Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth: Preventative Dental Care

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Does your dog have smelly breath? An estimated 80% of dogs have dental disease by 3 years of age. Help protect your dog with these simple dog brushing techniques and preventative care.

Unfortunately many dogs develop significant pain and infection due to unhealthy teeth, as well as being banished from the bedroom. A bit of prevention can go a long way towards keeping your pet’s teeth healthy and ultimately save you money.

What is periodontal disease?

While humans tend to get caries or holes in our teeth, dogs are more at risk of periodontal disease, which is disease around the base of the tooth near the gumline. The accumulation of sticky plaque, made up of bacteria, proteins and food, hardens to form calculus on the teeth. This hard calculus causes inflamed and bleeding gums (gingivitis) and as the condition progresses, there is loss of attachment between the gum and the tooth. As the gum separates from the tooth, little pockets of infection develop around the tooth. The bacteria around damaged teeth leads to the foul smelling breath and illness associated with dental disease.

Dogs that have daily brushing of their teeth will have much fresher smelling breath and be less inclined to need costly dental treatment. Getting into the habit when your puppy is young is the best way to start, but any dog can be trained with enough patience and lots of food rewards.

What do I need?

Pet toothpastes are flavoured like meat pastes, so they become part of the reward for allowing brushing. You can get various flavours like chicken or even cheese. Human toothpaste is not meant to be swallowed and pets will hate that minty foaming stuff that we like, so a pet toothpaste is a very worthwhile investment.

There are various different styles of toothbrush. You can use a soft baby’s toothbrush or a finger-brush. Just make sure the brush is soft to avoid damaging the gums.

Teaching your dog to tolerate brushing

To teach your dog to accept brushing, first start out with some toothpaste on your finger and touch the teeth, allowing your pet to lick the paste. If this is tolerated, get a face washer or the edge of a towel and dip it in water and rub it in the paste, then onto your dog’s teeth. Gradually increase the contact time as your dog’s tolerance increases. Use lots of treats to reward your dog every step of the way. After the washer is accepted, switch to a soft toothbrush or finger brush.

Technique tips

  • Aim for 5 seconds on each tooth and brush once daily.
  • Pay particular attention to the base of the tooth, aiming for a 45° angle with the gum-line.
  • Avoid a vigorous side-to-side action that will damage the gums, gently use a circular, flicking motion along the gum-line.
  • Brush only the outside of the teeth, the tongue will take care of the inside.
  • If your dog has bleeding gums after brushing, take him to the Vet for a check-up before doing more brushing.

What if my pet has lots of discolouration, plaque or calculus?

If your dog’s breath is smelly, there is discolouration, recession of the gums and a large amount of calculus you will need a professional dental clean. No amount of brushing will get hard calculus off the teeth.

The No Fear Way To Trim Your Dog’s Nails

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Unless your pet is a very active outdoor dog his nails will need to be trimmed on a regular basis – anywhere from once a week to once a month.

Nail trimming and grooming are activities that are often feared by both dogs and owners. The best way to calm your fears is to ask your Vet or a professional groomer to train you in the proper techniques for nail trimming. The best way to calm your dog’s fears is to train it from a very young age to be comfortable with the process.

If you don’t feel comfortable trimming your dog’s nails your vet or groomer will be happy to do this regularly. And often dogs do not need their nails trimmed if they go for frequent walks on footpaths or concrete. Just watch those dew claws (thumbs).

Types of nail trimmers

There are many different types of nail trimmers. Buy good quality trimmers that are sharp and designed for the correct size dog. They should be concave at the cutting edge, to avoid crushing the nail. Blunt or poor quality trimmers will split the nail. If the nails aren’t that long but are sharp you can simply file them or use a pumice stone to take off the tips. In the US it is common to use a dremel to slowly burr down the nails and this can be more gradual and safer than clipping.

Dog Nail Trimmers

The four core types of nail trimmers for dogs. Source: www.amitywoods.com

How to trim the nails

The first step is to get some treats, make the whole experience positive and don’t feel like you need to be a hero and trim all the nails at once. Start with one, reward and come back later if you or your pet is nervous. One technique that helps is to hold the handle of the nail trimmers flat against the toe pad and cut straight across the nail, so that the nail will sit just above the ground. This technique makes it extremely unlikely you will cut the nails too short.

To get a shorter cut than the previous method, aim to cut at a 45° angle, after visualising the quick. The quick is the pink area within the nail where the nerves and blood vessels are, similar to the area underneath our nails.

Nail Trimming Diagram

A basic guide to trimming your dog’s nails

Working with Black nails

If your dog has black nails, look at the underside of the nail and you will notice that towards the tip the nail separates out into a triangular shape with two outer ‘walls’. At this point, there is no quick and it is safe to cut the tip off. Otherwise use the technique of simply cutting straight across from the pad, rather than attempting to cut up at a 45° angle. Another trick of the trade is to apply gentle pressure with the nail trimmers without actually cutting where you think you need to cut. If your dog reacts to the pressure, most likely you are too close to the quick and you will need to more the clippers further down the nail.

Nail Trimming – The Basics

What if I make the nails bleed?

If you accidentally cut the nails too short you can use styptic powder, or simply use a clean bar of soap and run it under the damaged nail. The soap will plug the vessel and stop the bleeding. Usually if you have made your dog bleed, they will be a bit nervous next time, so make sure you have lots of treats at the ready and take it slow. If you pet is nervous about nail trimming, view this video on how to counter condition your dog and get him used to nail trims.

Old dogs or deformed nails

Older dogs tend to end up with long quicks, elongated nails and often extremely hard nails. Nails can also grow back a bit deformed if there has been some sort of trauma to the nail bed, such as when the dew claw has been caught in something and torn.

Older dog nails

Older dogs tend to end up with longer nails, making trimming more tricky

Clipping after bathing can help with the hardness issue, as they nails will be softer. Ensuring you just take the tips off the nails or cut them so they sit just above the floor when your dog is standing can help to ensure you don’t cut deformed nails too short.

Alternatively, if you gradually take the tips off, you can often make the quick recede a little over time, but you will need to be patient. So long as your dog’s nails are not touching the ground, getting caught in anything and causing the toes to splay out or bend, there is no need to worry too much about keeping them extremely short.

Whenever you trim your dog’s nails remember to make the whole experience rewarding by having treats at the ready and always take a little bit at a time if you can’t clearly see the quick beneath the nail. And if you have a very patient dog, why not paint those nails!

Dog Grooming Basics

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Keeping your dog clean and well-groomed is about much more than just looking and smelling good. It’s about keeping your dog healthy too.

There’s no question about it: having a dog romping around the house that smells “a bit ripe” is none too pleasant. Keeping your dog clean and well-groomed will pay dividends beyond simple aesthetics. It will also help to keep your dog healthy. Basic grooming involves bathing, brushing, nail trimming, and haircuts.

BATHING YOUR DOG

Just like people, dogs need regular bathing. But unlike people, dogs don’t need frequent bathing. Your dog’s breed and the environment in which it lives and plays will largely determine the optimum frequency of bathing. But once a month is a good rule-of-thumb. Experts recommend that you do not bathe your dog more than once a week.

You can’t use your bath soap on your dog when you give it a bath; use a shampoo that is formulated specifically for dogs. For a head to toe guide on how to give your dog a wash visit here.

BRUSHING YOUR DOG

Most dogs love a good brush. Brushing also helps to prevent skin irritation by removing dead hair from your dog’s coat before it mats. And it gives you control over where hair is shed – in the brush instead of all over your house! For some assistance on what sort of brush to choose for your dog, we have reviewed various styles in an article on grooming tools.

You can brush your dog as frequently as you feel is needed, but the longer your dog’s hair, the more frequently you’ll need to brush. Very longhaired dogs may need it daily, while shorthaired dogs may need it only monthly.

Always brush outward from the skin – never toward the skin from the ends of the hair. And misting your dog’s coat with a grooming spray will help the brush glide smoothly through any snags and mats.

PEDICURE, PLEASE

Unless your pet is a very active outdoor dog, its nails will need to be trimmed on a regular basis – anywhere from once a week to once a month. But nail trimming is an activity that is often feared by both dogs and owners. We have put together some tips on how to trim your dog’s nail safely in another article.

The best way to calm your fears is to ask your vet or a professional groomer to train you in the proper techniques for nail trimming. The best way to calm your dog’s fears is to train it from a very young age to be comfortable with the process. And of course, never cut into the quick of your dog’s nails – that will give it good reason to fear the process.

Don’t use your toenail clippers; use a clipper designed for the purpose. A rotary trimmer can be a safer, though slower alternative to a nail clipper. And if you’re just not comfortable with the process, there’s certainly no shame in having the job done by a qualified professional.

SCISSORS AND CLIPPERS

Many dog owners prefer to leave haircuts to professional groomers. It’s a job that really takes some know-how and experience to do properly – particularly for dogs with long, continuously growing hair.

But there’s no reason – with some effort and experience – that you can’t become an expert at cutting your dog’s hair. Here are a few tips for doing the job properly. For more in-depth information read our article Save Money by Grooming Your Dog at Home:

  • Bathe your dog first using a good quality shampoo that suits your dog’s skin type (link to article on shampoos and conditioners).
  • Towel dry and brush.
  • Use sharp scissors for around the face and feet.
  • Use electric clippers for doing the cutting on the bulk of the dog’s body.
  • Be sure to keep the blades sharp on both the scissors and the electric clippers. Dull blades are dangerous.
  • Choose a quiet, isolated place for trimming your dog’s hair. A startling noise or sudden visitor during the process may cause the dog to jump – dangerous for the both of you when snipping scissors are involved.

For general guidelines about when to trim and how much to trim, consult with your vet or a professional groomer. Much will depend upon the breed of your dog. Not all longhaired breeds, for example, will benefit from having their hair clipped short in the summertime.

YOU’LL BOTH FEEL BETTER

Keeping your dog looking good and smelling good will also help to keep it healthy. You’ll feel better, too, knowing that you’re giving your dog the best of care. You will also end up really enjoying owning a dog. After all, having a sweet-smelling, prettified pooch leap into your lap sure beats having a shaggy, smelly beast in your face!

 

 

 

 

 

Save Money by Grooming Your Dog at Home

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Many dog owners prefer to leave haircuts to professional groomers. It’s a job that really takes some know-how and experience to do properly – particularly for dogs with long, continuously growing hair.

 

But there’s no reason that you can’t become an expert at cutting your dog’s hair, though there may be the occasional comic result along the way! The great thing is that hair grows back, it might take 1cm per month, but eventually that slightly uneven first attempt will start to look much better!

Equipment

Clippers can be extremely cheap and you can certainly use any style of clippers, rather than having to buy specialised pet clippers. Some are able to be sharpened, which will extend the life of the clippers. When humans use clippers they usually use plastic guards to clip at a longer length. These tend to snag in longer hair coats so are less useful in pets. For around the paws and ears, a sharp pair of scissors is useful, as some areas will be fiddly to use with the clippers. Also make sure you have plenty of treats on hand and a good brush.

Getting ready to clip

When you start out, having someone to hold your pet is ideal. Groomers will save their backs by always using an elevated table and may even have an apparatus to hold the dog in place or to clip the collar to. Clipping up on the kitchen table can be a great way to keep your dog from moving, but make sure you put a non-slip mat on the table first.

How often?

If your dog has a continuously growing coat, clipping every 6-8 weeks is ideal. If you are able to brush your dog regularly and prevent mats from forming, grooming is not as necessary, but if your dog matts easily you may need to clip the coat short more often. In some ways a longer coat can provide an insulating layer to protect against heat and cold. For dogs that feel the heat however, clipping the belly so your dog can cool down by lying on the ground can help, while still providing protection from the sun.

Care of your clippers

To keep your clippers clean and running smoothly it is worthwhile investing in some clipper spray to keep the blades clean and lubricated. The spray can also be used if the blades are getting hot while clipping your dog. Keep the blades sharp; they are more likely to cut if they are blunt. You will need to have them professionally sharpened in the same place that would sharpen knives. After you use your clippers, brush them free from hair with a toothbrush and apply some blade oil or the clipper spray.

Here are a few tips for doing the job properly. Select a quiet place free from distractions and remember the hair will end up everywhere, so find somewhere easy to clean!
• If your dog is dirty bathe your dog first, using a shampoo made for pets.
• Once the fur is dry, brush out any snags or mats.
• Use clippers in the direction of hair growth in long smooth strokes.
• Use scissors for touch-up and for trimming around extremities: legs, ears and face.
• To clip the paws, brush against the direction of hair growth to push the hair between the toes upwards and cut with the scissors. You can use the clippers to do the underside of the feet.

• Around the eyes, ensure there is no hair growing over your pet’s eyes that could interfere with vision. If your pet is wiggly, using blunt-tipped, curved scissors helps.
• After brushing give your pet a good brush, or if you haven’t already bathed your pet, give him a bath.

Additional tips for nervous dogs

If your pet is a little nervous about the clippers, get some treats and get him accustomed to the noise of the clippers first. Keep any sessions short and give lots of praise, attention and treats for staying still, even for a short time. Having an additional helper on hand to give your pet treats while grooming is also useful for nervous pets. For pets that tend towards anxiety it may be even more important to groom your pet at home, as you will be able to spend more time acclimatising your pet to the process, while a busy grooming parlour will need to move more quickly. That being said, some groomers offer grooming rehabilitation for nervous pets if you ask. When selecting a groomer rely on word-of-mouth and find a groomer who is very good with anxious pets. The level of care your pet receives is much more important than the quality of the cut afterwards.

Matted dogs

For dogs that have matts, sometimes using the clippers can be very painful. It may be necessary to de-mat first using a specialised comb (more information here). If the matts are not too close to the skin, using the clippers on the shortest setting would be the best approach to take the matts off close to the skin. You will need to start somewhere where there are no matts to get to the base of the coat. If the process will be too extensive and painful, consider discussing with your Vet giving your pet a sedative and having the procedure done in hospital instead. Once the matts are gone it will be much easier to maintain the coat with brushing and clipping before they start to develop again.

Grooming can be a bonding experience with your pet and we hope you enjoy this new skill. And once you master the basics, let your creativity flow and try out some of the more adventurous clips.