The importance of cleaning your dog's teeth

The importance of cleaning your dog's teethMany pet owners overlook their dogs' oral hygiene, but it's important to remember that dogs' teeth need regular cleaning and care, just like people's do.

Dogs with poor oral hygiene are susceptible to a number of dental problems, including gingivitis and tooth decay. These problems are highly preventable and can cost pet owners a lot of money. If money is no object to you, consider this — poor dental care will lead to bigger health problems for your dog down the road, such as bacterial infection that could result in blood poisoning, and death. Not to mention the fact that not all dogs are very expressive about being in pain. So if you fail to maintain your dog's oral hygiene, he may be suffering from discomfort, pain or infection, and you may not know it.

As soon as you bring a dog into your home, you should make a point of putting your hands near and in his mouth to check his teeth often. Not only will this help you become familiar with the nooks and crannies of his teeth and the normal coloring of his gums, it will help your dog become accustomed to people digging around in his mouth, which will help him remain calm come teeth-cleaning time.

Be gentle, don't exhibit any signs of frustration and speak in very soft, soothing tones. If your dog is incredibly resistant, don't force him. Wait until he's calm and try again. If you have an incredibly aggressive dog and are fearful for your safety, it's best to consult an expert or bring your dog to the vet to have his teeth-cleaning done regularly there instead.

How to clean your dog's teeth:

Purchase special toothpaste used for canines and a soft baby toothbrush, or special toothbrush designed for canines (you may even substitute the toothbrush with a clean washcloth). Allow your dog to become accustomed to both the toothpaste and toothbrush. Let him try some of the toothpaste (don't worry, dogs can safely ingest canine toothpaste), and let him investigate the toothbrush a bit, but not to the point that he thinks it's a toy. Remember to praise him while he becomes acquainted with the teeth-cleaning tools so he knows everything is all right.

When he's familiar with the tools, load some toothpaste onto the toothbrush, lift the flap of your dog's lips on one side so the teeth are visible, then gently brush his teeth back and forth. In the beginning, this may take several tries before your dog learns to trust the process. He may even learn to enjoy it. Remember to also tilt the brush so you can reach the the gum line and corners of the teeth. Repeat on the other side and front.

The importance of cleaning your dog's teeth
Lift your dog's "lips" on the side of his mouth so that the teeth and gums are visible.

For most canine toothpastes, there's no need to rinse out your dog's mouth after you're done brushing. The paste should have special enzymes in it that will break down the the food and kill the bacteria in his mouth. Remember to read the label to make sure you're using it correctly.

After you're done cleaning his teeth, give your dog a tasty treat that is designed to combat tartar buildup. This way, he'll associate the teeth-cleaning process with a reward in the future, and will be much more cooperative.

Remember that you will still need to bring your dog to the vet regularly, at least annually, to make sure his teeth and gums remain healthy. There are a lot of hard-to-reach places in a dog's mouth, and the vet will be able to determine if your dog's teeth have accumulated plaque that needs further treatment, and will have the special tools to accomplish that.

How to check to see if your dog's teeth and gums are healthy:

Besides cleaning, you should also check our dog's teeth and gums often to make sure they remain healthy. Dogs with healthy mouths should have gums that are a pink color. This can be a wide range from a light to dark pink color, which is why it's important for owners to familiarize themselves with the condition of their dogs mouths so they can tell when discolorations occur, which are indications of sickness.

An easy way to determine whether a dog may be sick is to press down firmly, but not hard, on his gums for a few seconds, then letting go. A healthy dog's gums will turn pale from the pressure, but quickly resume its natural pink color from blood rushing back to the area. If the area takes longer than a second or two to turn pink again, there is a high probability that the dog is sick, and most likely suffering from blood pressure problems.

Another very clear sign that a dog has come down with an illness or disease is when his gums have turned grey or white in color on their own. When this happens, the owner should get their dog to a vet right away to determine what the problem is. Gums that are sticky and dry are also clear indications of illness, as a healthy dog's gums should be very wet to the touch.

And speaking of ways to determine whether your dog is healthy, here is something every pet owner should know, a dog that has no appetite and/or will not drink water is most definitely sick, and a trip to the vet is in order.


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