Tag Archives: dog teeth

Dog home grooming – what dogs need when

Dog owners willingly shoulder the responsibility of caring for their canines. We all provide food, shelter, walks, training, etc. But the dog home grooming routine varies widely. And should, because the grooming needs of dogs depends on the breed of dog, type of coat, and individual needs of the animal.

Regular bathing

Most dogs, depending on their activity level and how much dirt they roll in, only need occasional baths. The timing varies from a couple of weeks for oily-coated dogs, to a couple of months for short-coated dogs. 

Picture of dog home grooming with a Boston Terrier in the bathtub with soap on her head

The exception to the rule is dogs with skin conditions. We’ve dealt with various ones over the years. The most severe was Ceilidh, our tiny, ill-bred Boston Terrier girl whose system seemed to attack her skin and fur. Ceilidh got medicated baths every week, which kept her skin clear and her fur, minimal though it was, at its best. 

The positives about having to give a dog a weekly bath are that you become expert at it (Fran is the dog bathing guru of the family), and the dog is so accustomed to it that it’s not a big deal. Since the medicated shampoo had to stay on for a while, we learned that it’s smart to reserve a favorite toy for bath time. If your dog only sees this special toy for her bath, it’s a treat, not a trauma.

Doggy facial

All of our dogs through the decades have been flat-faced breeds. Along with that comes a special obligation to keep face-folds clean and dry. We’re not sure if all breeds of dogs require regular face-washing, but it comes with the territory around here. 

Only one of our dogs ever figured out how to use a “napkin” after eating. We used to hand a dish towel over the oven handle and this guy would go over and wipe his face after every meal. We wish all of them would, but we do it manually now. Our guys are messy eaters. And at least two of them munch on mud outside, so faces get wiped, if not washed, regularly.

Tooth brushing

Along with having flat-faced dogs comes fear of anesthesia. While all of our dogs are good breathers and have no particular issues, having to get them “put under” to get their teeth cleaned is scary. 

Veterinary recommendations suggest dogs’ teeth should be brushed as often as people’s. But not even we can keep up a 2X/day schedule. Our dogs get chew toys every day. Regular tooth brushing, with our own formula toothpaste, is once per week. It seems to be working. All of our dogs, from the 3-year-old to the 12-year-old, get good reports at the vet, without ever having a professional cleaning.


Long-coated dogs need daily brushing. And our groomer friends tell us that the biggest problem they see is incomplete brushing. Apparently you have to get all the way down to the dog’s skin to do a good job. If you’re not sure what kind of brush to use for your dog’s particular fur, ask your groomer. They should be happy to recommend the tools that will make their job easier!

For our short-coated dogs (Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs) we use a rubber curry brush, three times a week. And it’s always a surprise to see who’s shedding and how much. You would think that shedding would be seasonal, but it varies widely. One day we get enough fur to joke about making a puppy. The next time there’s barely anything. 


Most of the advice we see from professional dog people says dogs need their nails trimmed about every four to six weeks. We wish that were true for our bunch. They seem to grow like weeds, and we wind up doing nail-grinding almost every week. Our criteria is that dog nails shouldn’t curl, and you shouldn’t be able to hear them on hard floors. We know that’s a bit extreme for most people, but it works for us and our dogs.

Golly (Brussels Griffon) got a toenail torn off twice in her life. On a scale of dog emergencies, it’s a minor one. But it was also messy, painful for Golly, and took quite a while to heal.

Dog home grooming

Sunday morning is our regular time for dog home grooming – nails, teeth, face, ears, bathing if needed. Make it a habit to give your dog a once-over, at least once a week.

An ounce of prevention to save your dog’s teeth

Taking care of your dog’s teeth isn’t fun. It’s not convenient. And you could, possibly, get nipped. It’s also one of the most important things you can do for your dog’s health.

A friend of ours found this out the hard way. Last week her dog had periodontal surgery. He lost about 10 teeth, and is on massive antibiotics to stop the bone loss due to bacterial disease. Left untreated, the gum disease could have led to massive systemic infection, and damage to his heart. Her dog is four years old.

Caring for dog teeth

Fortunately, caring for your dog’s teeth is easy. Veterinarians recommend brushing twice a day, but for many/most of us, that’s just not going to happen. We make sure to brush our dog’s teeth once a week – it happens more often if we notice something going on. Human toothpaste isn’t recommended – get a good one designed for dogs, like our own GG Naturals Dog Toothpaste. Just dab some on a piece of gauze or washcloth and rub your dog’s teeth. Done on a regular basis, your dog may not love it, but he/she will get used to it.

Simple acts can save your dog's teeth

We’re lucky that our dogs all seem to have a mouth chemistry that doesn’t contribute to dental disease. Our friend wasn’t lucky at all. She didn’t expect any problems since none of her other dogs have had the issue. And dogs are notorious for not showing signs of disease until it’s advanced too far to reverse.

Signs of trouble

According to Web MD, the signs of periodontal disease in dogs include:

  • Problems picking up food
  • Bleeding or red gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Blood in the water bowl or on chew toys
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • “Talking” or making noises when a dog eats or yawns
  • Bumps or lumps in the mouth
  • Bloody or ropey saliva
  • Not wanting the head touched (head shyness)
  • Chewing on one side of the mouth
  • Sneezing or nasal discharge (advanced gum disease in the upper teeth can destroy the bone between the nasal and oral cavity)

We don’t even want to think about what the dental surgery cost our friend. Not to mention the worry and recovery time. Her dog’s entire future is changed – his favorite hard chew toys are now off-limits. She only noticed an issue when one of her dog’s teeth seemed loose. The disease had already progressed too far to save the teeth.

Benefits of caring for dog’s teeth

To be completely honest, we’re not so much obsessed with our dogs having pretty teeth as we are terrified of any of them undergoing anesthesia. We’ve only heard of one veterinarian in our area who does dog teeth-cleaning without putting the dog under anesthesia. And, while we trust our veterinarian, we do have flat-faced dogs who have more difficulty with anesthesia. Since there’s a simple thing we can do to put it off as long as possible, or avoid it entirely, we’re going to do it. Tango is our oldest dog at 11. So far, so good. Like many Toy breed dogs (he’s a Brussels Griffon), Tango never had a full complement of teeth. But he still has all of them, and has never had to have a professional cleaning.

Start where you are

Even just rubbing your dog’s teeth and gums with a washcloth will help. While you’re waiting for your Dog Toothpaste to arrive – start. Small steps can make a big difference and it may save worry, money, and your dog’s teeth.

Odd little stuff you didn’t know about dogs’ teeth

February is “National Pet Dental Health Month.” So go brush your dog’s teeth. Nuff said.

Okay, we’re lying. We have lots more to say about dogs’ teeth – but just because we came across some really weird stuff that turned out to be interesting. If you need help getting your dog to let you brush his teeth, we’ve written about it before – here. If your dog has stinky breath, brush her teeth and stop feeding her fish-based food. That last bit is the voice of experience. Torque is much more welcome to cuddle since we switched his food!

Lots and lots of them

A bulldog, running with its mouth open and the dogs teeth showing

First amazing dogs’ teeth fact: they have way more than we do! Adult dogs have 42 teeth. Adult people have 32 – including wisdom teeth. And those dog teeth are classic carnivore – the fronts are for tearing (which is why it hurts so much when they grab your hand instead of the toy) and the side/back ones are for gripping and gnawing. There is no such thing as an indestructible toy!

That huge one on the side is the “carnassial tooth. Its special shape and tooth surface is designed to help shear, crush and hold. This is why you see dogs grasp chew toys with the side of their mouth, chomping feverishly. This is also why you have to replace so many chew toys.” according to Pet Health Network.

Baby teeth

Apparently there’s a myth that gets passed around that dogs’ teeth are replaced when they lose them. Like sharks! But it’s not so! 

Dogs do have “puppy” or “milk” teeth, which they start losing at about 14 to 16 weeks. The dogs’ permanent teeth come in over the course of a couple of months. But that’s all they get. If a dog loses an adult tooth, they’re out of luck. Just like us. 

And, contrary to another myth, you can’t tell a dog’s age by his teeth. You can tell whether the dog’s adult teeth have come in. You may also be able to approximate age, based on how worn the teeth are, but a heavy chewer may have worn down their teeth at a young age. While an older dog who doesn’t love chew toys may not show much wear.

Other oddities

Dogs don’t usually get cavities. They have a different mouth chemistry and bacteria, which apparently makes them relatively immune from decay. 

The bite strength of a dog is almost twice that of a person. Humans average bite force is around 162 pounds per square inch. Dogs average bite force? 269 pounds per square inch. Unless you encounter a Rottweiler, which holds the record at 328 pounds per square inch. Luckily, the Rotties we know are sweethearts!

Size makes a difference

Small dogs are prone to different dental problems than big dogs. 

Big dogs are more likely to fracture teeth, which can lead to infection and tooth loss.

Small dogs are more prone to building up plaque, and are more likely to lose teeth because of gum disease. Toy dogs, in particular, may be born with imperfect dentition. We have personal experience with this – our Brussels Griffon Tango only has about a dozen teeth. But he still has all the ones he came with. Because we brush them. Go brush your dog’s teeth

Brush your dog’s teeth – shine those pearly whites!

Should you brush your dog’s teeth?

Well, of course you should brush your dog’s teeth. And, equally “of course” most people don’t. 

There is a school of thought that says it’s not necessary, especially among people who give their dogs raw, natural bones to chew on. Those people say the “gnawing” action cleans the dog’s teeth just fine and no further brushing is necessary. If it works for you and your dog, you may not need to brush your dog’s teeth.

An ounce of prevention

In our experience, dogs are a lot like people. Some go their whole lives with no dental issues. Others are constantly at the dentist’s office for something. 

It’s a fact that small dogs are more prone to dental issues than big dogs. We don’t know why that’s the case, but we do know we have to deal with it. And our answer has always been to brush our dogs’ teeth at least once once every week.

Veterinary advice

Veterinarians actually advise brushing your dog’s teeth a few times every week. If your household is anything like ours, that’s just not going to happen. Sorry, Dr. Jan, but we just can’t.

Simply put, we’re afraid every time our dogs have to undergo anesthesia. If we can avoid it by taking five minutes every week to tend to their teeth – we’re going to do it as the lesser of evils. It also gives us a chance to take a look at what’s going on in their mouths, if there are any sore spots, or growths, just take a look and see that everything’s okay.

Do they like it? No. Not one of them enjoys it. Do they let us? Yes, because we’ve established the routine since the day we brought each one home. And we’ve developed a method that keeps it short, manageable, and less unpleasant for everyone. 

Dogs love routine

It’s true that dogs like knowing what to expect. They like having schedules and routines. Like when the clocks change from Daylight Savings Time – you know your dog is going to get you up an hour earlier. The “Spring Ahead” part is fine – dogs will never object to getting fed an hour earlier. But the “Fall Back” is a pain – we never get the extra hour of sleep we were anticipating. Because the dogs’ internal clocks are telling them it’s time to get up. 

So on Sunday mornings, we lay out our supplies for our weekly “ablutions.” And each dog, in turn, gets his nails trimmed, teeth brushed, face washed, and ears cleaned. They know what’s coming, so they don’t mind too much.

Favorite flavor

Over the years we’ve tried all kinds of different dog toothpastes with all kinds of flavors; beef, peanut butter, liver (that one was not pleasant for anyone!), even vanilla. The dogs hated all of them. And as we read ingredient lists that were getting longer and less pronounceable, we started making our own toothpaste. Our great-grandparents would recognize our recipe – just coconut oil, baking soda, and peppermint oil. It’s by far our dogs’ favorite toothpaste, and ours, too!

The equipment list is short – gauze (or a washcloth), toothpaste, and water. That’s it. We just dampen the cloth, grab a little paste from the jar, and rub it on our dogs’ teeth. Brushing your dog’s teeth doesn’t need to take long or be complicated. It just has to get done.

Positive results

Since we started the tooth-brushing routine over a decade ago, not one of our dogs has required a professional tooth cleaning. No anesthesia, no added expenses. And our dogs have retained all of their teeth into their senior years.

Showing Boston Terrier's teeth
Booker needs a little flossing, but at six years old, his teeth are looking good.

Of course every dog is different. Just like people, dogs’ mouth chemistry differs among individuals. Some are more prone to plaque buildup than others. Just among our own dogs, their saliva varies. Booker (Boston Terrier) has the most slimy, thick spit you’ve ever experienced. Simon, also a Boston, has much more rinse-able saliva. Simon also has retained baby teeth at this point, which we keep an eye on. Our weekly exam lets us know if anything’s changing. 

Keep it simple

If you’re tempted to start brushing your dog’s teeth, as with all dog training, don’t go for a home run the first time at bat. Show the dog the cloth. Let him/her sniff the toothpaste. Even lick it if she wants to. Introduce everything gradually and, chances are, your dog will come to tolerate, if not enjoy, the attention.