According to the American Veterinary Dental College, it's estimated that 80% of dogs show signs of canine periodontal disease by three years old. Untreated dental disease not only can cause tooth loss, it can also lead to systemic infections throughout your dog's body; including a heart disease.
If you have a new puppy or it's both you and your pup's first time at this, here are some tips that we hope might help:
- Setting a routine is important. Choose to do it at a regular time i.e before bedtime! Personal experience shows using a key phrases (e.g brush teeth!) and showing them the toothbrush daily helped them familiarize themselves with the experience.
- Make sure your dog is comfortable and at a safe place so it doesn't feel threatened or the need to squirm away
- Practice touch and reward - lift the top lip up (we find it helpful to hold the fur below his chin for support) and touch the teeth, same goes for the bottom. When your dog allows that, reward it with a small treat or a praise
- Once your dog is familiar with that, introduce an appropriately-sized toothbrush or finger brush. Again, touch and reward to familiarize your dog with the item with positivity
- Introduce toothpaste by allowing the dog to lick and smell it first - its important to use a dog-toothpaste as they swallow it!
- Add the toothpaste to the toothbrush and start with brushing the front teeth. Reward and praise!
- Once your dog is comfortable with front teeth, you can now move to the sides and back teeth, holding the fur below his chin for support and lifting his lip open. Be as gentle as needed so your dog remains calm
- Getting their teeth brushed is unnatural. To make this a positive experience, praise and reward with treats. It might seem counterintuitive but the teaching the process is the initial goal and removing the food from the equation can happen later!
Don't rush the process! It can take days to weeks for your dog to get used to the process but in the long run, this habit will keep your dog healthy and living longer. A regular dental check during their annual vet visit is just as important to make sure you're not missing anything.
Chewing can also help clean your dog's teeth and gums as the act of it helps smooth the teeth and scrapes away at tartar. It also increases saliva that cleanses your dog's mouth. Pet dental treats or chew toys are great for in between brushing sessions if you're not brushing their teeth daily (3-4x a week is recommended if you don't have the time to do it daily!)
If your dog really hates the process, we also recommend using a dental spray to ease the process or kick-start it!
You can find toothbrushes, dental spray and even dog-friendly toothpaste right here.