Do You Need to Brush Your Small Dog’s Teeth Daily?

Dogs are not as prone to cavities as people are, but they can still develop tartar, plaque build up and gingivitis. Small dogs are more likely to have overcrowded or misaligned teeth that are difficult to keep clean, making them more prone to dental disease. They are especially prone to tartar formation, gum recession, and eventual loss of teeth.

Your dog’s teeth should be brushed as often as possible. Home dental care is one of the best ways to help keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy.

Reasons to Brush Your Small Dog’s Teeth Daily

1. Bad Breath
If your pet’s breath is regularly repulsive, flip his lip. Periodontal disease is the top health problem vets see, yet few owners ever look inside their pets’ mouths. Plaque is the number one cause of bad breath and gum disease. Yorkshire Terriers and toy breeds such as Pomeranians and Maltese are known for their bad breath and are very prone to tooth decay and gum disease.

2. Prevent Gum disease
When dog’s receive inadequate dental care, they are more likely to develop gum disease. Short faced-dogs like Brussels Griffon, French Bulldogs, Shih Tzu and Pug are more prone to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss and affects most dogs before they are 3 years old. Bacteria from periodontal disease can spread to other organs and cause illness.

Regularly examine their pet’s teeth for signs of periodontal disease, such as brownish colored teeth; swollen, red, or bleeding gums; persistent bad breath; loose teeth or loss of teeth; pus between the gums and teeth; broken teeth and any unusual growth in the mouth.

Reluctance to eat, play with chew toys, or drink cold water are warning signs of periodontal or gum disease.

3. Avoid expensive veterinarian costs which arise if dental care becomes necessary
Even with regular brushing, pets may need periodic professional dental cleanings. Veterinarians can perform a basic oral examination on patients that are awake. However, when a cleaning is required, your pet will need to be induced under general anesthesia wherein a thorough examination will be done prior to the cleaning.

Diseases of the oral cavity, if left untreated, are often painful and can lead to more serious health problems including heart, lung and kidney disease.

What Method is Best

1. Tooth Brush
Use a baby toothbrush or pet toothbrush that is the appropriate size for your dog. Do not use toothpaste for people or baking soda as it can upset your dog’s stomach. Most contain fluoride, which is poisonous to dogs. Pet toothpaste comes in different flavors like poultry or beef.

2. Finger Brushing
Finger toothbrushes that do not have a handle, but fit over your finger, may be easier for some people to use.

3. Cloth wiping
If your dog won’t tolerate a toothbrush, you can use gauze or a small piece of washcloth wrapped around your finger. Place a small amount of toothpaste on the gauze or washcloth and rub it over the outside surfaces of your dog’s teeth.

4. Professional cleaning
Even with a diligent at-home dental care routine, adult dogs should have their teeth professionally cleaned at least once per year. These cleanings allow us to assess your dog’s overall oral health and thoroughly prevent against tartar buildup, gingivitis or gum disease and other conditions that can lead to life-threatening illnesses such as organ failure and heart disease if left untreated.

Teaching your dog to accept tooth brushing could take several weeks. You may not be able to do the whole mouth at first.

Start by letting your dog get used to the toothbrush and toothpaste by sniffing them and tasting them.

Here are a few more step-by-step options that might help:

Option A:

  1. Place your hand over your dog’s head from the top
  2. Squeeze between the back teeth on one side to keep his mouth open
  3. Pull his head back gently so his mouth opens
  4. Give your dog a small sample of the toothpaste to introduce the taste.
  5. Lift the lip to expose the outside surfaces of your dog’s gums and teeth.
  6. Brush with gentle motions to clean the teeth and gums, as you would your own.
  7. Clean the outside surfaces and the inside surfaces of the teeth.
  8. Be sure to reach the back upper molars and canines, as these teeth tend to quickly build up tartar.
  9. Reward your dog with play, petting or a favorite activity to positively reinforce the brushing process.

If your dog resists you, try gently wrapping him in a large bath towel with only his head sticking out.

Option B:

  1. If your dog has learned that you are the pack leader, and trusts you, then – only when your dog is in a relaxed state, perhaps shortly after waking up from a good nap – try laying him on his back in your lap and holding his head.
  2. Put the brush into his mouth and let him feel it and taste the toothpaste, and then remove and praise.
  3. Then again – this time, moving the toothbrush against the teeth a little, and remove. Praise immediately.
  4. It doesn’t have to be perfect each time – it’s about getting him comfortable and used to it. So practice each day!
  5. Eventually you will be able to  manually open his mouth to get all the way to the stubborn back teeth.

Feeding a high-quality crunch kibble food, avoiding table scraps and using treats that are specially formulated to keep teeth healthy are all easy steps you can take to support dental health.