Should I brush my dog’s teeth?

Ideally, yes. After all, you brush your own teeth twice a day at the very least. The myth that a dog’s mouth is cleaner or even self-cleaning is just that, a myth. Yes, dogs are lucky in that they’re not as prone to cavities as we are, but even the strongest teeth need some dental care to combat plaque and discoloration. Worse than that, no dental care can often lead to more serious issues such as gum disease, heart, kidney and liver diseases and these are often fatal.

Brushing their teeth

Starting to brush your dog’s teeth when they’re a puppy gets you both into a familiar routine and your puppy will often love the attention. But you can start brushing your dog’s teeth at any time. The key factor is to get a pet toothbrush and dog toothpaste (do not use human toothpaste, fluoride is toxic to dogs) that your dog likes - most pet stores stock them or you can ask your vet for advice. There is a variety of dental care products out there from toothbrushes, finger toothbrushes, tooth gel, mouth rinse, and oral hygiene kits.

Let your dog get used to the brush, the toothpaste - do they like the taste? - and to you touching their mouth. Find the perfect time to brush your dog’s teeth, preferably four to five times a week and possibly after exercising your dog so that they’re exhausted and more willing to sit quietly. It might take some work but if the benefits are worth it.

Promoting clean teeth between brushing

Ideally brushing your dog’s teeth regularly is the best prevention you can give your dog but with busy lives, caring for families and the drive to make money to pay bills, it’s not easy to do something like clean a dog’s teeth. Particularly when your dog might not be enthused about the idea. However there are a few, not substitutes, but options to help promote healthy teeth in between brushing:

Dry dog food such as Royal Canin and Eukanuba have developed specialised kibble that encourages dogs to chew and in doing that, mimics the brushing effect to help promote good dental health. Also try feeding your dog dry dog food that contains calcium and phosphorous for strong healthy teeth and jaws and is free of artificial additives and preservatives.

Giving your dog a good synthetic bone, dental chew or chew toy can help encourage chewing and strengthen teeth but it’s only a temporary measure and doesn’t compensate for actually brushing your dog’s teeth.

Trip to the Vet

Going to the Vet for a dental cleaning is another option, but it does cost money. Much like a dentist trip, this should be a periodic visit, though if your dog starts to exhibit symptoms such as bad breath, discolouration, red swollen gums, not eating, excessive drooling or pawing at face or mouth, please seek immediate veterinary advice. However, a dental checkup every six-twelve months could end up saving you money and heartache in the long run.