Much goes into keeping your dog healthy: quality food, plenty of fitness, routine checkups, etc. But oral hygiene is an often-overlooked factor in your dog’s overall health. Daily brushing is ideal, or if impossible, aim for one every other day. However, it takes time; most dogs take some time getting used to the poking around in their mouth. Ideally, you should start with dental care when your pet is still a puppy. For adult dogs that need attention, take a slow, patient approach, and remember that love and treats go a long way in winning him over.
Dogs can’t care for their teeth themselves, but gnawing on the right product can help. Dogs love to eat, and crunchy food and chew treats can help with your overall efforts. While these items won’t replace the need to brush, they can help reduce unwanted buildup. A good long chew can help clean plaque and dirt, and most dogs will comply. Natural choices include rawhide or knucklebone that’s gentle on the teeth. For those dogs who abhor these natural choices, try out artificial bones or chew toys. Try out rubber or nylon toys with a rough/bumpy surface, and large enough to not present a choking hazard. Somewhat flexible, not rock hard.
You don’t want to share your toothbrush, so get your pet some supplies of its own. A human toothbrush will work well; choose a soft one and in a size that matches their mouth. Or get special canine toothbrushes that are angled.
Dogs are unlikely to spit, so get a toothpaste that’s safe to swallow. Human formulas contain abrasives and detergent chemicals that they shouldn’t ingest. The poultry or seafood options of canine toothpaste might be more to their liking.
Use wipes or pads to clean her teeth and gum line from bacteria and food. Canine dental pads are available at most pet stores, or even a simple gauze wrapped around your finger will do.
The next step is to convince your dog. Depending on the dog’s age and upbringing, it can take several days or even weeks to gain his cooperation. Don’t rush it.
He’ll need to get used to having you handle his muzzle. Start out with one hand under his lower jaw and the other on top, for a few seconds. Gradually manipulate his mouth by parting his lips, and then gently ease his jaw open.
Spend some time handling his mouth. Dab something tasty on your finger — peanut butter, nonfat yogurt or meat baby food. While letting him lick your finger, gently rub his teeth and gums. Using as many treats as needed, try to move his lips aside and expose more of the teeth.
Move his lips aside, and rub the visible teeth with either the toothbrush or your finger. A touch of canine toothpaste will spark his interest. Gradually increase the number of teeth you brush, and in a circular motion. Remember to brush along the gum line reapplying the toothpaste as needed. A few days into the routine, try opening up his jaw to brush the teeth at the back.
Always end the session with a special reward — play or treat — even if the process didn’t go smoothly. Once your dog forms a positive association with brushing, it may make him more agreeable next time.
Good dental care, both at home and from a professional, is a big part of keeping your dog healthy. With some patience and dedication, it can easily become a part of your lifestyle.
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