Did you know: About 85% of dogs (& cats) over the age of 4 suffer from periodontal disease? But brushing your dog’s teeth on a regular basis will help to alleviate bacteria, calculus buildup and dental disease in your dog. In our previous post, ” Does your Sheltie have bad breath?” we showed you how to identify if your dog has dental disease.

October is National Pet Wellness Month, so let’s all “brush up” to make our Sheltie’s dental health a lifetime priority. Here is an overview of what you need to know:


Toothbrushes, sponges, and pads
The real benefit of toothbrushing comes from the mechanical action of the brush on the teeth. Various brushes, sponges and pads are available. The choice of what to use depends on the health of your dog’s gums, the size of your dog’s mouth, and your ability to clean the teeth.

Use toothbrushes designed specifically for dogs – they are smaller, ultra-soft, and have a somewhat different shape. Finger toothbrushes that do not have a handle, but fit over your finger, may be easier for some people to use. Pet toothbrushes are available through the inernet, your veterinarian, or your local pet stores. For some dogs, starting our with dental sponges or pads may be helpful since they are more pliable.
Dental sponges have a small sponge at the end of a handle, and are disposable. They are softer than brushes. Dental pads can help remove debris from the teeth and gums but do not provide the mechanical action
that brushes do.


  • Dogs don’t like the froth of human toothpaste & it may contain Xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.
  • Dogs can not be taught to rinse and spit & human toothpaste should not be swallowed.
  • Dog toothpaste has a malt or poultry taste, which is much preferred over mint.

How often?
Certainly, the more often you brush the better. Always aim for daily dental care for your dog, just as you aim for daily dental care for yourself. The hardest thing about home dental care for dogs is just getting started. Once you have done it for a while, it just becomes part of your daily routine. If you cannot brush daily, brushing every other day will remove the plaque before it has time to mineralize. This will still have a positive effect on your dog’s oral health.

Tips to Make Brushing Easier

  • Start early! For puppies, examine and clean the dog’s teeth as part of a routine health check. Try to make brushing something fun, just as you would do with your children.
  • If you didn’t get started early, it is never too late to start. If you are cleaning an older dog’s teeth for the first time, the dog may be surprised and uncomfortable the first few times you brush. Work up to a full brushing in stages to help your dog gain comfort with your fingers in his mouth. If you try to do a complete brushing the very first time, you are likely to frighten your dog and make any future attempts at brushing the dog’s teeth frustrating for both of you.
  • Begin by helping your dog to relax. Examine his teeth and gums without attempting to brush at all. This will allow the dog to become comfortable with your fingers in his mouth.
  • If your dog is still nervous about having your fingers move over his teeth, try using just your finger before moving onto a toothbrush.
  • When you do finally begin brushing, work the toothpaste down into the bristles of the toothbrush. Otherwise, since it is so tasty, the toothpaste will be licked up before it can be used to brush the dog’s teeth.

Positioning for Easy Brushing
In order to properly brush your dog’s teeth, you should allow enough time to do the job properly. If you try to rush through the job, your dog will become stressed, nervous, and less co-operative.

First, ask you dog to sit. Hold his muzzle closed with your thumb over the top of his nose and your fingers underneath his muzzle. Keep his mouth shut and gently lift his lip at the side so that his teeth show. The toothbrush should be positioned so that it slides into the back of the mouth between the gums and the dog’s teeth.

How to Brush
Place a small amount of toothpaste on the brush. In a slow circular motion, brush one or two teeth and the adjoining gum line. Repeat this for the number of sessions it takes your dog to feel comfortable with this procedure. Remember to praise them and keep an upbeat attitude.

Once you have finished brushing all teeth on one side, repeat this same motion on the other side. Finish the brushing job by cleaning those tiny teeth at the front of the mouth. This may tickle your dog, so it is best to brush these teeth last. If you start in the front and tickle your dog, you may not be able to clean the back teeth without a great deal of struggling and frustration.

Over time, gradually increase the number of teeth brushed. It is important to eventually brush the rear teeth where plaque and tartar have a greater tendency to accumulate. Go slowly and gently. Stop brushing when you decide to stop, before your dog begins to fuss. If they learn to dislike the procedure and finds out that fussing makes you stop quicker, then this brushing business is going to get harder, not easier.

Build up to about 30 seconds per side. Generally, dogs don’t get much tartar on the inside surfaces of their teeth, so you only need to worry about the outside surfaces.

Be sure to stop each session while it is still fun and lavishly praise your dog afterwards. They will soon start looking forward to tooth brushing and it will become a pleasant activity for both of you. Give yourself a pat on the back, too; you are doing a great thing for your dog!

Dental Toys

DentaltoysMechanical removal of plaque can be encouraged by using toys such as dental toys, rope toys, or rawhide chips. Do not use toys that are abrasive and can wear down the teeth. If your dog is a very aggressive chewer, choose toys that are not so hard that he could possibly break a tooth on them. You may need to look for toys they cannot get their mouth around. Rawhide or other chews that soften as the dog chews are another option. Always supervise your dog when chewing on a toy.

Brushing your dog’s teeth should not be a chore for you or your dog. Instead, it should be an enjoyable time for both of you. If you take things slowly at the beginning and give lots of praise, you and your dog will start looking forward to your brushing sessions.

Excerpts courtesy of the Central IL Sheltie Rescue.

One Response to “Brush Those Sheltie Teeth!”

  1. Chris Moffatt

    I have a battery operated tooth brush which my sheltie loves. No need to hold her head, she comes when called and I stop when the brush beeps the 2 minute signal. Use dog tooth paste. We have fun doing it.


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