Pets and People

Dental Care for Dogs: Tips and Tricks

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Unfortunately, dogs can't care for their teeth themselves, but they can help by gnawing on the right product. A good long chew can help scrape away plaque and dirt, and most dogs are happy to comply. Natural choices include rawhide or a knucklebone. Knucklebones are a softer bone that's gentler on the teeth. Never give harder items, such as hooves or bones from steak, rib or ham shank as these can fracture teeth.

Some dogs won't bite on these natural choices, but many do enjoy chewing artificial bones or chew toys. Try a variety to see what your dog likes. Always choose rubber or nylon toys with a rough or bumpy surface, large enough so that it won't present a choking hazard. A chew toy should be somewhat flexible, not rock hard.

Dogs love to eat, and crunchy food and chew treats can help with your overall efforts. Look for the "VOHC-approved" stamp on any dental-cleansing product, which means they meet the tooth cleaning protocols established by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. While these items won't replace the need to brush, they can help reduce unwanted buildup.

You probably don't want to share your toothbrush, so once you're ready to begin brushing, get her some supplies of her own:

-Doggie toothbrush: A human toothbrush works well; choose a soft one in a size to match her mouth. Canine toothbrushes are more angled and also come in a fingertip style, which slips over the end of your finger. Choose the kind you both like.

-Canine toothpaste: It's unlikely your dog will learn to spit, so she needs a toothpaste that's safe to swallow. That rules out human formulas, which contain abrasives and detergent that she shouldn't ingest. Plus, she'll prefer the poultry or seafood options of canine toothpaste.

-Wipes or pads: When there's no time for full brushing, wiping her teeth and her gum line will whisk away some bacteria and food. You can use a canine dental pad, available at most pet stores, or a simple gauze pad wrapped around your finger.

So you've gathered your supplies and you're committed to forming good dental habits. Your next goal is convincing your dog.

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