It's common for dogs to suffer from dental problems, usually caused by a build up of plaque. Brushing your dog's teeth helps prevent painful teeth and gum conditions so it's important to know how to get it right.
You will need...
- Pet toothbrush
- Dog toothpaste
As an alternative to a pet toothbrush you can use a child's toothbrush with soft bristles, a finger toothbrush, some clean cloth or a cotton swab.
Do not substitute dog toothpaste for human toothpaste, baking soda or salt. These contain ingredients that are unsafe for dogs and could cause serious illness to your pup. Dog toothpaste is completely safe for dogs to swallow and doesn't need to be rinsed from their mouths.
When to brush
Choose a time of day that suits you and your pup for teeth brushing and it in to your daily schedule; teeth brushing is most effective when done daily and dogs like routine so will be much more comfortable if they know when the cleaning will happen. This is completely up to you though it may be easiest to do after your dog's daily walk or another time of day when they are tired to make the process easier.
How to brush your dog's teeth
Take the process slowly, especially if your dog is not a puppy. Don't force your dog onto the next stage unless they are completely comfortable as they could become anxious or aggressive. Take your time and be patient.
Getting your dog used to their toothpaste
Take a small amount of pet toothpaste on your finger and let them taste it. Dog toothpaste comes in a variety of flavours and should taste good to your pup. Make sure to use a flavour that they enjoy so they see the process as a treat!
Getting them used to being touched on the mouth
With toothpaste on your finger again, gently open your dog's mouth whilst holding their muzzle to stop them biting you. Carefully rub some toothpaste on your dog's upper teeth and gums.
Once your dog becomes comfortable with this, also slide your finger further back into the mouth to rub the teeth by the cheeks.
Introducing the toothbrush
Wet the toothbrush and put a small amount of dog toothpaste on it. Hold your dog's muzzle as you did before and gently brush the canines- the longest of their teeth at the sides of their mouth. Don't brush the incisors (the front teeth) as these are very sensitive.
Brushing more teeth
When your dog is comfortable with their canines being brushed, slide the brush back along the cheeks to the molars (back teeth) and brush them too. Remember to keep your dog's mouth still closed, only lifting the skin around the teeth, to stop them biting the toothbrush or you!
Brushing all the teeth
The last stage is to add in brushing the front teeth (incisors) too, lifting your dog's top lip up slightly to get access to them. These teeth are sensitive so be very gentle.
- Keep sessions short, a couple of seconds at first is fine, building up to no more than a few minutes.
- Find a space away from distractions where your dog can be calm and quiet.
- Don't try to brush the inside of your dog's teeth or the bottom teeth- just the outside surface of the upper teeth.
- Reward your dog after brushing their teeth with treats or a toy to provide a positive association.
- Make sure to include your dog's gums in the brushing to ensure total dental health.
- Get your puppy used to brushing as early as possible to make things easier but remember it's never too late to start!
- If your dog can't get used to a brush, try a finger brush or dental wipes before moving on to a brush.
- When brushing, check your dog's mouth for signs of abscesses, bleeding or tooth decay and contact your vet immediately if you find anything.