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Monday, March 1, 2010

Let's See Those Pearly Whites

Last month was dental health month and we attended a seminar on canine dental care.

Now, I must admit I am not good about brushing my dog's teeth. Back when I had two dogs I brushed a couple times a week and when Bailey met a skunk last year, I brushed her teeth several times a day for a week or two till the odor was reduced. With ten of them, I seldom brush.

After our annual check ups last week, I'm going to get more serious about this tooth brushing stuff. None of my dogs had serious dental problems, but several had a specific area in the mouth where tartar was building up and could cause problems. Our vet recommended that I concentrate on those specific teeth if I don't feel I can do the entire mouth.

There are several types of toothbrushes available for pets. This variety has a double head so you can brush both sides of the tooth at the same time. My vet says it's only really necessary to brush the outside and the tongue will take care of the inside, but this brush is a good idea. Unfortunately, it takes some time and effort to get it positioned around the teeth so it works the way it's meant to. I've found when I do brush their teeth that I need to work fast. They don't want to stand there with their mouths open while I chat and work on each tooth till it's gleaming. They want me to get it over as fast as possible and their tongues are fighting me. I'm not skilled enough to use this particular toothbrush.

This is the type of toothbrush I used to use with Bentley and Lucy. It fits over the finger and I felt I had a lot more control over where I was brushing when I used it.

There is a problem with this type of toothbrush, too. When you brush a dog's teeth, they keep moving their tongues and trying to close their mouths. That can cause them to close their mouths on your finger while it's still inside the mouth. While these work pretty well for small, or older dogs, I don't think I'd want to try them on my current pack. I might sustain a painful injury.

Here are our new toothbrushes. The vet gave us these last week. They're childrens, soft bristle toothbrushes. The teeth I need to concentrate on are the big molars in the back, so the long handles should protect my fingers.

The next question is what kind of toothpaste to use. Toothpaste marketed for humans can cause stomach distress in dogs who tend to swallow a lot of it. There are toothpastes made just for dogs and cats flavored for their tastes. The toothpaste I'm using now is just called fresh flavor and my guys aren't crazy about it, but I've found other flavors they might prefer. The choices are beef, malt, poultry, seafood and vanilla-mint.

My immediate reaction was to buy vanilla-mint flavor, but then I remembered this is for my dogs. I love seafood, but it turns my stomach to think of popping out of bed in the morning and brushing my teeth with seafood toothpaste, but my dogs will probably love it. I've ordered a tube of seafood and a tube of vanilla-mint. We'll alternate and see which they prefer.

One day a week we apply this plaque prevention gel to their teeth. I gave up on this stuff a few years ago because it was so hard to apply. They provide a long cotton swab to apply it with, but the gel is the consistency of vasoline and it all stuck to the swab. I tried using my fingers but it wouldn't spread on the teeth and fell off in big globs.

Our vet has advised soaking the package in hot water for about five minutes to soften the gel, then with a finger apply a thin coat to the top and bottom teeth, then let the tongue action spread it around. It works. They don't mind it and now I'm not wasting so much of the stuff.

I don't guarantee that each of my dogs will have their teeth brushed every day. I know better than to promise that, but I will really try to do better than I have been. Do you have any tips or suggestions? How often do you brush the dog and cat teeth in your household? Anyone want to join me in trying to provide better dental care in 2010?

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  1. This is something I wish I had done more consistently when we first adopted the dogs. they don't like the brushing, and sometimes their gums bleed. We're trying chew bones for now.

  2. When we first got Hero from the pound his teeth were terrible, because of his kibble diet and the lack of anything to chew on. I chipped off the worst of the tartar and tried getting him used to brushing his teeth, but it was always a struggle. Thankfully he has such a soft mouth and is so sensitive when he feels flesh against his teeth that I've never had to worry about getting my fingers gnawed on.

    Brushing his teeth wasn't getting us anywhere so we ended up letting Hero chew on raw bones. After only a few weeks he had beautiful pearly whites! I realize some people might be a little unsure about a raw diet or allowing their dog to chew on raw bones, but Hero's has done wonderfully and looking at his clean white teeth never ceases to amaze me.

  3. Vanilla mint? Sis might be able to use that... I've not found anything that wasn't meat flavored...

  4. Voted!
    Since Nigel had two teeth removed, I brush without fail!

  5. Huck had wonderful white teeth all his life. People could not imagine his age by his teeth. I brushed every Tuesday and Saturday and let others brush his teeth for fun durng pet therapy. He loved the poulty and peanut butter flavors.

    I need to start Cricket on toothbrushing in the next week. Im not taking these new things one thing or so a wekk.

  6. I need to start brushing my dog's teeth. I usually just buy the bones/dog chews that say "reduces tartar" and hope for the best. I know, not the best way to do it. :-)


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