Many owners will tell you that owning a pup is just like having a child; they get into mischief, they always want to play (putting their favorite ball or toy in your lap when you’re trying to work), and even try to eat dessert before dinner time, which ruins their appetite.
However, there are a few things your pup can’t do on their own, such as brushing their teeth before going to bed. And while the regular chew bone will help keep some issues at bay, it’s essential that every dog owner understand the importance of oral hygiene.
Your pup’s mouth
Jaws can sometimes be an intimidating sight for the new pup owner. Raising your pup to be okay with you handling their mouth is important and needs to be started as soon as possible. Of course, with that big, pink bologna tongue hanging out in there, things won’t seem so intimidating after all.
Like humans, dogs also have two sets of teeth in their lives, one set as a puppy and the other that grows when they reach four to six months. After their adult teeth come up, dogs won’t grow any more teeth and since there aren’t any canine dentures, it’s important that you help them take care of the ones they have.
There are four different types of dog jaw alignments, some of which can be more vulnerable to tooth problems. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian and discuss how often and what oral hygiene issues you may need to specifically look out for with your furry friend.
My, what big, dirty teeth you have!
Most dog mouths don’t have problems with cavities, but over time small problems can turn into serious issues, such as gum infections.
Tarter is one concern, and is especially visible to the naked eye. It doesn’t take much to spot tarter buildup, specifically around the molars when that rascal of yours takes to smiling.
Tarter buildup comes from calcium salts and hard water type deposits that accumulate on the teeth when eating and drinking (distilled water is ideal). Over time, buildup of tarter can lead to gum infection and eventual tooth loss, which is why it’s important to make sure your pup brushes their teeth regularly.
For those pups with a sweeter diet, such as treats that happen to “slide” off your plate on occasion, tarter may not be the only problem. Softer foods (often including sugary goodies) also tend to get stuck in the gum line, thus causing gum decay and recession of the gum, leaving your pup’s teeth even more vulnerable.
Brushing their teeth
Bones and chewable treats that are tough will allow them to remove the tarter buildup and debris from their teeth and gums. If you’ve noticed, some pups enjoy chewing on sticks as well. It’s not ideal, but it is an instinctive way that helps clean their teeth naturally.
In addition to chewable and dental treats, a good tooth brushing should be done every two to three weeks depending on your dog’s jaw type and diet (soft foods may require a tighter schedule).
But getting in your pup’s mouth and successfully brushing is a challenge on its own. Few pups are going to want to sit still for such an exercise, especially if they think it’s potentially a game they’ll incorporate a few evasive techniques (rushing in and out of the room or teasing).
Rather than jumping right into the brushing and scrubbing, you’ll need to get your pup used to you putting your fingers in their mouth. That’s going to be the hardest part, especially since dogs seldom put anything in their mouth they don’t chew on or eat.
Start by working their lips to allow you to see their gums and teeth. Don’t be fooled by that big pink tongue, as some will use it to try and block your view or even to try to intercept your finger or brush. At first, it’s likely they’re going to push your fingers out with their tongue and may try to chew a little. Remove your hand when they do. You want the situation to be as soothing as possible, so you don’t want to scare or intimidate them into fearing when it comes to getting their teeth brushed.
Getting your pup used to you handling their mouth is essential. If they don’t get used to you at least looking at their mouth (few will enjoy this), it’s going to be ten times harder to get in there and brush when it’s most important.
After they’ve successfully examined their teeth, offer them a treat (preferably something dental in nature) to reward them for good behavior. This will positively reinforce the situation, making it easier to inspect and brush their teeth in the future.
As your pup’s faithful friend and guardian, it’s your duty to make sure they enjoy a happy and healthy life. And everyone knows that happiness starts with a smile.