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Dogs and Dental Hygiene

Brushing Up the Pup!

Ringo and I are fairly social animals – and by that I mean that we are around other people, as well as each other, much of the time. This requires a healthy adherence to certain social graces; we clean up our messes, we don’t jump on people (unless invited) and teeth and breath must always be maintained to a pleasant standard.

That’s right, I want Ringo to have a clean mouth at all times. He snuggles with a lot of people (when not aloof, he’s a snuggler), and who among us has not regretted getting too close to a dog whose breath reeks of old kibble and salmon oil? That won’t play in our house. We brush and freshen.

Before I got a dog, I hadn’t given a thought to brushing a pet’s teeth. Then Ringo’s foster mom shared with me that his teeth had been badly neglected before his rescue, and that he required brushing and dental treats on a regular basis. I’m happy to say that his teeth are in great shape today (the vet said so), due in no small measure to regular brushing.

Some people recommend brushing your dog’s teeth every day, some say at least once a week. For some unknown reason, history has proven that smaller dogs are generally more susceptible to teeth and gum problems than larger breeds, and require more frequent brushing; in any case, ask your vet what’s appropriate for your dog. Whatever the routine, finding a toothpaste that your dog will appreciate is key, as is the fact that most products are available with flavors dogs love.

Ringo’s been quite happy with Four Paws Pet Dental toothpaste in Beef flavor. As soon as I pull it out of the cupboard, his tail wags and he sits patiently – I can’t tell you how easy this makes brushing his teeth. We use a finger toothbrush, a rubbery, bristle-textured piece that slips over the tip of my finger and gently cleans his teeth as I brush them in a back-and-forth motion; sides, front, uppers and lowers (a dog’s tongue naturally takes care of the inside surfaces of their teeth). You and your dog may prefer a more traditional-style toothbrush; we use the finger toothbrush because it’s easy to use for his small size.

I just now got really curious and tasted the toothpaste. To me it tastes less like beef than cake frosting, neither of which displease me. I can see why Ringo likes it.

Toys, chews and treats play an important part in a dog’s dental health and hygiene. In addition to the occasional rawhide and bone, Ringo really enjoys something called Ark Naturals Breath-Less Brushless Toothpaste. It’s not a paste, but a chewable, rice-based treat shaped with ridges and formulated with breath-friendly ingredients like cinnamon and cloves. He loves the flavor, and I love that they can be easily broken into smaller pieces. This makes them ideal for use in his treat ball, and I can get the most use out of each bag.

So while it’s rare that anyone wants to be surprised by a dog baring teeth (“nice doggy… NICE doggy…!”), you do want to make sure that yours is properly guarded from excess bacteria, tartar, plaque and gum disease. Make dental care a priority for your pet, complementing your home routine with veterinary exams and cleaning. This is just one of the responsibilities a PackPerson should feel honored to handle. Remember, they’re depending on us to do what’s best for them.

And if fresh breath comes along for the ride, that’s a bonus!