How often should I brush my dog’s teeth?
Do you think you are in the running for the number 1 pet parent? If you don’t brush Fido’s teeth, dog breath could cost you the title.
Veterinarians generally recommend brushing your dog’s teeth daily, and at least 2-3 times a week.
And even if you love your Goodest Boy and endlessly scratch your belly, we know you’re probably not doing this (guilty 🙋😫).
Here’s why helping your dog with oral hygiene really should be part of your routine and how it can keep your pup healthy.
Not brushing your dog’s teeth leaves him vulnerable to periodontal disease, mouth pain, tooth loss, infections, and other health issues. (Poor kids!)
Just like with our own grinders, plaque hardens into tartar on your canine teeth if they are not brushed regularly. Tartar under the gumline causes inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) which can progress to painful periodontal disease.
“Dental disease is the most commonly diagnosed health problem in dogs,” says veterinarian Douglas Kratt, former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “In fact, most dogs show signs of dental disease by age 3. All dog breeds are susceptible, although miniature and small breeds are particularly at risk.
“Dogs with dental disease are also at risk for other health problems, such as heart and kidney disease,” says Kratt.
*Adds dog toothbrush to cart*
The American Veterinary Medicine Association recommends daily brushing, but they say brushing a few times a week can be effective.
So set a goal to brush your teeth daily and congratulate yourself if you succeed 2 or 3 times a week. Brushing is the best way to control Borky Boop tartar buildup and prevent serious dental disease.
The short answer: very, very carefully.
If you and Rover are new to brushing, take your time. Only proceed to the next step when your dog is cold with the previous step. It may take a few weeks to go from handling your dog’s mouth to fully brushing it. (Spoiler alert: Princess Pooch will probably hate it.)
Try these steps suggested by the American Kennel Club:
- Time well. Save the brushing routine for times when you and your dog are relaxed.
- Brush in a well-lit area where your dog can be comfortable.
- Start by touching your dog’s teeth with your fingers. Gently move his lips and touch the upper and lower teeth on either side.
- Introduce the brush, just touching as before. Every step your dog tolerates is closer to a good brushing.
- Show him the toothpaste and give him a taste.
- Add some paste to the toothbrush and start brushing his upper front teeth.
- Pause frequently for praise!
- Work around brushing the side and back teeth on top. (These are the areas most vulnerable to plaque.)
- Proceed to the lower front teeth and contour the sides and back.
- Throughout the process, rack up praise and rewards. Follow brushing with something like a walk or playtime to keep your dog looking forward to it.
The best dog toothbrush has soft bristles and a long handle to help reach the back teeth. A human toothbrush may do the trick, as many dog-specific toothbrushes look a lot like human toothbrushes.
However, choosing a product designed for dogs allows you to choose the best brush for your dog’s age and size.
There are also small “finger” brushes, made of a soft material that fits over your finger. These can be helpful in the early stages of brush training when your dog is just getting used to the process.
It’s a hard yes. Human toothpaste is not good for puppies, so don’t even try it.
Some ingredients in human toothpaste can be toxic to dogs. Human toothpaste often contains the sugar alcohol xylitol, which is extremely dangerous for dogs to ingest.
The dog toothpaste is safe to swallow and comes in flavors Fido will turn to. Chicken, beef or peanut butter? These are far more delicious options for your pooch friend than fresh mint.
🚨 If your dog has ingested human toothpaste, call your veterinarian, emergency clinic, or animal poison control center as soon as possible. 🚨
You might be tempted to make dog toothpaste using baking soda, but that’s not a good idea.
1). Baking soda just tastes bad, so Mr. Floof won’t be in it like his favorite chicken batter. 2). It can also give your dog an upset stomach if ingested.
If Fido unleashes his fury every time you hit those teefers, don’t panic. In most cases, dogs are fine with brushing their teeth, but it can take some getting used to the idea.
For the best chance of success, follow these tips from veterinarian Douglas Kratt:
- Start brushing when your pup is young, so it’s a familiar routine.
- Brushes and toothpaste designed for dogs will make the experience more enjoyable for them.
- Introduce your dog to the tools along with praise and treats so they have a positive association.
- Go super slow. Don’t worry if it takes several weeks to brush your teeth for seconds.
Of course, it’s ideal to start brushing those teefers as a puppy, but if you’ve just realized you’ve never touched your dog’s teeth, better late than never.
If you have an older dog, you may want to start with an annual checkup and professional cleaning to make sure there are no issues.
Wait a few weeks after a professional cleaning to begin the gradual process of toothbrush training.
There are many toys, treats, and other products that claim to improve your dog’s dental health. But, Kratt says they aren’t always effective.
Get your veterinarian’s advice on whether a product is a good choice for your Little Cutie Pie Wiggle Butt. Some chew toys and treats can mechanically clean teeth while your dog is chewing, but first you need to make sure these products are safe for dogs.
If you think your dog already has dental problems, his teeth may be too sensitive to brush.
“Remember, always be careful when checking your pet’s mouth because an animal in pain — even a beloved pet — can bite,” Kratt says.
Your vet will perform an oral exam during your pup’s annual visit and alert you to any signs of concern. Regular brushing should keep a dog’s mouth healthy between these annual checkups and can avoid the need for professional cleaning.
If you notice any of the following symptoms, see your veterinarian for a dental checkup sooner. These could be signs of painful dental disease.
- bad breath
- broken or loose teeth
- discolored or grime-covered teeth (plaque and tartar)
- bleeding from the mouth
- swelling around the mouth
- chewing, drooling, or dropping unusual foods
- reduced appetite, not eating or drinking water
Although regular brushing can reduce the risk of dental problems and related diseases in your dog, your veterinarian will need to step in for annual checkups, cleanings, X-rays, and treatment of existing oral problems.
To keep your pup’s mouth fresh and healthy, you should brush his teeth daily or at least a few times a week.
If your dog isn’t used to brushing, it can take weeks to help even the Goodest Boy adjust to the routine. Once you get used to it, brushing your dog’s teeth should be quick and easy, and help prevent painful inflammation and infection.
That means more cuddles, boops and sploots with your furry friend.