3 Ways to Help Your Dog Get Comfortable with the Toothbrush

Ever tried to shove your hand in the mouth of an angry child to brush their teeth? Well, the process is even less fun when it comes to dogs. Their teeth are sharp, after all!

But teeth cleaning is crucial to your dog’s health. The more you maintain your dog’s teeth the less you’ll need to visit groomers or veterinarians down the road. It’s an ongoing business for dog owners, but if you do it right then it can actually be an enjoyable experience.

Signs of poor oral health:

  • Bad breath
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Trouble eating

If you’re noticing any of these symptoms, bring your dog to a groomer right away. Otherwise, here’s 3 steps to take to avoid dental issues.

1. Start ‘Em Young

Young children are constantly putting things in their mouths in order to explore. Dogs are no different. If you start young then they’ll be more comfortable with something other than food in their mouth.

Gently playing with your dog’s mouth teaches them to trust that process. You can make it fun too – use peanut butter or another snack to help them associate contact with reward. Food rewards are a powerful way to build trust with your dog.

2. Slowly Introduce a Toothbrush

Once your dog gets comfortable with contact in the mouth, the next step is to get comfortable with the toothbrush. It’s a foreign object that can’t be eaten, so it’s tough to predict your pet’s reaction. Try using a treat like beef to associate the toothbrush with something positive.

Keeping the toothbrush close, use your fingers to gently massage the gums and the teeth in the front and back of the mouth. Again, this associates positive energy with the presence of the toothbrush so you can slowly start using the toothbrush full time.

Just like humans, bacteria is hard on your system. Your mouth and your dog’s mouth are breeding grounds for unwanted guests. Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly will help their oral health and ultimately help them live longer and happier lives.

3. Raw Food

The problem with a lot of commercial dog food you find on the shelf is that dogs only use the back teeth, the molars, to chew. The food is tough so its pushed to the back of the mouth. The result? The front canines and incisors aren’t used and therefore aren’t cleaned naturally through the eating process.

Raw food, on the other hand, utilizes all 42 teeth. It has tissue that slides in between teeth and acts like dental floss. Bones are handy as well; dogs will hold a bone with their paws and go to town using as many teeth as possible.

Happy Mouth, Happy Dog

There’s nothing worse than walking around worrying about your mouth. Well, dogs aren’t self-conscious enough to know when their breath is terrible, let alone when their mouth needs some serious attention.

The best way to combat poor oral health is to get ahead of the problems before they start by regularly brushing your dog’s teeth or by simply visiting a groomer or pet-health educator.

Like us! (Sorry for the shameless self-promotion, just couldn’t be avoided any longer!)

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Sylvia MacDonald & a Lifetime Spent Grooming Our Furry Friends

What are you passionate about? What gets you up in the morning? What keeps you up at night?

Some of the best companies in the lower mainland are those built on passionate the labour-of-love shops created just because the owner wanted it to happen, rather than needing it to happen.

When it comes to pets, dogs in particular, there’s nothing else that stirs those emotions more strongly for Sylvia MacDonald, the owner of K9 Brite Barks.

That’s right, I scored some time with the boss! Enjoy!

Kelvin: Describe your background – what led you to opening up a dog grooming and teeth cleaning shop in North Vancouver?

Sylvia: I’ve been working with dogs since I was 8 years old, I’ve loved dogs and animals my entire life. I started showing dogs when I was 8. My parents were presidents at the Alberni Valley Kennel Club. By the time I was 15 I became a professional handler. I was handling dogs in the ring, getting paid and working for people. I loved everything about the dog business. At around 16 I started grooming dogs with my own business in my basement. My next door neighbours would bring their dogs over. By the time I was 17 my dad built me a store, I called it The Barking Lot…

Wait, seriously? A dog grooming business called The Barking Lot? That’s incredible.

(Laughs) Yep! At about 20 I moved to Victoria and that’s when I opened up my business training people all over the world in grooming show dogs. The Barking Lot became a post-secondary trade school teaching people proper dog grooming. Then I opened a doggy day care with 7 groomers working for me. Then a retail store.

So it’s your life’s work then. There’s no other way to cut it.

I suppose so! K9 Brite Bark came about when I was grooming and I started hearing stories from people losing their pets to anesthetic when they were put under. It was horrible, sometimes there’s no avoiding it, but it’s just so sad. I started researching and using new tools because you can’t show a dog with bad teeth. So I went into it in further depth and I started volunteering with veterinarians to learn as much as I could. I ultimately decided to sell the Barking Lot to get into teeth cleaning full time. My manager took over and I started promoting anesthetic-free teeth cleaning in the store. After dogs were groomed by The Barking Lot they got their teeth cleaned. From there I opened up K9 Brite Bark in Victoria and the rest is history!

When did K9 open up officially?

I think it was 2002, time flies, wow. Now it’s a full business in different cities, we have 3 stores just in Victoria, one in North Van and one in Duncan. We’re mobile as well, we go to Gibson’s and to Castle Rock once a month. We have 6 stores in Calgary, too. People line up the dogs and we do education sessions with everybody on good oral health, how to hold your dog and how to brush your dog. That’s the whole thing with dental, people just don’t know how to do it and we educate them along with doing the cleaning and polishing.

Let’s talk more about the philosophy behind the business. Why do you believe in anesthetic-free teeth cleaning?

First, I don’t believe every dog should be put under, but sometimes it’s necessary. What we do is determine when it’s not necessary, when the teeth can be cleaned ultrasonically. Sometimes the tartar, isn’t underneath the gum line. We can treat a dog before there are severe problems. It’s non-invasive. A lot of different breeds, the dogs with the pushed-in faces, they can’t go under anesthetic, it’s too hard on them. To be able to take them somewhere where they can get their teeth cleaned is exactly like a human going to the dentist and having the hygienist do your teeth. If there are issues we can’t deal with we send people to a vet right away.

We’re behaviourists as well, that’s the key. We’re trained to work with difficult dogs in different situations. That’s the skill, getting into a dog’s mouth, being gentle to the point where they’ll actually let you do it. Our ultrasonic girls come and they have to have 6 months of training and then there’s a long process. It’s all about handling that dog in a gentle way where the dog actually enjoys it.

Can I call my house The Barking Lot if I get more dogs?

(Laughs) Whatever you need to do, you go for it.

German Shepards on the Beach

Why Heatstroke is So Dangerous in Dogs (& How to Avoid it)

The summer sun is here in the lower mainland and dog lovers everywhere know what means: chasing after sticks, playing catch and getting a good workout while the weather is hot.

… and now on to the dogs!

Haha, I know, so funny. Seriously though, pet owners in Vancouver are salivating at the thought of heading outside, but just like people, dogs are very much at risk to the effects of the heat.

What is Heat Stroke?

When the temperature rises, the body’s heat dissipating mechanisms have a tougher time functioning because of the increase in external heat. It’s not as difficult when it’s cloudy or rainy because a dog’s body can ‘borrow’ the lack of heat from outside.

When it’s hot out, there’s no escape. Your dog doesn’t sweat out excess heat like you do, they pant out the heat. If there’s too much or their internal motor gets running too hot, then they’re incapable of combatting the excess heat and severe damage to internal organs can occur, or worse.

A dog’s normal body temperature is between 100º to 102ºF, but they don’t know that and neither do you when you’re out in the park.

So how can you tell your pet is in trouble?

The Signs of Heat Stroke

If you notice any of these symptoms then your dog needs immediate veterinary attention:

  • Rapid breathing or panting
  • Bright red tongue
  • Discoloured gums (pale or extra red)
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea

One of the other ways to spot heatstroke in your dog is their mood. Do they seem depressed even though they’re doing something they love? Are they swaying slightly? Are they responsive?

In other words, if something doesn’t seem normal, then don’t think twice – something is not normal! If you suspect heatstroke then immediately remove your pet from the heat and try to cool them with shade or lukewarm water around the neck, ears and on the belly. After that, take them for aid right away.

Related: what your veterinarian do to lower your dog’s body temperature.

Stop Heatstroke Before it Happens

So why is heatstroke so difficult to detect in dogs?

Because they don’t tell us something is wrong. That lack of a common language sure is pesky, isn’t it?

Although unless we’re dealing with a brand new pet, we usually understand exactly what they’re saying, right? After all, we spend more time watching their movements and routines then we do understanding our own routines.

The key to preventing heatstroke in pets is making sure they have access to something cool. When you go to the park this summer, follow these tips:

  • Keep an abundance of cool, fresh water available
  • Choose an area with plenty of shade and thick, long grass (beaches are not a dog’s friend)
  • Keep exercise to a minimum & take plenty of breaks
  • Don’t let your dog get to a point where they’re panting or wheezing too much

Helping Those Without a Voice to Help Themselves

The summer is a wonderful time to be a pet owner. You don’t have to worry about mud tracked through the house (as much) or having a wet dog shake itself out in the living room before you can dry him off.

However, the rainy months are a lot safer for dogs who love being outside. the problem is that it often doesn’t take a lot of added heat for dangerous situations to occur.

Your dog might enjoy summer more, but they don’t quite grasp the concept of heatstroke, so it’s up to us to protect them from the dangerous effects the sun can have.

So have fun this summer, and keep everybody in your family safe.

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