When I was growing up, the most pricey and nerve-wracking veterinary ordeals for my family were our beloved dog’s yearly dental cleanings. When he got older, Cinnamon still ended up having to have most of his teeth removed. These days, pet owners are aware of two major preventive advantages in caring for our dog’s oral health: diet and regular toothbrushing. Oral health is extremely important for dogs. Poor oral health can lead to pain and long-term kidney, liver, and heart problems. Good oral health is not only important for your dog’s physical well-being, but also, it is important for their mental health.
Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth
Even if your dog eats a great diet and has seemingly clean teeth, it is still a good idea to brush their teeth everyday. I realize this can seem like a daunting task, so I hope this article and video will help you!
The top two reasons most people shy away from brushing their dog’s teeth are time and trouble. Miles is a Welsh Terrier with a big set of teeth and tough jaw. It took me a lot of trial and error to figure out how to brush his teeth! What I learned is that the the time and trouble involved can be greatly minimized if you get your dog used to the idea of toothbrushing, if the toothpaste is simple and tasty to the dog, and if you know how to safely and easily brush their teeth.
How to Get Your Dog Used to Toothbrushing in One Week
Day 1-2 /// 1-2x daily: Sit on the floor with a towel in front of you. Put a little dog toothpaste on a toothbrush, and let your dog come to you. Let him sniff and even lick the toothpaste! Toss a treat away from you, then let him come back and check out the brush and paste again. Repeat a few times and then say “good boy, all done!” Stand up, and walk away.
Day 3-4 /// 1-2x daily: Sit on the floor with a towel in front of you with the toothbrush with some toothpaste on it. Let your dog come to you, and ask him to sit. Gently open his mouth, then remove your hand, and let him lick a little bit of toothpaste from the toothbrush. Then gently open his mouth again, release, and allow him to lick a little toothpaste off of the toothbrush again. Then stand up, say “all done!” and walk away.
Day 5-7 /// 1-2x daily: Sit on the floor with a towel in front of you with the toothbrush with some toothpaste on it. Call your dog to you, and ask him to sit. Gently open his mouth. Place the brush between his cheek and the outside surfaces of his teeth and brush a little, holding the side of his face gently. After a second or two, stop, toss a treat away from you, praising him. If he is interested in coming back to you after, give him another treat, and the repeat this process once.
How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
I’ve found that the most important things when brushing your dog’s teeth are: knowing how to hold their mouth properly, and being careful to take things slowly at first. Focus not on perfection, but on putting a little time in everyday. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do it daily! Start by training, then begin to brush a little everyday — even if you are only brushing a few teeth.
Remember, even if you only do a little toothbrushing daily, some brushing is better than none. If you are gentle, patient and consistent, your dog will get used to toothbrushing and let you brush every part of their mouth soon!
Miles & Emma’s Dog Toothpaste Recipe
Over the last few years, I’ve developed the following do-it-yourself homemade dog toothpaste recipe. It is cheap, you know exactly what is in it, and you can easily whip it up as needed. All of the ingredients are safe for dogs, it lasts a long time, and it tastes great (to dogs). Make sure to store the toothpaste out of doggie reach. While your dog could easily and safely ingest the whole recipe in one go, too much baking soda isn’t ideal. Aim to use a small amount of doggie toothpaste per toothbrushing. A little goes a long way!
- 2 heaping tbsp virgin coconut oil
- 1 tbsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp water
- 1 1/2 tsp virgin olive oil
- Optional: 4 capsules powdered 100% pure natural kelp (optional – I like Natures Way brand)
- Place jar of coconut oil into a larger bowl and fill bowl with boiling water. Let jar sit in the bowl of hot water for a few minutes to soften the oil inside of the jar. Allow to soften just enough so that about half of the oil is melted.
- Measure 2 tbsp from semi-melted part of the coconut oil (should be roughly consistency of peanut butter) and place into a new bowl.
- Add 1 tbsp baking soda, 1.5 tsp olive oil and 1.5 tsp water to the coconut oil and mix well with a mini whisk.
- Optional – open kelp capsules and empty contents into bowl. Whisk the until smooth.
- Pour mixture into container. Let sit for 3 hours or overnight until set.
- Usage: Apply a small amount to a dog-friendly toothbrush or cloth and clean your dog’s teeth. Re-apply 1-2 times as needed during brushing, using tiny amounts. You should not exceed more than 1/8 tsp per brushing. A little goes a very long way!
- Storage: Store at room temperature. Separation may occur in warm months, simply mix before use.
- Kelp: Kelp is not necessary, but adds extra dog-friendly flavor and cleaning power to the toothpaste. Contact me if you have questions about sourcing.
Are Dental Cleanings At the Vet Necessary?
Plaque & Tartar – The Veterinary “Re-Set”: Good dental health doesn’t wait for anyone! If your dog has dirty teeth (example shown above on the left), you may need to take your dog for a professional veterinary dental cleaning. A shocking number of dogs live with dirty teeth, and it is a very serious health concern. Going under anesthetic is nothing to take lightly, but there are ways that you can plan ahead (click for article) before your dog has surgery to minimize stress. Think of a professional dental cleaning as a chance to “re-set.” Once things are under control, you can begin a good toothbrushing regimen to hopefully avoid full dental cleanings. With proper diet and daily brushing, most dogs will no longer need dental cleanings. As an added bonus, dogs who have healthy teeth have good breath! Growing up, I didn’t know a single dog with good breath.
Broken Teeth – Silent Pain: If your dog has chipped or broken teeth, you should have a trusted veterinarian take a look. Don’t panic right away, sometimes, the breaks do not require surgery. If they do require surgery, then the need is inevitable. Certain types of breaks can be extremely painful and concerning for your dog’s overall health. Dogs don’t always show dental pain in obvious ways. Read the stories of Miles’ broken teeth (click for article). Shortly after Miles’ first two critical dental surgeries, he experienced an unlucky third slab fracture. While the first two were deemed urgent, the third was ruled unimportant by our trusted veterinarian and the local veterinary dental specialist. Several years later, the tooth remains healthy! The bottom line is, don’t be afraid to have a professional check. Either way, you will have peace of mind about your dog’s physical and mental well-being.