Today’s writer is Robbi Hess, Story Editor at Positively Woof. Robbi is sharing tips on how to keep your dog’s teeth healthy and clean and how much to teach your dog to watch television and DOGTV programming.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. In recognition of that we want to talk about how nutritional enrichment can keep your dog’s teeth healthy, how to brush your dog’s teeth and dog teeth cleaning costs. Pet parents understand the need for their dogs to have a healthy mouth. Just as a healthy mouth leads to better overall health in humans, the same is true for our dogs.

If your dog has an unhealthy mouth or is suffering dental issues, these other problems may arise:

  1. He won’t be able to chew his food and he will lose weight because he’s not eating
  2. He will have bad /worse breath
  3. He will be in pain (even if he doesn’t show it)
  4. A dog in pain may react in ways you wouldn’t anticipate — biting, snarling and just not acting like himself
  5. Dental health issues can lead to other health concerns with your dog’s heart

Dental-check up

When your dog goes to the veterinarian for an annual check-up your vet will check his teeth and show you if your dog has any tartar and plaque build up and can even point to any teeth that are infected. If your dog has a build-up of tartar or has teeth that are infected, your vet will probably recommend a dental cleaning. When your dog has a dental cleaning at the veterinarian’s office she will be put under anesthesia and will be in the vet’s office for about a half a day.

The cost of a dental health cleaning varies based on the size of your dog, the condition of her teeth and whether your vet will have to pull any teeth. Ask your veterinarian for an estimate for the dental cleaning so you can start saving for the procedure.

How Can You Keep Your Dog’s Teeth Healthy And Clean?

What steps can you take to enrich your dog’s diet so he has a healthier mouth?

Food matters. Feed your dog crunchy foods that will help remove plaque and tartar when he chews. Crunchy treats like carrots or even apples can help loosen and remove tartar. Avoid sticky foods that will cling to his teeth and could cause cavities or other dental concerns. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations for foods that help clean your dog’s teeth as he eats.

Dental check-ups. We’d mentioned your vet will look in your dog’s mouth when she’s there for her annual check-up. Your veterinarian will pull back your dog’s lips and look at her teeth and gums and give you insight into the state of her dental health. Ask your veterinarian for information on other ways to keep your dog’s teeth clean between dental check-ups and in-office cleanings, in addition to your brushing his teeth.

Chew toys. Look for chew toys that state they are “good for dental health” or those that “help remove plaque and tartar.” While those toys cannot be relied upon to be your dog’s only dental care, if your dog is a chewer, gnawing on dental chew toys may help remove or loosen plaque and tartar.

Dental care involves brushing your dog’s teeth in addition to a healthy diet

If you have never brushed your dog’s teeth you may wonder how it’s done. We have tips below! Start slowly and make it a treat and a bonding time for you and your dog.  

How to brush your dog’s teeth

  1. Get your dog accustomed to your having your fingers in his mouth, touching his teeth and gums and lifting his lips.
  2. Put a small amount of dog toothpaste on your fingertip, let your dog lick it off then put your finger in his mouth, rub gently on his teeth and gums. Start slowly and work your way up to keeping your finger in there for a longer time.
  3. Once your dog is accustomed to your finger in his mouth — and you could have been just using your fingertip or a fingertip toothbrush during this phase you can move up to brushing.
  4. Invest in a dog toothbrush, don’t use a human toothbrush, that is suited to your dog’s mouth. Put a little toothpaste on it and start brushing his teeth. You may only get your dog to sit still while you brush a few of his teeth. If he is getting anxious, stop. You don’t want to have tooth brushing time be a time of anxiety for your dog. In fact, you may want to turn on DOGTV when you’re brushing his teeth. The soothing sights and sounds may keep your dog interested and distracted and relaxed enough that he will let you brush his teeth.
  5. Keep working on brushing his teeth every day until you reach the point where he will sit for a full mouth brush. Every time you brush, talk in a soothing voice to him, praise him and once you’re done give him a healthy treat.
  6. Try to brush your dog’s teeth daily. We know that sometimes with your busy life, it may be impossible to do that, but know if you’re brushing his teeth more days than you’re not, his dental health will benefit.

If you’re uncertain on how to get started on a routine of brushing your dog’s teeth, talk with your veterinarian and ask him/her to show you how it’s done. Let’s see your dog’s healthy smiles!