Courtesy of: Kaila

I had worked at Truro Vet for almost a year when I got my puppy Indy, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.  By that time I knew EXACTLY all the things I was going to do to make sure that my puppy lived a long, happy and healthy life.  One of the health topics that stuck out most to me was dental care. I would see all sorts of dogs and cats of different ages and breeds and they all seemed to have the same issue at some point in their life – and that was bad breath. What simpler way to fix that than to brush your pet’s teeth!

Dogs (as well as cats) don’t often get cavities like humans do, but they are prone to plaque build-up, tartar and gingivitis, all leading to tooth issues and foul breath.  Keep in mind our dogs aren’t going to be the perfect little patients and “Say aaaahhhh” when your veterinarian asks when it comes time to clean those less-than-pearly whites.  A proper dental cleaning is going to require an office visit, pre-surgical bloodwork and for your pet to be put under anesthesia.  This is a very safe and common procedure but if you could delay the time between needing the dental work done – why not?!

So early on with my new puppy I started setting him up for success with this brushing thing.  It wasn’t a big concern right away because the teeth he had when I got him would fall out over the next few months, but I did want to have him ready for brushing by the time those adult teeth grew in.  I started with lots of handling of Indy’s mouth, getting him used to me holding his muzzle, and rewarding him with kibble and treats for not resisting.  I also would flip up his lips, and rub his gums with my finger.  In no time at all he was very accepting of this fun new “game” that resulted in him getting lots of rewards for being such a good puppy!

As he started to lose teeth I introduced the toothbrush and toothpaste, and again made it a fun “game” where he got to lick the yummy chicken flavored toothpaste off the end of the toothbrush or my finger.  We quickly built it up to him letting me peel back those lips like we had practiced many times before and now brushing his teeth with the brush.

I wanted to make Indy’s teeth brushing part of my daily routine with him so believe it or not – his tooth brush and toothpaste sit in the bathroom next to mine.  Every night after I finish brushing my teeth I brush his (and am very careful not to mix up the toothpaste – as I am not a big fan of brushing my teeth with beef flavored toothpaste!).  It is like his “bedtime” snack, and he is very used to this routine.  I have had Indy in my life for over 4 years now and have been brushing his teeth every night and we always get compliments on his gleaming smile as you can easily see from the picture below.

Photo courtesy of Photographer Robert MacLellan (see more great work at

Brushing teeth can have beneficial effects even when you don’t start with a brand new puppy.  If you have questions about brushing or other dental care, please contact Truro Vet at 893-2341.  With a little work, your pet’s smile can be as big and bright as Indy’s!