Pets and People

Dental Care for Dogs: Tips and Tricks

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Ready to start brushing? Don't expect your dog to sit and open wide. He may think tooth brushing is right up there with having a bath. Depending on your dog's age and background, it can take several days to several weeks to gain his cooperation. Don't rush it.

First, spend some time handling his mouth. Turn your finger into a treat by dabbing something tasty on it -- like peanut butter, meat baby food or nonfat yogurt. Let him lick at your finger, while you gently rub his teeth and gums. Reapply the tasty treat as needed, trying to move his lips aside to expose more of the teeth.

He'll also need to be used to having you handle his muzzle. Gently place one hand under his lower jaw and the other on top, and rest your hands like that for a few seconds. Gradually work your way toward manipulating his mouth by parting his lips, then gently easing his jaw open.

Once he's given everything the OK, choose a time of day that's quiet and unhurried, then bring out the brushing gear. To get started:

Let your dog sniff and lick the toothpaste and toothbrush.

Move your dog's lips aside, then rub the visible teeth with either your finger or the toothbrush. A touch of toothpaste may spark his interest.

Gradually increase the number of teeth you brush, reapplying the toothpaste as needed. Remember to brush along the gum line. A circular motion works best.

Once that's going well for a few days, try gently opening his jaw to brush the back teeth. Don't worry if it's too difficult to brush the inside of his teeth; with most breeds, periodontal disease is more common on the outside of teeth.

Conclude with a special reward -- play, treat or affection -- even if the process didn't go well. You want your dog to form a positive association with brushing, so a happy ending this time may make him more agreeable next time.

You'll need to take your pet to see the veterinary dentist at some point, so read on for ways to make that a smooth experience.

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