Helen Says: Help Your Dog Keep Their Chompers Clean and Healthy!


Everyone knows that February is the month to celebrate past presidents and love, but did you know it’s also National Pet Dental Health Month.

Your dog’s healthy teeth (all 42 of them, which is 10 more than humans have!) are more than just a winning smile. Dental health is a crucial component of overall canine health, and healthy teeth and gums can prevent many serious health issues.

Periodontal disease can lead to pain and discomfort in our dogs, and has also been linked to more serious issues such as kidney, liver, and heart muscle changes.

While your dog’s teeth and gums should be checked annually by your veterinarian to detect any signs of serious health issues, healthy oral hygiene starts at home.

Here are a few of our favorite home toothbrushing tips:

Brushes: There are a variety of pet toothbrush styles on the market. Dog toothbrushes are smaller than human toothbrushes and have softer bristles. If the first brush you use doesn’t seem comfortable, keep experimenting until you find one that works best for you and your particular pup. Some people even find that wrapping a piece of gauze around their finger works the best.

Pastes: Our human toothpaste, which contains ingredients like fluoride and xylitol, can be harmful to pets. Be sure to use only dog-approved toothpaste, which often comes in yummy flavors like liver, chicken or peanut butter!

Technique: Place the brush at your pup’s gum line. Hold the brush at a 45 degree angle and then move in a circular motion. Start with the back teeth and move forward, focusing your attention on teeth with visible tartar buildup. Be gentle and don’t rush.

Rewards: After each teeth-brushing session, say “thank you” by giving your dog plenty of belly rubs and chin scratches, positive verbal reinforcement, and a healthy treat.

Even though brushing your dog’s teeth may not be their favorite activity, the long term health benefits (and better smelling breath!) make brushing worth everyone’s while.

Haven’t gotten into the dog tooth brushing routine? No problem; it’s not too late! While it’s ideal to start brushing your dog’s teeth when they are young, you can develop a brushing routine now, with any age dog. Hillspet.com recommends that you start slowly, “Get your dog used to the idea of having his teeth brushed. Keep the sessions short and positive. Dip your finger in beef bouillon and massage his lips in a circular motion for 30 to 60 seconds once or twice a day for a few weeks, and then move on to the teeth and gums.”

Unfortunately for busy pup parents (and their dogs that like snacks), while dental treats can help reduce stinky breath, they don’t make up for frequent brushing and shouldn’t be used as a replacement for tooth brushing.

While cavities like the ones people get due to sugar consumption are fairly rare in dogs, pet parents should watch for signs of periodontal problems like extra stinky smelling breath, red or puffy gums or bleeding during brushing or chewing. Symptoms of more advanced dental disease, which may require immediate veterinary attention, include discolored or loose teeth; reduced appetite or struggles chewing.

Call your veterinarian for a check up if you notice any of the above signs of periodontal disease. Fortunately, the prognosis for dogs with early periodontal disease is good as long as they get the appropriate professional dental care.

At Dog’s Day Out you can ask our tr ained team to add toothbrushing to any service for $10. And at the same time we are happy to show you how we brush your dog’s teeth, so you can start brushing their pearly whites at home!

 The advice provided is based on many years of experience as dog parents and operators of one of the largest and longest established dog daycare and boarding facilities in the Twin Cities. Always consult your veterinarian. When not sharing advice, our dog bloggers — Frannie, Lyle, and Helen — share a space with their people, Downtown Dogs owner Ralph Bernstein and his wife, Abbe.