How to brush your dog's teeth and look after their dental hygiene | TeamDogs
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How to brush your dog's teeth and look after their dental hygiene

Giving your pets teeth a good brush a few times a week will help keep your dog's mouth clean

Laura Davies

Posted 6 months ago ago

Looking after our dog’s teeth is just as important as looking after our own. Just like us, dogs can get rotten teeth and gum problems. Brushing your dog’s teeth is the best way to keep their mouth healthy. Giving their teeth a good brush a few times a week will help keep their mouth healthy and avoid them getting into any pain. 

Do I need to brush my dog's teeth?

It is important to look after your dog's teeth. Although they are not prone to cavities like humans, they can still develop problems like tartar, plaque buildup and gingivitis. Severe dental disease can result in teeth requiring extraction or permanent damage to the underlying bone.

When should I start brushing my dog's teeth?

It is a good idea to get your dog used to having their teeth brushed when your dog is a puppy. They quickly get used to it as part of their routine. If you didn't get your dog as a puppy, tooth brushing can start as soon as your new dog is settled in your home and you feel comfortable doing so. It’s never too late to start, though, and older dogs will soon get used to a good scrub. 

What should I use to clean my dog's teeth?

You can buy special toothbrushes and toothpaste for your dog. It’s important to use pet toothpaste as it is safe for your dog to swallow. You should buy enzymatic toothpaste, which helps break down plaque and reduces bad breath. Never use human toothpaste as this is toxic to dogs.

How do I brush my dog's teeth?

Picture: The Dogs Trust

The Dogs Trust give the following advice when it comes to brushing your pet's teeth.

  1. Pop a little bit of the toothpaste on to your dog's food. This will help them get accustomed to the taste.
  2. After a few days, put a little bit on your finger and encourage your dog to lick it off.
  3. When you feel confident enough, rub your finger across your dog's teeth and gums without toothpaste to get the dog used to the brushing action. You can then apply some of the toothpaste to the teeth using your finger. If your dog looks uncomfortable at any point, stop what you are doing. Continue this approach slowly over a few sessions until your dog is used to the taste and sensation.
  4. You can now try using a toothbrush. There is no need to full open the mouth to do this; by lifting the upper of lower lip you will have access to the teeth. Brush all the teeth using a circular motion concentrating on the gum line. Once your dog is used to the sensation of the brush, you can add the toothpaste. Ideally tooth brushing should be repeated every 24-48 hours.

Are there any other ways I can keep my dog's teeth healthy? 

The PDSA recommends brushing your dog’s teeth regularly in order to keep their teeth clean and healthy. But there are some other things you can do in between brushes to help maintain a healthy mouth.

You can buy toys that are designed to clean your dog’s teeth as they chew on them.

Dental chews and specialist foods can also help to keep your dog’s mouth healthy. Be careful not to feed your dog too many of these as it could make them overweight.

Don’t feed them too many sugary treats as this can cause more bacteria to build up on your dog’s teeth.

Don’t feed your dog bones as these can damage your dog’s teeth. Bones can also break into splinters which can damage their gums and throat.

Have you noticed your dog’s breath is a bit smellier than usual?

It might be that they need introducing to a regular tooth brushing routine. However, there are few health issues that might cause bad breath too:

Dental disease: If your dog is struggling with rotten teeth or gum infections, brushing won’t help and can cause them pain. Your dog will need a trip to the vet to get checked out. Your vet will examine your dog’s mouth and advise you about any treatment that might be needed.

Kidney disease: Your dog’s kidneys clean their blood and filter out waste into their urine. If their kidneys aren’t working properly it can make their breath smell like ammonia (similar to the smell of wee).

Diabetes: If your dog has diabetes their breath might start smelling sweet or fruity. This is because their body is struggling to control how much sugar in their blood.

Something stuck in their mouth: If your dog has something stuck in their teeth or gums, bacteria can build up and cause a bad smell.

Mouth tumour: This is very rare but it’s important not to ignore any signs like bad breath, excessive drooling or difficulty chewing.

It is important to get these health issues checked out. Once any underlying problems have been ruled out by your vet, you might want to start brushing to try and improve your dog’s breath.

What are the signs my dog may have dental disease? 

If your dog has serious problems with their teeth they’ll need to be seen by their vet – brushing alone won’t solve the painful problem.

Dental disease can be very painful for your dog and it can have a big impact on how much they enjoy life. Warning signs that your dog had a serious problem are:

  • bad breath (all the time, not just after meals)
  • yellow/brown coloured teeth
  • red or bleeding gums
  • difficulty eating or not wanting to eat
  • dropping food from their mouth
  • weight loss
  • rubbing their face
  • dribbling

If your dog shows any of these signs, speak to your vet. They’ll be able to talk to you about the best treatment for your dog and how you can help them start to feel better.


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