Proper dental care is crucial to your dog's overall health, but between the varying degrees of bad breath, vast array of chew toys, and mysteries of brushing a dog's teeth, it's easy to get lost in what works and what doesn't. We've cut through the noise and set out below an easy routine to follow that should keep your pooch's smile happy and healthy, so grab that toothbrush and get ready to polish some pearly whites!
Regular Brushing Is Key
We can't stress enough how important it is to regularly brush your pup's teeth! Just like humans, bacteria and plaque builds up in a dog's mouth, and if you don't clean your dog's teeth at least several times a week, that plaque can become tartar and open the door to an array of dental infections and diseases. Having a hard time getting your dog to let you brush her teeth? Flavored doggy toothpaste can change that! From peanut butter to chicken flavors, letting your dog lick a tiny bit of the toothpaste will make her enjoy the experience more as she'll associate the process as a treat rather than as unpleasant maintenance.
Proper Brushing Technique
Make sure you get a toothbrush specifically made for dogs. Depending on your dog's temperament, you can get ones with handles or ones that are finger brushes (kind of like soft thimbles). For my dog, I use a finger brush vs. a handled brush because she's more passive with my fingers inside her mouth (we've trained her not to bite), so I can better clean her teeth. When brushing, don't forget to brush gently along the gum line, as well as on the inside wall of her teeth. Start brushing your dog's teeth when she's young—this way, she can get used to it from an early age and won't put up a fight when you try to get the grit off her pearly whites.
Dental Toys—Effective or Not?
Chew toys are a great way to strengthen your dog's teeth and gums, but only in addition to a regular brushing routine. Chopping down on rawhide, nylon, rubber, and even rope toys help massage your pooch's gums and scrape soft tartar off their teeth. But remember, dental toys are a great supplement to a brushing routine, and not a substitute.
The Many Degrees of Bad Breath
Okay, so your dog's breath might not smell like roses, but that's okay—dogs aren't known for particularly fresh-smelling breath. Next time you're at the vet, have her smell your pooch's breath to see if it's in the norm. If it is, use this as a guiding point so you know if your pup's breath is within the healthy range, and once it's not, take him to the vet for a dental checkup. Other signs that your dog might be suffering from a dental infection or disease are swollen gums (his gums should be pink, not red or white), loss of appetite, or vomiting.
The moral of the story? A simple, regular dental routine will keep your dog's teeth healthy, and healthy dogs are happy dogs. Brush his teeth at least several times a week, make sure he has some chew toys to chomp on, and check his gums and teeth weekly for any signs of infection or disease.