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Dog Cleaning Tips: Teeth and Gums

Tooth brushing tips

  • Start slow so your dog can get used to you poking around their mouth
  • The first few times, try just using water and a small rag, a piece of gauze or even your finger
  • Gently rub all surfaces of the teeth
  • Once your pup is used to this, you can begin using a pet-specific toothbrush
  • Don’t use human toothpaste to clean your dog's teeth; it can upset their stomach
  • If you're unsure about brushing their teeth, your veterinarian can show you the proper way
  • Offer your dog dry dog food every day and rawhide or synthetic bones several times a week
  • If you use a water pick, keep the pressure low
  • Brushing your pet's teeth every day is ideal, but brushing at least twice a week will improve breath and keep teeth white
  • Certain chews, treats and dog foods can also help control tartar but don't replace tooth brushing or dental cleanings

Keeping their mouths clean at home

  • For not-so-picky pooches that snack on animal waste, there are products you can try that make the feces less appetizing. Be sure to scoop the poop from the backyard daily and keep the cat's litter box out of reach. Eating animal waste can be a hard habit to break, and you may need your veterinarian's help.
  • If your pet is licking their rear end, the anal sacs may be impacted and their breath will likely smell like an outhouse. You can learn to empty the sacs at home or take your dog to your local grooming salon.
  • Dogs with large floppy lips, such as Cocker Spaniels, Bulldogs and St. Bernards, can develop foul-smelling mouths from a condition called lip fold pyoderma. Saliva, food and bacteria accumulate in the small creases of the mouth and can lead to infection.
  • Clean the skin folds in your dog's mouth once a day with a clean wash cloth and warm water or an antibacterial oral rinse containing the ingredient chlorhexidene.

Veterinarian basics

  • When to call the veterinarian
  • Tartar buildup: a hard yellow-brown crust near the gum line
  • Pain or bleeding when you touch the gums

Swelling or Redness

  • If your pet's breath smells strangely sweet, ammonia-like or more like a sewer, an underlying illness could be the cause. Diabetes mellitus, kidney disease and intestinal obstruction each have distinct breath odors.
  • Appetite loss, lethargy or vomiting are cause for an immediate examination professional dog cleaning 101.
  • The veterinarian will anesthetize your pet to thoroughly clean and polish their teeth.
  • Your pet may need surgery for gum disease or removal of abscessed or broken teeth.
  • If an infection is detected, your veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic.

At the veterinarian

  • Sedation and X-rays may be needed if the doctor suspects severe dental disease.
  • A more involved evaluation, including blood and urine tests and X-rays will only be needed to diagnose conditions such as diabetes mellitus, kidney disease or a gastrointestinal problem.
  • In advanced cases of lip fold pyoderma, your veterinarian will clip and thoroughly clean the area and prescribe antibiotics. You’ll need to diligently keep your pooch’s lips clean at home.
  • Your veterinarian can treat recurring problems by surgically reducing the skin folds.

For dogs with anal sac problems, the veterinarian will determine if they're impacted or infected and treat them accordingly.