Dog Cleaning Tips: Teeth and Gums

Dog Dental Care Tips for Healthy Teeth

The American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) reports that by age three 80% of dogs show signs of periodontal disease. How do you ensure your pet isn’t one of them? It all begins with proper dog dental care at a young age. Like training your pup to walk with a leash or relieve themselves outside, you need to train them to have their teeth cleaned.

If routine dog teeth cleaning is not done, you risk your dog having abscessed teeth, suffering from gingivitis, or even worse, getting a dental disease. Keep reading to learn oral health care tips you can start at home and when it’s time to call a veterinarian.

Learning How to Brush a Dog’s Teeth

Dog dental care isn’t something your pet will love right away. It requires training and lots of positive reinforcement. By starting the dog teeth cleaning process early, you’ll help your pet get comfortable with oral hygiene. Aim for two to three brushings per week to limit food debris buildup and bacteria congregating on the gumline.

Start slow to keep your dog calm while your hands are in their mouth. With a soft touch, rub all surfaces of their teeth using water and a small rag, a piece of gauze, or even your finger the first few times. If you use a Waterpik be sure to keep the pressure low. And of course, bring plenty of treats to offer praise and make oral hygiene something your pup looks forward to.

Once your dog adapts to this routine, you can introduce other dental care products like a pet-safe toothbrush and toothpaste. Never use human toothpaste to clean your dog's teeth as it may upset their stomach. If you're unsure about how to brush a dog’s teeth, consult their veterinarian for a proper demonstration.

Here are the teeth brushing supplies you’ll need:

  • A cup or bowl of water
  • A small rag
  • Gauze
  • Dog toothpaste
  • Dog toothbrush
  • Treats
petco grooming book

Choosing the Right Dog Food, Treats, and Dental Chews

Brushing your pet’s teeth is step one of a strong dog dental care plan. Next, consider what you feed them. While certain chews, treats, and dog foods help with plaque and tartar control, they should never replace regular brushing or dental cleanings. Instead, think of food and treats as an additional oral health care component.

If you have a puppy, they cannot consume dental chews until they are six to nine months of age. Always check packaging labels to ensure your pet meets the age and weight requirements. Dental toys geared towards chewing help teething puppies and are a good alternative if they’re too young to enjoy chews.

For guidance in choosing the right products, check out the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s (VOHC) list of approved dog food, rawhide, and treats. You’ll find food with unique kibble shapes that help clean teeth surfaces, dental chews that freshen breath, and treats that fight plaque and tartar.

How to Get Rid of a Dog’s Bad Breath?

No one enjoys bad breath, especially pet owners with dogs who shower them with affection in the form of licks. And while your pet’s unfavorable breath could be the result of their diet, you need to rule out important health issues like dental or gum disease. Diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, and intestinal obstruction also have distinct breath odors.

Take note of breath that smells sweet, fruity, or like urine and schedule an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian. They can give you a proper diagnosis and tell you how to get rid of a dog’s bad breath. Treatment could range from a cleaning to switching up your pet’s dog food depending on the issue.

If you’re dealing with a minor case of halitosis, revisit your dog’s dental care plan and invest in oral health products. Breath fresheners and mouthwashes are available to improve breath and help limit plaque and tartar build-up.

When to Call Your Pet's Veterinarian

Just as you need to see the dentist, your pet’s veterinarian is a necessary factor in their dog dental care plan. Their first professional dog teeth cleaning should occur when they are between three and five years of age. After that, you should schedule cleanings every two years.

Outside of routine care, you should contact the veterinarian if you notice any of the below:

  • Tartar buildup
  • A hard yellow-brown crust near their gumline
  • Swollen or red gums
  • Increased gum sensitivity
  • Bleeding when you touch your pet’s gums

dog dental inspection

What to Expect During a Veterinarian Visit

For routine dog teeth cleanings, the veterinarian will anesthetize your pet to clean and polish their teeth. If the doctor suspects a dental disease, your dog will need sedation and X-rays. For other conditions, your pet may need surgery or removal of abscessed or broken teeth.

If the veterinarian detects an infection, they will prescribe an antibiotic. More involved evaluations, including blood and urine tests and X-rays, are only requested to diagnose conditions such as diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, or a gastrointestinal problem.

To avoid having to see your canine’s veterinarian for any of these reasons, start your pet’s oral health care plan today. By finding all the right dog dental care products including breath fresheners, dental chews, and toothpaste, you’ll keep your companion’s pearly whites healthy and strong!