make the process of keeping your pet’s teeth clean easier for us. With specially flavored and formulated toothpaste and easy-to-use finger or double-sided toothbrushes, taking the time to care for your companion’s mouth is much easier than it was just a few years ago.

Before you take on this important healthcare practice, there are some critically important things to keep in mind.

  1. Never, ever use human toothpaste. Many of them contain ingredients and chemicals that can be harmful to dogs and cats if ingested. Make sure you use brands that are made specifically for animals. There are dozens of brands, with several having beef, chicken or other flavors that dogs enjoy. It’s also important not to use baking soda or powder because in large amounts, they can be toxic to dogs.
  2. Human toothbrushes may not be the best to use on pets. Many times they are too small or the bristles may be too hard or soft for the situation. Your pet supply store or veterinarian should have plenty of recommendations and choices for you.


Now that you have your supplies, the next big question is: how do you brush their teeth? If your pet has never had their teeth cleaned or brushed, it’s best to start slowly and let them get accustomed to the process. Don’t just rush right in and start brushing away; rather, gradually work with them to get used to you taking care of their teeth and gums. Brushing doesn’t have to be a daily activity, but rather once or twice a week should be enough to keep them healthy.

You can start by putting some of the pet toothpaste on your finger, hand or a treat and having them lick it off and get used to its taste and texture. Then over the next couple of times you can try gently rubbing it on their teeth – again, letting them get accustomed to the feel and taste of this new experience.

Over the course of a few weeks, you should then start incorporating a brush. One style that is very popular and easy for many pet caregivers is the rubberized cap that can fit over your finger, which you can then rub over the surface of your dog’s teeth. You can also use a more traditional toothbrush, but again, be reminded that it’s best to use one made specifically for dogs. For humans, many dentists recommend that we brush our teeth for two to three minutes, but for our furry friends, just 30 to 60 seconds can be enough to keep plaque and tarter and gum disease at bay.

If you are still feeling uncomfortable or just don’t feel like you can handle brushing your dog’s teeth, just ask your veterinarian – he or she will be grateful you asked and have your companion’s best healthcare interest at heart and can recommend ways to make it easier for you or can do the cleaning themselves! Either way, your dog will be healthier and happier and that’s what’s important!