Dental Care for your Dog and Cat

Hello all Pet Parents and Guardians!

You may not have known this, but February is Pet Dental Health Month!

Dental care is coming more and more into light these days and I’m very happy to see it. It has always been an area that I feel doesn’t get talked to pet parents enough by their groomers, because maybe even groomers don’t know much about how to maintain dental health for your pet to avoid bad breath, gum disease, tooth decay and very costly vet visits to get them cleaned or even pulled if the disease/decay progresses too far. I will have information for both dogs and cats in each section! I am not sponsored by any products talked about, and please remember that I am not a vet. Please make sure your vet is checking your pet’s teeth when going in for check ups!

Food Choice: There is a huge, detrimental, myth out there that feeding your pet dry kibble is going to hello scrape the plaque of their teeth. I hate to tell you this, but it’s the same thing as thinking that consuming pretzels and chips are going to do the same for us. Most dry kibble is filled with starch and fillers like corn which add to the growth of bacteria. Now, there is some kibble out there that is created to help with dental care but from what I’ve read most veterinarians recommended focusing on feeding a combination of high quality dry and wet pet food. The better quality food you feed, the less fillers and additives that will coat your dog’s teeth and they will be a much healthier pet! 

Treats: Although our pets’ food is not going to help their teeth, there are plenty of treats that do focus on this! These treats are hard, and shaped to help scrape off plaque. Some popular brands are Dentastix by Purina, Greenies and Whimzee, with most brands selling a variation for cats and dogs. I trust you to read up on what brand works best for you and you pet! And please read the feeding instructions to make sure you are not giving your pet too many treats! 

Toys: There are lots of toys designed to keep our pets teeth looking good! Both dog and cat toys exist and often are a hard but malleable runner with small spikes to clean their teeth. For dogs, rope toys are also great as they can act like floss in a sense. I’ll throw in hard bones and antlers here for dogs, and I have recently read that some cats do enjoy chewing on sticks that would help too! Pet safe bones and sticks of course! 

Toothbrush/Toothpaste: Now, I’m not sure why but it feels most pet parents just don’t seem to think daily brushing with a toothbrush and paste is possible. But you can make it a part of your nightly routine! Now, when beginning to get your pet used to having their teeth brushed I would avoid using mint flavors. I can only speak from personal experience but most dogs react the best to peanut butter flavored toothpaste! This seems like it wouldn’t really help the smell so much, but having that bacteria cleaned out will really help! Although I do not groom cats, I would still avoid mint. Try chicken or seafood flavored! If your pet just will not let you use a toothbrush at first, try using a dental finger brush. They slide right over your finger and are a soft rubber with soft bristles. Pet toothpaste is safe for pets to consume so no need to worry about them swallowing their toothpaste!

Dental Gel/Water Additives/Fresh Breath Sprays: Starting with what I feel is the most important item in this section, dental gel. I love gels myself, as it helps loosen plaque build up and kills germs and bacteria. Most gels will tell you to wait 30 minutes before they can eat or drink (which are the same instructions for most human mouth washes!). I really feel this is great to pair with toothbrushing since it can be hard to get every area of a pet’s mouth! Water additives are another area, and what is great is now they have additives that not alone focus on your pet’s dental health but can also help with skin and coat, digestion, and other areas. Always consult your vet if you have any questions about what would help your pet with their specific needs! And please read those instructions to know how much and how often to add these to your pet’s water. Lastly, the spray. These sprays help keep your pet’s breath minty fresh while also killing bacteria. Just a spray or two is all you need! When I use this on dogs (sorry cat owners, I’ll update this when I try this with my cat), I usually try and go for the sides of the mouth instead of straight on. You will avoid a lot of accidental sprays in your dog’s nose that way!

I’m sure there are some specific toys and products that I missed in this list, but I hope this helps you take better care of your pet’s teeth! A personal goal that I am going to start doing this February for my kitty is to pick 2 different methods ex. New dental toy along with dental gel. I hope to keep her teeth healthy right alongside you all! Always feel free to reach out with questions, but again any medical questions or specific to your dogs teeth will have to be answered by a veterinarian.

How to Help your Dog Get Used to Nail Trimming

As a groomer, the number one issue I come across is a dog who does not like their feet touched. This can range from simple pulling to full on aggression and fear. 

I have met quite a few pet owners and groomers alike who say “dogs just don’t like their feet touched”. I want to tell you that this is a myth! Any dog at any age can get used to having their paws touched and nails done. 

Getting your dog’s nails trimmed at the groomer or vets office does not have to be an anxiety ridden, bad experience. Most of the dogs I groom generally don’t mind having their nails done and their experience in the salon is much better because of it! 

Nail trimming is a very important part of the grooming process. Overgrown nails can splinter and break, which is painful especially if it opens the vein in the nails known as the quick. Overgrown nails also make it difficult for your dog to walk, their toes and knuckles bending in ways they weren’t meant to do for extended periods at a time. This can lead to inflammation and discomfort, and sometimes even arthritis. 

Here are some ways to get your dog used to those nail trims! This is broken down first to puppies then next to adults, as adults typically need a bit more training to get used to the nail trim but please know that they can definitely get used to it! Both tips use nail clippers and your pups favorite treats!

Above all, be safe. If your dog is showing signs of aggression or extreme fear, contact a local behaviorist to work together as your dog may need a tailored plan specific plan. 

Puppies: 

*Start by playing with your puppy’s paws and giving treats when they let you hold them. Work the toes and all the pads, putting pressure on the nails too!

*If your puppy starts to pull away, that’s okay. Let them go and resume the training when they have settled down. Do not force them. 

*Once your puppy is used to you touching their paws (this could take a few sessions), show the puppy the clippers and give them a treat. 

*Touch the clippers to their paws, praising them when they do not pull away. Also be mindful of the curious puppy! They may try and mouth the clippers, make sure to stop praising if this happens. We want them relaxed when the clippers touch their feet!

*Gently clip off the tip of the nails to start. Again, if your puppy becomes startled or pulls away let them go. Do not scold them for pulling, but give lots of praise when they let you clip their toes!

Puppy training, if done early, should be fun and relatively quick as long as it is done in a positive manner! 

But say you have an adult dog that is already adverse to having their paws touched and nails clipped. It will take longer than with a puppy in most cases, but it can be done!

Adults:

*Start when you and your dog are relaxing together, touch their shoulder gently with light pressure. 

*Work your way down to their legs to their paws. If your dog starts to pull, stop and let them relax again. Also withhold treats and praise until you resume. Continue to do this until you can get all the way down to the paw. Use soothing, long tones when praising as you pet and give treats. 

*When you get to the paw, start working each toe and putting pressure on them. Put pressure on the toenails themselves. Again, if your dog pulls or begins to stress out let them relax before trying again. Before moving on to the next step your dog should be completely relaxed when you touch their legs and feet. Remember to praise your dog when they give you their paw or let you hold it! 

*Next, time to get them used to the nail clippers! Don’t worry, you still won’t be clipping those nails for a while. 

*Pull out the clippers, show your pup and give them a treat. Remember to be happy when you pick those clippers out! Pretty quickly your dog will associate you pulling those nail clippers out with a treat. This step can also be done first, and is sometimes encouraged to do first as this typically goes faster and will help you stay motivated with training! 

*Time to put these together. Sitting relaxed with your dog on the floor, hold your dogs paw in one hand and hold the clippers in another. Slowly bring the clippers towards your dog’s paw while playing with the other and giving praise if they stay relaxed. Also be sure to open and close your clippers as well so they get used to the noise. Let your dog pull away if they start to get restless, and resume later when they have settled down. 

*Continue this until you can touch the clippers to your dogs nails and they are completely comfortable with them. You want to be able to touch the clippers to each nail and your dog be calm. Now is when you can attempt the nail trim! 

*Trim just the tip of the nail, keeping at a 45 degree angle as to make sure you do not expose the quick. Also, don’t expect to get all paws done on one sitting. 

**A key tip is to also keep your dog’s anatomy in mind! They will fight you a lot less if you are not pulling their legs out in ways that may be uncomfortable. You may not even realize you’re doing this! I recommend going on Google, Pinterest or other search engines to find pictures of dog anatomy and a close up picture of a dogs’ nail. This will give you a better idea of how you can help them stay comfortable and about how far you can trim on your dog’s nails. 

**Beware dull nail clippers! Either have nail clippers sharpened or replaced when dull. Using dull tools makes it harder for you and more uncomfortable for the dog due to the extra pressure needed for trimming. 

And there you have it! Don’t feel bad in the slightest if nail trimming just makes you too nervous, that’s where your local groomer can help! Just getting your dog up to that step will help your dog enjoy the groomers much more! They may also be able to grind/file the nails, helping to keep them smooth instead of sharp after they are cut. Taking your dog in once a month will keep your dogs nails at a healthy and manageable length.

Please feel free to reach out via comment or email with any questions you may have about this or other pet grooming related topics!