I’m obsessed with the cleanliness of dog teeth. I can’t help it – I’m a veterinarian. However, I’m also convinced that most dog owners can keep their dog’s teeth clean without professional intervention in most cases.
In this article I want to show you what really works (and what doesn’t) and how to use products appropirately to get the best results.
You Should “Brush” Your Dog’s Teeth Daily
“Brushing” doesn’t mean to use an actual toothbrush or a finger brush. In people our toothpaste is abrasive and the toothbrush is the tool that moves that abrasive substance over the teeth to remove plaque and bacteria.
A dog won’t allow you to vigorously scrub their teeth the way that humans do. That’s why dog toothpaste is different – it’s enzymatic. It uses special enzymes to break down plaque and remove it from the teeth. It does it microscopically. You won’t notice a change in a few days. It takes weeks of applying the toothpaste to see any real change.
Another tip? You don’t need to open your dog’s mouth to do this. You can use one hand to hold the mouth closed. Your applicator hand will have the toothpaste on the end of one finger while a few other fingers just lift the upper lip. Then apply as best as you can to the outside of the teeth from the canine tooth all the way to the back of the mouth.
This method takes about 10 seconds per side and is a lot more pleasant for both you and your dog.
However, it must be every day. Missing days between “brushing” allows more bacteria and plaque to form in between and will be self-defeating.
You Should Use This Dog Toothpaste
This is the best enzymatic toothpaste on the market. I’ve used it and recommended it for years in my own practice. Owners who are able to follow through on daily “brushings” tell me and show me how successful they are.
- CET toothpaste formulated for dogs and cats to provide natural action and inhibit the formation of plaque.
- Helps eliminate mouth odors
- Contain no foaming agents, so they are safe for pets to swallow
Dog Chews Only Work As Well As They’re Used
Most dogs like to chew on something but not all of them chew equally. Sometimes a dog will chew a bone on one side of their mouth only. Sometimes they chew for a few minutes and that’s it. Occasionally a dog will swallow a chew toy instead of actually chewing on it.
- How Long Does The Chew Last? It should last at least a solid hour of vigorous chewing. If it lasts just a few minutes, it is a snack and not a chewing aid.
- Is it too small to be chewed and gets swallowed instead? I find that Greenies can be like this for some larger dogs.
- Is it too hard to chew on? I don’t like cow hooves or butcher bones for this reason. Too many dogs will break a tooth (or more) chewing on this incredibly hard object.
Adding Things To The Water DOES NOT WORK
No matter who is trying to sell you something, fluid additives that claim to help with bad breath, bacteria, or plaque just don’t work (usually). You’ll always find that outlier that says it really helped their dog.
However, think about adding a small amount of a minty substance to a glass of water and drinking it. How much do you think needs to be in that glass in order to make a difference in your breath for the next hour? Even with a small amount of substance added, many dogs just don’t want to drink the water.
Same thing with dental sprays. They sound great, but I’ve yet to see a dog whose owner uses them and actually has a great-looking mouth.
Get A Professional Cleaning When It’s Needed To Extend Your Dog’s Life
Dental cleanings by veterinarians can extend your dog’s life by years in some cases. Chronic disease in the mouth is hard on the body and your dog will not be able to contain the disease just in the mouth. Chronic inflammation can harm both the liver and kidneys.
No Matter How Hard You Try, Some Dogs Just Say No
I have a rescue Yorkshire Terrier that I adopted 6 months ago. Sadly she has no teeth now after I removed the last half-dozen loose, rotten teeth out of her mouth. Could I have saved those teeth had I been able to start earlier in life?
I doubt it. She hates having her mouth touched and, despite my 30 years of experience with dogs, has so far prevented me from opening her mouth with my fingers. I might be able to do it if I really pushed but I’m afraid of hurting her (she weighs 5 lbs).
Your dog may be like that. No matter what you’ve tried they just won’t let you touch them. They may also not want to chew at all. If that’s the case, then you’ll need your vet to help you keep your dog’s teeth cleaned as needed.