Brushing your dog’s teeth is one of the most important parts of dog ownership. Maintaining good dental hygiene is crucial both for the dog’s health and overall well-being. I certainly didn’t realize the importance, until becoming a veterinary technician last year and seeing the health effects first-hand. So, to answer the question, “Do I Really Need To Brush My Dog’s Teeth?”
Do I Really Need To Brush My Dog’s Teeth? The short answer is yes, it is important to keep your dog’s teeth clean. Either you as the owner need to brush your dog’s teeth regularly or have your veterinarian brush your dog’s teeth annually, it is critical to their overall health.
We all love our doggies and for most of us, they are more than just a pet. They are a member of the family! As a member of the family, we want to make sure we are giving them the best possible care. As a pet parent myself, I felt it necessary for me to delve deeper into this particular topic to ensure I was providing the best care for my doggie.
Our domesticated doggies do not have access to the same materials as their rugged ancestors did, to keep their pearly whites clean and plaque-free. This leaves us with two options as pet parents, either do it ourselves at home with the proper materials or have our veterinarian do it.
I, erring on the side of caution and for fear of losing my fingers, have often opted for my veterinarian to handle all of my dogs’ dental needs. But I wanted more information on why it is so important in the first place. I was also curious about the health risks associated with dental disease and care especially for those of us who have never even thought about our K9’s canines.
Can You Brush a Dog’s Teeth?
We have two options when it comes to brushing our dog’s teeth, you can do it at home or you can have your veterinarian do it for you.
It is possible to brush your dog’s teeth at home. However, it often requires a well-behaved dog that doesn’t mind having your hands or a tooth-brush in its mouth for a small amount of time. This tends to be difficult to find. It also requires a small toothbrush or doggy dental cleaning kit, and toothpaste specially made for dogs (or at least safe for dogs).
This “do it yourself” at home method requires frequent, if not daily brushing to prevent tartar and plaque build-up. If you don’t start out brushing your pup’s teeth from birth then they may require a veterinarian to do the first cleaning, then at home maintenance is much easier.
Having a veterinarian do your dog’s dental cleaning can be costly ranging anywhere from $200 to $800 depending on the severity of dental disease and decay or size of the dog.
It’s because of concerns such as this that I recommend to all dog parents (depending on their financial situation of course) to get some form of pet insurance. I often recommend Embrace Pet Insurance which you can get a free quote for by clicking here.
The cost for an annual dental visit is much more affordable than the cost of an emergency oral surgery due to a lack of proper dental care and maintenance. Some may think this seems like a huge price tag for such a “simple task.”
Dog dental work is not as easy as someone holding your pup still while the vet brushes your dog’s teeth like you can do at home with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Most vets will put the dog under using anesthesia or another drug to make your pet sleep.
They then intubate the dog to help with breathing and monitoring. This ensures that your dog does not get stressed out and the veterinarian can get their teeth sparkling clean and ensure there are no other health concerns.
Once your doggie is asleep the veterinarian will then use a scale, and just like your dentist, the scale is used to scrape off all of the tarter and plaque build-up off the teeth. They will also take this time to remove any dead or rotten teeth that could be causing your dog discomfort or other health issues.
Once this is completed, they will go back through with doggy toothpaste and polish the teeth and do another thorough check to ensure everything looks good. Here is a video of an actual dental procedure, done by a vet if you have further questions regarding this procedure:
How To Brush Your Dog’s Teeth At Home
The first step is to get the proper equipment, any type of pet dental kit from your local pet store will work. Then, find a quiet calm area where you can sit on the floor with your dog in your lap and hold him or her.
Begin by rubbing your finger or cloth across the dog’s gums to get them used to the feeling and sensation. It’s important to take these steps slow and stop if your dog becomes distressed or aggressive.
If your dog really hates having their teeth brushed then check out my post: How to Brush a Dog’s Teeth That Hates Being Brushed (click to open in a new tab).
After a few of these sessions, if your dog is progressing and becoming more comfortable with your finger or the cloth. You can begin to put some toothpaste on your finger and continue rubbing the gums and progressively more towards the teeth.
There are certain dog teeth cleaning products that make this process easier. You can check out Dr. Brown’s Finger Toothbrush (click to open new tab) on Amazon.
Once your dog is completely comfortable with rubbing his or her gums and teeth you can progress to the toothbrush. Repeat the same steps taking things slow and being very patient.
It is also very important to make this a positive experience, reward and praise your dog throughout the session to encourage positive reinforcement. Stay patient as this could be a long process.
It is important to note that some dogs may never warm up to having their teeth brushed. If this is the case, you may have to resort to yearly dental cleanings by the vet. There are also a plethora of dental chews and treats that can help maintain good dental hygiene until the next dental cleaning.
When Should I Start Brushing My Dog’s Teeth?
12 to 18 weeks is the optimal time to begin routine brushing at home. This will not only make things easier in the long run by getting your dog used to the sensations but also help to prevent plaque and tartar build-up from occurring.
Early intervention will also help to avoid health problems later on. It is said that a whopping 80% of dogs have periodontal disease by the age of two. This can only get worse if left untreated and ultimately leads to tooth decay and loss. It also creates a much higher risk of endocarditis (heart disease), six times higher to be exact if left untreated. It is crucial to begin early preventative dental care to avoid issues later on that could cost you and your pet.
What Are The Health Concerns Associated With NOT Brushing My Dog’s Teeth?
- Bad Breath
- Gum Disease
- Tooth Decay
- Periodontal Disease
- Tooth Loss
- Increased risk of heart disease
To Brush a Dog’s Teeth Or Not To Brush?
Should I brush my dog’s teeth or is it not a big deal? Yes, you should either brush your dog’s teeth at home frequently or have a veterinarian do an annual dental cleaning. If you have further questions about your dog’s overall health or the dental procedure, contact your local veterinarian. The health of your dog depends on you as the owner.
It is important to do frequent oral checks at home and be quick to have any unusual findings further checked by your dog’s vet. It is ultimately your responsibility that your doggie has all of their pearly whites in great condition. After all, dogs can’t talk or take themselves to the dentist. This will ensure a happy, long, and pain-free life!