You feed, water, exercise, groom and bathe your animal. You take him to the veterinarian for his yearly checkup, tests, and shots. It seems as though your pet is in perfect health. Your pooch gives you a big, sloppy lick across your face in appreciation, and you notice his bad breath. At first you shrug it off to the pet food and doggy bones, but realize that you’ve never brushed his teeth. Is this necessary? Do your dog’s teeth require brushing? The answer is yes. And, unfortunately, bad breath isn’t just an indicator of poor brushing.

Bad breath in animals can be an indicator of health problems. If you have never brushed your dog’s teeth, then it’s likely that there is an excessive buildup of plaque. This plaque, caused by bacteria, is often the cause of bad breath. A sweet odor coming from your dog’s mouth can be a sign of diabetes, while ammonia-like odors can be a sign of kidney disease. Foul odors can be an indicator of intestinal or liver problems. When detected early, many of these problems can be treated.

Plaque buildup cannot be brushed away and should be removed by a professional. The professional can also educate you on effective ways to brush your dog’s teeth and toys you can purchase that aid in cleaning. There are many tips for teeth brushing. Below are just a few to get you started. Do not start a routine with your dog without first having his teeth professionally cleaned. Also, be sure to explore different techniques of teeth brushing that could be more suitable for you and your pet.

1 - Establish familiarity: You don’t want to open your pet’s mouth and go straight for the teeth. First, let him get accustomed to the unfamiliar touch. Spend time opening his mouth and lightly touching his gums and teeth before starting a brushing routine.

2 - Pick the right toothbrush: There are toothbrushes made especially for dogs, or you can use something readily available at your home or local grocery store. Children’s soft-bristle brushes, nylon pantyhose, or gauze pads can be used to clean your pet’s teeth. If using pantyhose, cut a small section and wrap it around your finger. Don’t use any type of material that could hurt your pet’s teeth or gums.

3 - Pick the right toothpaste: Like toothbrushes, you can buy toothpaste created for dogs. You can also make your own paste by mixing baking soda and water. Do not use adult toothpastes. Many brands use ingredients that can induce vomiting in your pet. Also, stay away from pastes containing sugar. Sugar promotes the growth of unwanted bacteria.

4 - Be gentle: If this is the first time brushing your pet’s teeth, then it’s safe to say that his gums may be sensitive. Take the same care with his teeth as you would your own. Be gentle when brushing around the gum lines, and don’t be overly aggressive when brushing the teeth.

5 - Establish a routine: It is recommended that you brush your pet’s teeth once or twice a week; although, brushing more often is not harmful to your pet. Choose how often you want to brush his teeth and stick to it. By establishing a routine, your dog will be more willing and often look forward to his daily, weekly, or bi-weekly teeth cleaning.

6 - Choose the right toys and food: Hard food, or kibbles, is better than wet food for good dental health. The hard food acts as an abrasive against plaque. Dog biscuits work the same way. There are also toys designed for dogs that help with teeth cleaning.

You don’t go weeks without brushing your teeth, so don’t let your dog go the same amount of time, either. Bad breath can be a sign of plaque buildup, intestinal disease, kidney disease, liver problems, or diabetes. If undetected, these problems can become severe. If you're brushing your pet’s teeth for the first time, make sure you take him to a professional. After that, establish a routine that works for both you and your dog. With the right routine, food, and toys, your dog will have pearly whites in no time.

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