Periodontal disease or dental disease is one of the most common health issues in our pets today. Many people know about “dog breath”, but did you know there is actually something that can be done about it? Halitosis or bad breath is one of the first symptoms of dental disease and it can be controlled by, BRUSHING! That is right, the best way to help control dental disease is to brush your pets teeth!!!
I get it, I have to worry about brushing my own teeth, my kids teeth, AND my pets teeth, you can guess who normally ends up at the bottom of that priority list (naught pet mom!) Here’s the thing though, it does have to be a chore if you start out right. That doesn’t necessarily mean starting from puppy hood, you can start with an adult!
Here is some simple steps to set yourself up for success in brushing
- Left the lip
It all starts with the lip. Just start by getting your dog (or cat) used to being touching on their muzzle/face. Praise them with lots of pets and treats the entire time you are working with this. Slowly work your way to having them be ok with fingers on their lips. Then work with just sliding your finger under their lip. Eventually you want them to be ok with you lift their lips back and exposing all their teeth. This is a great way to look for problems in their mouth as well.
2. Introduce the tooth paste
Make sure you are using a FLUORIDE FREE tooth paste. Dog and cat tooth paste is available and the nice thing about that is the fact that it comes in flavors your pet will enjoy! When introducing tooth paste put a small amount on your finger and allow them to lick it, if they don’t like the flavor you can try another one until you find one they may like. This step should be a reward in itself for your pet!
3. Introduce the brushing tool
I use the word tool because some animals just refuse to allow a brush into their mouth. I personally use my finger with a gauze square wrapped around it with tooth paste because I find it easier then a brush. Traditional brushes and finger brushes are the most common brushing tools out there though. Once your pet enjoys the tooth paste you can apply the paste to your tool. Slowly work your way up to having your pet ok with massaging the gums and teeth.
4. Brush, Brush. Brush!
Ultimately the goal is to not make brushing a fight. I usually recommend doing this when your pet is calm. Usually at the end of the night when you are relaxing. Keep the brushing supplies near by, do not make a big “to do” about getting up and grabbing the supplies. I usually keep brushing AND nail trimming supplies in the family room where we spend the majority of our time in the evening.
Brushing is by far the best way to keep your pet’s teeth clean, but there are other options that help:
- Chews: Make sure you are using a chew that is not too hard because hard chews can break teeth, leading to more problems. You also want to make sure that your dog is not able to chew off pieces that could be swallowed and potentially cause an intestinal blockage. Some dogs should not have chews because of this problem. Another down side of chews is that they really only clean the teeth used for chewing and they miss the front incisors and canine teeth.
- Rinses: Most rinses do have some enzymatic cleaner in them which can help break down plaque on the teeth. They are not ideal, but if your pet tolerates that more than brushing it is still better than nothing. The mechanical act of brushing really helps remove bacteria from the teeth, which is something that rinses miss.
- Water additives: I do not like these. In my mind they take away from fresh, clean water that your pet should have access too. Not to mention the way your pet drinks, they pull water in on their tongue and the water really only touches the insides of the teeth.
Veterinary Dentists recommend brushing at least 3 days a week. In my opinion I say do what you can. The more you brush the better it is for your pet and the healthier they will be, but ANYTHING is better than nothing.