Dogs bring all kinds of joy to our lives. They serve as constant companions, bringing a bit of joy to every day. For many people, they even serve as surrogate children.
And just like with kids, we’re willing to deal with all kinds of gross things to take care of our four-legged friends. We follow behind them and dutifully clean up their poop, like servants following a medieval king with his chamber pot. And when their teeth need cleaning, we get down and dirty and do the job.
So, how do you take care of your dog’s teeth? Just as importantly, how do you do it without causing any discomfort? The right combination of diet, toys, and regular dental care will do the trick. Let’s take a closer look!
Does my Dog Need Dental Care?
Now, most dogs don’t need the same kind of dental care as humans. Modern humans eat sugar-rich diets that are perfect food for cavity-causing bacteria. As a result, we have to brush our teeth on a daily basis.
Dogs’ diets tend to be drier, rich in protein, and low in sugar. As a result, they won’t develop cavities as quickly or as easily. But they’re still susceptible to the same dental problems that people can suffer from. You might only need to brush their teeth about once a week, but it should still be done.
How Do I Clean My Dog’s Teeth?
Cleaning your dog’s teeth involves two steps – getting them used to the toothbrush, and getting them used to actually being brushed. To get them used to the brush, first put a dab of canine toothbrush and hold it out to them. Let them sniff at it and become comfortable with it. Do this a few times until they reliably eat the toothpaste off the brush.
Once this is done, you should be able to start brushing. The key here is to be as gentle as possible. Maintain a soft, gentle touch so they get used to the feel of the brush on their teeth and gums. Even once they’re used to the brush, continue to be very gentle. Dog mouths are sensitive, and even heavy plaque will come off over time with several gentle brushings.
What Tools Do I Need to Keep My Dog’s Teeth Clean?
So, what do you need to clean your dog’s teeth? There are a number of tools, toys, and treats that can be incredibly helpful. Let’s take a closer look at each category.
For most dogs, a simple toothbrush will do the job. No, not a human toothbrush! Doggie mouths are more sensitive than human mouths, and even soft bristle brushes can hurt them.
Instead, look for a toothbrush that’s designed specifically for dogs. Typically, these consist of a rubber tube that slips over your finger, with little silicone or rubber nubs to provide some friction.
Even with these types of brushes, dogs with very sensitive gums can experience pain. You want your dog to be happy and comfortable, so you’ll need to find an alternative.
Teeth & Gum Cleaning Pens
So, what do you do if your dog’s gums are too sensitive for a toothbrush? One great solution is to use a specially-designed gel pen. With a gel pen, you don’t have to do any type of scrubbing. Instead, you gently sweep the pen over the dog’s teeth and gums. This makes a gel pen suitable for almost any dog.
Dr. Brite Teeth & Gum Cleaning Pens are all-natural, so you don’t have to worry about artificial flavors and chemicals. The main active ingredients are non-acidic Vitamin C and soothing bioflavonoids. The Vitamin C is human-grade, which is as safe as it gets.
Some dogs simply won’t sit still long enough for a constant cleaning. Moreover, dogs with extremely sensitive gums may not even be able to tolerate a gel pen. In that case, an oral spray is a great backup option. You just have to convince your dog to open their mouth, and give them a spritz.
The Dr. Brite Oral Cleansing Spray has similar all-natural ingredients to their gel pens. Both the spray and the pens are also safe for cats as well as dogs. If you prefer to use the pen, but want the spray as a backup, they’re available in a complete Oral Wellness Bundle.
A chew toy is a great way to have fun with your dog at the same time as you care for their teeth. You can play fetch or tug of war, and their teeth will be getting a good scrubbing from the friction on the toy. Best of all, your dog won’t even know they’re receiving dental care.
It’s a sneaky way to get them to cooperate! This is especially true for puppies, who hate sitting still under the best of circumstances.
That said, not all dog toys are well-suited for cleaning your dog’s teeth. The toys need to be specially designed for dental use. Typically, these toys are textured or rubberized to provide light scrubbing action.
Dental Care Pet Treats
Another way to sneak dental care into your dog’s daily routine is to give them a treat. When you think about it, this is a no-brainer. Dogs love treats, so you don’t have to struggle to get them to eat.
Of course, there are a couple of caveats to this. First, it’s important that they’re the right kind of treats. Any type of hard treat, like a milk bone, is a good start. There are plenty of other dental care treats on the market, though. Just read the packaging and exercise common sense.
Another thing to be aware of is that most treats aren’t actually “healthy,” per-se. Think of them like dental-friendly cookies. A couple can be a good thing, but if you’re feeding your dog treats all day long, they’re going to put on weight and develop other health problems.
When Should I See a Vet?
Looking at all of these tools, toys, and treats, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Ask your vet for advice if you’re not sure what to do. They can make better recommendations, because they know your dog’s individual dental history. They also know how sensitive your dog’s gums are.
In addition, there are a few “red flags” that indicate that your dog may have a serious dental issue. If you see any of the following symptoms, don’t wait until your dog’s annual checkup. Schedule a vet visit right away to get them checked out.
- Bad breath. Not just ordinary dog breath, but a consistent, foul, rotting odor that lasts for more than a day. This can indicate a cavity, which needs to be addressed immediately.
- A sudden change in eating habits, or avoiding beloved chew toys. This can indicate that your dog’s mouth is in pain. The same is true if your dog is pawing at their face or mouth, or if they’re drooling more than usual.
- Discolored teeth. Obviously, you should seek urgent attention for a broken or missing tooth, since this can be extremely painful for your dog.
- Gums that are swollen, painful, red, or bleeding.
- Yellow or brown crust (tartar) along the gumline.
- Depression or “slowing down” can also be a sign that your dog is suffering from an oral condition. Don’t take it for granted that your elderly dog is just “getting slow.” They may be experiencing chronic mouth pain that’s sapping their zest for life.