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Should You Brush Your Dog's Teeth?

Dogs, like humans, may be prone to dental problems if their teeth aren't cared for correctly. While a healthy diet with plenty of chewing may go some way to help keep your dog's teeth in good condition, this may not be enough, and you may want to consider adding tooth brushing to your dog care portfolio.

The Benefits of Brushing Your Dog's Teeth

Although brushing your dog's teeth may seem an odd thing to do, it does have much the same benefit as tooth brushing for humans. According to the Australian Veterinary Association, vets recommend that owners look after their dog's oral health with an annual dental check and regular brushing. If you brush your dog's teeth, you help keep them clean and free from plaque and tartar, reducing the chances of your pet developing dental problems.

How to Brush Your Dog's Teeth

If you can, start brushing your dog's teeth from an early age. Puppies and younger dogs may find it easier to learn to accept a toothbrush than older animals. Bear in mind that you need to put some thought and preparation into brushing your dog's teeth for the first time – you can't simply grab any old toothbrush and expect your pet to open wide and let you scrub away.

According to Purina Australia, you should ultimately use a canine toothbrush and a pet toothpaste, and you may want to build up to actual brushing through the following stages:

  • Get your dog used to you being in its mouth by lifting its lips to look at its teeth.
  • Move on to using a cloth to wipe your dog's teeth clean.
  • When you think your dog is comfortable with the process, try gentle brushing with a toothbrush. Use water rather than toothpaste to start with until you and your pet are happy with the brushing process.

Don't scrub at your dog's teeth. Even if you train it to allow you to use a toothbrush, it may not like harsh cleaning. It's best to start by holding the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle at the point where your dog's teeth meet its gums and then brush gently up and down from that point. This ensures that you clean the gum line as well as the teeth.

Tip:  You may find that your dog copes best if you start by working on its front teeth before moving on to the back teeth. This gives it the chance to get used to the toothbrush before you insert it into the back of its mouth.

How to Cope with a Dog That Won't Tolerate Brushing

If your dog refuses to let you into its mouth, you shouldn't force the issue for too long. It may be scared or may even have already developed pet dental problems that make its mouth hurt when you try to brush its teeth. Talk to your vet and ask if your dog needs a dental check. Your vet can also advise on alternative tooth care solutions, such as

  • The use of bones, chew treats and toys.
  • Types of dry foods that help remove plaque.