Health tips: Brushing your dog’s teeth

Making your dog comfortable in a stable spot can make toothbrushing an easier task for both of you.

Making your dog comfortable in a stable spot can make toothbrushing an easier task for both of you. (Photo by Karen Barefoot via FreeImages.com)

Dear Paws: How do you brush a dog’s teeth? And how often should I do it? – Abby in Framingham, Mass.

A. Brushing your dog’s teeth is important to keep them healthy throughout their life. But it can be a little different from the way you brush your teeth, and dogs don’t always like having it done. Here are some tips on brushing:

  • Try to brush your dog’s teeth at least once a week, more if possible (especially for smaller dogs and breeds like Pugs).
  • Use a brush and toothpaste made especially for dogs. Minty-fresh human toothpaste is pretty nasty to them, and could upset his or her stomach. A popular type of brush fits over your finger so that you can access the dog’s teeth more easily.
  • Start slowly: Get your dog used to having you touch his muzzle and mouth and lift up his lip. Give him a treat that’s flavored kind of like the toothpaste you’ll be using: peanut butter, or beef broth, for example. Or, just give him a little dab of the toothpaste as a treat.
  • Start with one section of teeth at a time. Put a dab of paste on the brush, gently lift your dog’s lip, and brush downward from the gumline.
  • If your dog struggles, pause and hold his muzzle lightly until he calms down. Then try again. If he really raises a fuss, stop for the day and try again tomorrow.
  • Don’t reprimand him for misbehaving during the process. This is really weird stuff for a dog. Use a soothing voice and give him lots of praise during and afterward.

More details can be found at the ASPCA’s website: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/brushing-your-dogs-teeth

Send your questions or tips to ask@pawscorner.com

Originally published the week of April 5, 2015 in community newspapers nationwide.