How I Met My Dog

Three Tips That Take The Bite Out of Cleaning Your K-9’s Canines

You’ve heard it a million times before: brushing your dog’s teeth can improve their breath. But, did you know that brushing your dog’s teeth could save you thousands of dollars? Seriously… thousands! The average cost of a single tooth extraction is anywhere between $500 and $800 dollars. If your dog suffers from gum disease and decayed teeth, they might need multiple extraction surgeries. And if that’s not bad enough, gum disease also puts our dog at risk for heart, kidney, and liver disease. The solution: brush your dog’s teeth daily or as often as you can. These next 3 tips are designed to help make canine tooth brushing a breeze.

1. Start Early

The younger your dog is when you start to get them used to having their teeth brushed, the more quickly they accept the task as part of their daily routine. If you start brushing your dog’s teeth when he/she is a puppy (but not earlier than 8 weeks of age) you will be way ahead of the dental hygiene game from the start.

Brushing your dog’s teeth is not always the easiest task. Making tooth brushing a positive experience for your dog will, in turn, make it a more positive experience for you. To start, find a calm, quiet space that your dog can be relaxed in. A room full of playing children, noisy toys and other pets is a tough place to expect your dog to focus on you or to remain calm. Once you have your dog’s attention, put a dab of dog safe toothpaste on your finger and encourage your dog to taste it. If they hesitate, rub the toothpaste on one of their favorite treats. Give them the treat while saying “good brush your teeth” and release them from the room. Do this every day for three or four days and your dog will start to look forward to the toothpaste because it comes with a treat.

 2. Be patient

Using the right products will make the whole experience more positive for your dog. Instead of approaching them with a human sized toothbrush with stiff (potentially painful) bristles, try one of these silicone finger brushes. It’s easy to use, easy to clean, and your dog is far more likely to get used to you putting your finger in their mouth. After a few days of getting your dog familiar with the toothpaste treat, now it’s time to introduce the gum massage. When your dog is relaxing with you at the end of a long day, take your finger and gently massage his/her gums.

Once your dog associates “brush your teeth” with a toothpaste flavored treat, and they are also used to their relaxing, evening gum massage, now it’s time brush their teeth. First, put the dog safe toothpaste on your finger, lift one side of your dog’s upper lip and begin to brush with light pressure in a circular motion. Focus on the section of tooth that is closest to their gums, this is where the most tartar and plaque build up usually occurs. Repeat this technique on your dog’s lower teeth and then switch to the other side of their mouth. It’s ok to take a few breaks to give your dog a chance to adjust to the sensation of their teeth being brushed! Remember to reward them with a soothing voice during the brushing session, and with a treat after the session is over. Keep this up and your dog will have healthy gums, teeth, and breath.

If you have a dog that absolutely will not tolerate a tooth brushing session no matter how hard you try, consider a toothbrush toy. These toys encourage your dog to clean their own teeth! Always supervise when using these kinds of toys to be sure that your dog is not breaking off pieces of the toy and swallowing them. If you don’t have a pup that’s a natural chewer, you may need to encourage them to chew with some flavored dog safe toothpaste or some dog safe peanut butter that does not contain Xylitol.

 3. Get Pet Insurance

Sometimes, no matter how much we think we are prepared for something, the unforeseen happens. Because life happens, having pet insurance is like having an extra safety net for your pet. You never want to be in a position to have to make a decision about your pet’s health solely based on finances and pet insurance can help you avoid that. One pet insurance company we think is worth looking into is Trupanion. Not only are they recommended by over 20,000 veterinarians, a Trupanion policy provides 90-percent reimbursement on medical bills for unexpected injuries or illnesses, with no payout limits.* Head over to their website and get a free quote. You might be surprised at how affordable it is.

Setting a daily routine for brushing your dog’s teeth can have a big payoff. Make your dog’s tooth brushing routine a positive one and your dog’s breath with improve, their gum and tooth health will stay healthy and your wallet will be full.

*See the Trupanion website for details.

Dog Speak

When speaking to a dog, a low, deep, calm "NO" is far more effective than a loud scream.

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