Dogs and teeth – best possible dental care and oral hygiene

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Meeting people with bad breath is not a pleasant affair seen from my eyes. It becomes uncomfortable to be in the immediate vicinity of the person concerned. The risk of poor feedback from others around you is quite high since most people will involuntarily react with a body language that is partly dismissive. The health factor in poor oral hygiene should not be underestimated, as there are major health consequences in poor dental and oral hygiene.

That’s also applicable for our dear four-legged friends. Dogs and teeth need the best possible dental care in order for us to be allowed to keep them in the family for as long as possible. Remnants of food and treats are left on teeth and in the mouth, as it does for us humans. It is scientifically proven that gum disease is the most widespread health problem for dogs.

How should we help make the dog’s oral hygiene the best possible?

Adapting to dental care

Beaphar toothpaste chicken flavor
Beaphar chicken-flavoured toothpaste

When Nemi moved in with us, we probably had more focus on other aspects of a dog’s life than her dental health. There was more focus on doing potty training and that she ate correctly, than learning good routines for the best possible oral hygiene.

The most important advice I can give after having had a dog for 6 years, is to take it easy! Do not stress when it is time for dogs and teeth. It makes the dog unsafe and stressed, and it will be a bad experience for both parties.  Another good advice is to start as early as possible with adaptation to dental care.

I want to share my family´s routine with Nemi and hope it can benefit others:

      • Brush 2 times a day.
      • Take plenty of time. For our dog, that means about 5 minutes total on the whole process.
      • Create a good mood and anticipation for the dog. Let her play a little with the toothbrush before the start.
      • Have something comfortable to sit on for the dog, and have all the equipment for dental care ready and within reach;
        1. Toothbrush, two heads, one large head, the other head small to get easier access to her teeth. A Toothbrush for children with soft bristles can also be used.
        2. Microfiber finger toothbrush.
        3. Mouth rinse or cleansing gel for additional cleansing and good breath.
        4. A small thin towel of microfiber or a little gauze.
        5. Treats for reward.

Let the dog get familiar with the toothbrush. We let Nemi play with his toothbrush n the beginning. We have continued with this practice. I makes her comfortable with the whole thing.

  • Let the dog sit either in front of you, next to you, between your legs with her back towards you.
  • Let the dog’s head rest in your hand (I have a small dog, might not work so well with a big dog), and gently lift its lips upon each side and start brushing with the toothbrush
  • Make sure to get to the whole line of teeth, but be patient. The first few times the dog won’t let you hold on for very long. This changes gradually.
  • After the teeth have been cleaned, try brushing/cleaning the gums and lips (soft brush or a small towel dipped in saltwater.
  • Finally, we drip a couple of drops of FreshBreath Gel on each side of her mouth. This causes Nemi to lick the gel so that it spreads throughout the oral cavity.

This whole process takes about 5 minutes. Finish off with treats that are good for your dog’s teeth and oral hygiene. Do not forget to keep the dog away from the water bowl until 30 minutes after the brushing of the teeth.

Toothbrushes and Finger Brushes

double head toothbrush
double head toothbrush

We use both a toothbrush and a fingerbursh when cleaning Nemi’s teeth. First we brush with a toothbrush, the biggest head, in the same way the dentist taught us in elementary school. We make sure to get to every spot in her mouth we can. Where it is a little cramped and difficult we switch to the small head. It is smart to take a little break in between, so that it doesn’t get too much at a time for the dog.

The back of her mouth is hard to reach. We try with the toothbrush, but not always with particular luck. If not we’ll try with the finger brush.

A fingerbrush is a good addition to the toothbrush. This combination allows us to use mechanized removal of plaque and impurities on the teeth of our dog. In several cases, perhaps a fingerbrush can work better, if the dog is not familiar with a toothbrush.

Toothpaste and Mouthwash

freshbreath gel
freshbreath gel

It is not necessary to use toothpaste when brushing the teeth of your dog. It works well without, but toothpaste with a good flavour for the dog, e.g. chicken taste, makes the dog very much more cooperative.

We let our dog lick the toothbrush for a minute (with chicken flavoured toothpaste), before we start brushing her teeth. It works great, and we add a bit more of toothpaste during the process.

At the end, we add a few drops of mouth rinse in gel form on either side of the mouth. Nemi will automatically start licking her mouth and teeth. This allows the dental care agent to be distributed around her oral cavity. The gel is supposed to prevent plaque and it kills bad breath. It smells like “Freshmint” and it seems like Nemi loves the taste.

The same gel drops are also sold as an additive to your dogs water bowl. You drip it into the drinking water. If the dog accepts this, which Nemi did not, it is a good addition to good oral hygiene.

Other Methods of Tooth Cleaning and Good Oral Hygiene for Dogs

Photo by Aditya Joshi on Unsplash
Photo by Aditya Joshi on Unsplash

We’ve tried a number of other methods to keep our dog’s mouth and teeth healthy. Some of these methods she has not taken an interest in and we have not continued with these methods.

  • Dry dog food:
    • Nemi eats high-quality dry dog food. The food is very beneficial for the dogs’ overall health and for dental health. The food´s ingredients stimulate saliva formation in the dog’s mouth. The saliva of the dog helps to prevent plaque in normal cases.
  • Chewing bones
    • Chewing bones can be made of different materials. Common to all of them is that they are “hard” enough that the dog has to work on the bone to get to the good stuff. You can also give the dogs regular bones. Regular bones work great in regards to dental health, but there is a risk of bone chips, which is dangerous to the dog. We’ve tried to give Nemi chewing, but she’s shown little interest in them. It can be an idea and try again now that she’s getting older.
      If you give your dog chewing bones, don’t leave your dog alone. If bites get stuck it is important to provide quick help. If a chip of the bone gets stuck, immediate help is of the essence.
  • Marrow bones
    • According to research, it takes only three years for half of all dog population to get plaque. At the age of 12 years, almost all dogs have plaque. Research has been done of giving dogs that marrow bones during a period of time. The research showed that dogs had a reduced incidence of plaque by up to 75%.
  • Chewing toys, rubber
    chewing toys rubber
    chewing toys, rubber
    • toys made of rubber work well for many dogs. They are exciting to chew on and durable. Several of the rubber toys are made in order to hide or attach treats to them. For Nemi, this has been a success. Try it, it will be a success.
  • Dried fish
    • There are several dog owners who use dried fish both as a treat with the result of good dental health. It tastes and smells good for the dog. We’ve been giving this to Nemi for some time and it’s worked out well. Unfortunately, we had to stop stockfish when Nemi got badly in the stomach of it and threw up.

Veterinarian Services

The vet is a priceless sparring partner for the dog’s health, also dental health. But unfortunately, a trip to the vet for dental care can be very expensive. We have had Nemi for teeth cleaning several times and each time this has cost us about Nkr.2500,-. No cheap affair, but it is recommended to get a dental check done once a year. Several veterinarians offer a dental check-up for free. Dental checks can disclose health problems and save the dog’s health and as such cause you a financial shock.

The dental treatment for dogs involves putting the dog in general anaesthesia. It is always associated with risk when putting the dog under general anaesthetic and you should not do this too often.

Lately, moe offers for dental care for dogs has surfaced. As a result, prices have started to become more manageable.

Some Final Thoughts

Spend some time in the evening and in the morning to care for your dog’s teeth. Start the adaptation to oral health early and be consistent, so that this becomes a routine. Do annual dental health checks for your dog and, make sure to have a good insurance policy that also covers dental care for your dog.

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