Teeth are teeth.
Whether they’re your chompers or your dog’s, teeth need brushing.
Lucky for your dog, you’ve got the extremities to hold the brush.
“Starting the pets young, there is less resistance to pet owners brushing their teeth,” said Dawn Gregory, veterinary and dental technician at Animal Surgery and Care Center in Lynnwood.
“It’s the same principle as us. Brush twice a day after each meal so you can have nice clean pearly whites.”
Once a day will do the trick, and twice a week is better than none at all.
But don’t share your toothpaste with your dog.
“People toothpastes have a lot of detergents,” Gregory said. “We like it to get bubbly and foamy. There is a lot of detergent. We can tolerate it because we rinse and spit. We can use their toothpaste, but they can’t use ours.”
Chicken-flavored toothpaste, anyone?
There are tricks to brushing a dog’s teeth, all 42 of them.
For starters, make it fun.
“It has to be positive not only for the pet but for the pet owner,” Gregory said.
Ease them into the habit by feeding them treats.
Use gauze at first. Soak it in beef bouillon for dogs or tuna water for cats (more on cats later). Rub it gently over the pet’s mouth and teeth, and hold it tightly so the pet doesn’t eat it.
“Start by brushing the teeth with something like peanut butter,” Gregory said. “Or something they enjoy, so they can get used to the sensation of something going in their mouth.”
After all, it’s doubtful your dog will complain about a spoonful of peanut butter in its mouth.
Rubber finger toothbrushes that fit over your index finger thimble-style are an alternative for dogs who don’t want a handled brush poking around their mouths.
Just remember, if the pet decides to bite, it’s your finger that will get the brunt.
As with people, some pets are better at brushing than others.
“If your dog is going to tolerate you getting down and dirty and going in and spending a lot of time scrubbing the teeth,” Gregory said. “I have clients who use a Sonicare.”
If you can’t handle brushing a dog’s teeth, no problem. Have the kids do it, with supervision. “Kids and dogs go together like peanut butter and jelly,” she said.
Pets still need full dental cleanings, which are usually done under anesthesia and cost several hundred dollars.
Certain breeds have better teeth than others.
“It depends on the pet. Some just have good natural enzymes in saliva,” Gregory said. “I’ve seen pets where Mom and Dad are doing everything right. Small breeds are more prone to developing periodontal disease quicker.”
Special foods help reduce plaque and help tartar removal.
Dogs like things to chew on. There are rubber dental toys with ridges for toothpaste, so the dog can brush its own teeth, to some extent.
“The ropes they chew on do a great job of flossing their teeth,” Gregory said.
That’s right. Flossing is actually fun for dogs. Must be nice.
Enzymatic water supplements, dental chews and dental treats help fight decay not only for dogs but also cats and ferrets.
Cats have 30 teeth, four less to brush than ferrets.
All companion pets benefit from dental regimens. Some cats will let you brush their teeth, but they aren’t as easily bribed as dogs.
“You might have to resort to supplements,” Gregory said. “Cats are more likely to scratch you. Getting in their mouths, you have to just know the limits of what is possible.”
1. Rope toys
2. Robber toys with bumps and ridges
4. Water additives that break down bacteria
5. Enzyme-laced chews that soften up and scrub the teeth
Source: Dawn Gregory, vet technician
Whether you brush your dog’s teeth or not, you should look inside your pet’s mouth to check for signs of dental problems:
- Bad breath
- Decreased appetite
- Pawing at the face or mouth
- Excessive drooling
- Misaligned or missing teeth
- Discolored, broken, missing or crooked teeth
- Red, swollen gums
- Yellowish-brown tartar crust along the gum line
- Bumps or growths within the mouth
Pet classes at Mountlake Terrace Recreation and Parks Department, Recreation Pavilion, 5303 228th St. SW:
- Dental Care for Pets is 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on March 25 or May 27. Cost is $27 for Mountlake Terrace residents and $30 for nonresidents.
- Senior Pet Care is 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on April 1 or June 3. Cost is $27 for residents and $30 for nonresidents.
- Pet first aid/Pet CPR is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 31 or June 28. Cost is $60.
- Pigs have 44 teeth.
- Venomous snakes have hollow teeth, which allow for the storing and injection of venom into their prey.
- Sharks can go through thousands of teeth over a lifetime. If one is lost, another spins forward from the rows and rows of backup teeth, like a conveyor belt. Shark teeth are not attached to gums on a root like our teeth.
- Pacu fish have teeth that look uncannily human.