Feedback is good, right?  Well, there was a lot of feedback from last week’s Paw Prints… Most of it centered around a three-word-question:  “Are you crazy?”  Now, admittedly, there are days, if you were to ask my family about my mental health, you might get an affirmative response, but before we get too personal, let me complete the question: “Are you crazy?  You REALLY don’t expect us to brush our dog’s teeth.” Yes, I really do! An effective dental health program for dogs involves three components:

1.    Diet.  It is important that you feed your dog a high-quality dog food. To find out how different foods rate, please check

2.    Routine professional cleaning.  Just as with humans, dogs need their teeth checked by a veterinarian on a regular basis.

3.    Home care.  The best method of home care is brushing. Most dogs can be acclimated to brushing the teeth if you take it slowly. Hopefully many of you have been handling your dog’s mouth on a daily basis for the past week, and he feels more comfortable with your lifting his lip and rubbing your finger gently along the gum line.  You have talked gently to him while you stroked around his mouth, and rewarded him with praise and a carrot. .

Once the dog is comfortable with having his mouth touched, it is time to move on to his teeth. But rather than beginning with a brush, it’s easier to go in with a strip of gauze, or a warm washcloth wrapped around your finger. Lift the dog’s lip on one side, and with the washcloth wrapped around your finger, rub the outer surfaces of both upper and lower teeth. Then switch to the other side. If he resists, quit the session. Doing this once a day for a week or so will result in your pet’s getting used to having your fingers inside his mouth, and make  it easier to move on to the next step: a toothbrush. Dr. Holmstrom, author of Veterinary Dental Techniques recommends using a soft, child-size toothbrush or one designed specifically for dogs. You can also buy brushes that fit over your index finger.  Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth and with a gentle, circular motion, brush the entire outer surfaces of the teeth, especially the area where the base of the tooth meets the gum. Do NOT use toothpastes made for humans, as these usually contain detergents and since dogs are more likely to swallow than spit and rinse, human toothpaste can cause stomach upset. Pet toothpaste comes in so many lip-smacking flavors that most dogs accept it eagerly.

Okay, some of you are still not ready to use a toothbrush on your dog’s teeth. I confess:  some dogs don’t do really well with a brush …. so use a finger brush, or even a warm washcloth.. Any method is better than none, so use whatever approach you and your dog feel most comfortable with, but establish it as part of your regular routine.

Since animal care companies recognize that many caregivers will not brush, they have been hard at work formulating no -brush products, so there are many new products on the market now that claim to make dental care more convenient., including specially formulated non-toxic solutions and sprays that require no effort beyond adding them to your companion’s water or spraying them in his mouth.  Some of these products are more effective than others, but before you rush out to buy one, consult your vet…Do not buy an over-the-counter solution. Brushing at home is the best strategy to prevent dental issues.  With patience and persistence, you can curtail the amount of periodontal disease, reduce the frequency of professional cleanings, and provide your dog with a healthier, sweeter smile!