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Dog Tips Tuesday – Take time for teeth

Dogs love routine. Every dog owner knows it – it’s one of the reasons we’re not fond of “spring ahead” and “fall back” Daylight Savings Time switches. Dogs don’t read clocks, but they know what time they’re supposed to get up in the morning and it takes a while for them to readjust their schedules.

If you make regular dental care part of your dog’s routine, he will adjust in time and just accept it as part of life. She may never love it – but keeping your dog’s teeth clean has many health benefits.

Torque's showing off his pearly white teeth.

Torque’s showing off his pearly white teeth.

The first, of course is a breath of fresh air. Dogs really shouldn’t have bad breath, and if they do, the first place to look is their teeth. (If good dental care doesn’t help, have a veterinarian explore the issue further.) Bad teeth have also been linked to heart disease in dogs. Not to mention avoiding the pain (and expense) of extractions.

So – how do you get your dog to accept regular tooth brushing? If you’ve never attempted it, take baby steps. When your dog is relaxed and you’re both just “hanging out,” dampen a washcloth, lift your dog’s upper “lip” and just rub a tooth gently. If she accepts this attention, try to rub a few more teeth. Then let it go until the next time.

If your dog has never had his teeth brushed, you may find some bleeding from his gums when you first get started. It should lessen as you build your brushing routine, but if it continues, give your veterinarian a call.

As your dog learns to accept a finger and cloth in his mouth, you can add time and more specialized tools to the routine – a finger toothbrush and canine toothpaste. Your dog may never love it, but he will adjust.

Some dog foods claim dental health properties. We’ve never seen a dog chew its food, every dog we know is a “gulper.” Gnawing on raw bones and chew toys may help keep your dog’s teeth in good shape. If this is the route you choose, be sure to check your dog’s mouth and teeth regularly.

Hope was brushing Teddy’s teeth when she noticed a large lump on his gum. Lumps on our dogs are always frightening, but catching them early can mean a better outcome. Fortunately, Teddy’s lump proved to be just an overgrowth of gum tissue. Because Hope noticed it, it could be removed before causing Teddy any major discomfort or problems with eating.

Change your dog’s routine – make time to take care of teeth.