A healthy mouth is as important to pets (dogs – and cats, too!) as it is to humans. It can even help prolong their life! Dental Disease is nothing to scoff at. In advanced stages, the bacteria can enter the blood stream and affect the organs of the body. To keep your dog healthy, the mouth is a great place to start.
There are a lot of dental products out there, and while all of them certainly have their place or may be “better than nothing” – nothing beats good ol’ tooth brushing.
Why is brushing better? When you brush your pet’s teeth you can target all areas of the mouth. This includes all teeth, gums, tongue, and even the roof of their mouth.
When you rely on sprays, gels, or water additives, they may coat the entire mouth, they may soften plaque and tartar, but they are missing one crucial component – the mechanical action of scrubbing. A brush gets in there and removes debris on the teeth. These other “easier” products can leave a lot of gunk behind, relying on your pet’s movements to remove any plaque and tartar.
Dental chews, bones, and similar treats are great and can help reduce build up. The only problem with these are that they tend to chew only with their back teeth. They are also like us and prefer to chew on one side of the mouth more than the other. This leads to uneven cleaning, and ignores their non-chewing teeth completely.
I like an “all guns blazing” approach and I use a lot of different products. I try to brush both of my dogs’ teeth daily. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. If I were to average it out over a whole year, I probably average 3-4 times a week.
My biggest tip for brushing your pet’s teeth is to find when it’s convenient for you and make it a routine. I keep their toothbrushes and toothpaste under the bathroom sink. The dogs follow me everywhere, so after I brush my teeth before bed, I brush their teeth too. I like doing it at night because they’ve eaten already and now they will go the whole night with clean teeth until they eat breakfast in the morning. That system works for me, find what works for you!
I also suggest finding a toothpaste your pet loves. After trying countless products, I’ve discovered my dogs prefer CET Enzymatic Toothpaste. Do not use toothpaste made for humans because they are not made to be consumed. Since pets can’t rinse and spit they can cause various medical problems, some of them serious.
Don’t worry about buying a fancy pet specific toothbrush, the cheap $1 kids toothbrush from the grocery store is all you need.
While it’s my goal to keep each of my dogs’ mouths as healthy and clean as possible on my own, I do not shy away from professional dental cleanings from veterinarians. My dogs will get them when my vet recommends them. In most cases, dogs will need annual cleanings or at least bi-annual. Talk to your vet, they can guide you. I know they are expensive, but it will be worth it. If your dog is an adult and has never had their teeth cleaned, I’d likely recommend a professional consult and potential cleaning before you spend a bunch of money on all the routine dental care we’ve just covered. If there is already a lot of build up on the teeth, the routine care won’t be doing as much (though, it will still help a little) for your pet. You’ll just be brushing the buildup, not their teeth.
My challenge for you is, if you’re not doing anything, do something. If you’re doing something, do it better, or add something else. We can always be better. Pet dental care is too important to sweep under the rug or get lazy on. In fact, I’m going to go brush Sherlock and Irene’s teeth right now!