How often should I brush my dog’s teeth?
According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDC), periodontal disease (gum disease) is the most common clinical condition in companion animals. It not only causes bad breath, oral pain and behavioral changes such as reduced appetite, it may also affect distant organs such as the kidneys, liver and heart.
The AVDC plays a major role in prevention of oral disease by sponsoring the Veterinary Oral Health Council, which awards a Seal of Acceptance to products that meet pre-set standards of effectiveness in dental plaque and calculus control.
By the time a dog is three years old, chances are good that she already has some form of dental disease. Adult teeth begin to erupt at about four months of age for most dogs and bacteria grow on teeth immediately, so it is important to begin brushing early. Built-up bacteria can result in plaque, which will eventually become tartar. Periodontal disease is the direct result of bacteria that lives in tartar. Tartar cannot be eliminated by brushing alone and can only be removed by a veterinarian.
Here are some guidelines:
• The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends brushing your dog’s teeth daily. If that’s not possible, brush at least every few days to prevent tartar buildup.
• Never use human toothpaste but, rather, one specially formulated for dogs or cats. Human toothpaste often contains xylitol, which can cause illness or poisoning in pets.
• Use a special dog toothbrush. They’re smaller, easier to use and have slightly different angles so you can reach the dog’s teeth.
• Remember, if your dog isn’t used to regular brushing it may take some time to familiarize her with the routine. Be patient—you want her to associate the process with something pleasant. Start by introducing the paste and brush slowly, offering lots of praise and crunchy treats for any progress and good behavior. There are a wide variety of products designed to make brushing easier including tartar-reducing treats that can be used in addition to brushing.