Coffee heat rising

Veterinarian Bill Avoidance: Clean the Dog’s Teeth

P1010966My friend La Maya and her partner favor wiener dogs: they had two miniature dachshunds for years and then, after the extreme elder of the two passed, they got a standard dachshund, which is not what you’d call a huge beast. Whatever its size, a dachshund, like a corgi or a greyhound, is a dog that causes veterinarians to do a little dance of joy, because the critters’ long pointy snouts predispose them to expensive teeth-cleaning bills. I would not even dare to ask La Maya to tote up the amount she’s spent on the pooches’ teeth: it might bring on cardiac arrest.

Cassie the Corgi, AKA the Queen of the Universe, passed the vet’s examination of her teeth the last time she visited those precincts. However, she’s given to dogitosis in the worst way: very, very stinky dawg breath.

As you may have noticed if you read this site much, I resist succumbing to Corporate Profit-Making Pet Products just about as vociferously as I resist Big Pharma. The Queen gets real food prepared in the kitchen, and interestingly, she never evinces an ailment that requires veterinary attention. That may have to do with her breed…maybe with raw luck…or maybe it’s a perquisite of reigning over an entire universe. Who knows?

Some time back, I was cleaning my own teeth with some baking soda — not because I’m interested in whitening them, but because it’s actually pretty good for your teeth and used once in a while does a nice job of beating back the Microbial Enemy. In the course of thinking about this, I came across a site that suggested you can use the stuff on Fang’s teeth, too. And lo! What should I find but advice from the august American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to the effect that a small amount of baking soda can be used to clean doggy teeth.

Hot diggety dog.

We’re told not to use human toothpaste on dogs — it ain’t good for them to swallow the stuff. And that’s self-evident. If a toddler swallows toothpaste, thinking it’s some sort of minty candy, it can make the little human very sick. Most dogs are smaller than toddlers, and size nothwithstanding, none of them ARE humans. But, being the crank that I am, I will be da^^ned if I’m going to go out and spend money on special doggy toothpaste. Soooo…. I decided to try this stuff on Her Majesty.

You understand: the Queen of the Universe can be pretty imperious. Baking soda, to my taste, is approximately the opposite of delicious. And so it was reasonable to expect some serious resistance, possibly even rage. The Queen’s fangs are intact. While she does not bite, she certainly could. And so the Human suspected this scheme amounted to taking its life in its hands. But there’s only so much stink even a lowly human can be expected to tolerate.

Here’s the strategy:

1. Get yourself a roll of gauze from the bandage department of your local drugstore or supermarket.

2. Cut off a small amount, about three inches’ worth.

3. Cut off another small amount, in a similar size.

4. Get one of these very wet with cool tap water. Set aside.

5. Wrap the other piece around the tip of your index finger.

6. Dampen this slightly and dip it in some baking soda.

7. Capture the dog.

8. Rub the baking-soda-laced, gauze-wrapped finger around the dog’s teeth, starting with the outside edges (the inside edges can use some attention, too, but good luck with that!). Scour as many edges of the animal’s teeth as you can get to before you are repulsed by the dog’s struggles (which will be pretty quickly).

9. Quickly grab the water-saturated gauze and resume the attack! Wipe off the teeth as best you can before you are again cast out.

The improvement can be amazing.

And weirdly, the dog doesn’t seem to mind the baking soda in its mouth. Cassie sort of smacked her lips a couple of times, but as soon as I wiped her mouth down with fresh water, she was fine.

First time I tried this with Her Majesty, the Eau de Stinko Dog Breath went completely away. This effect lasted for several days! And, IMHO, that is amazing.

Do not expect this to remove existing tartar stains. You’ll need a veterinarian’s professional cleaning to accomplish that. However, as a way to clean the dog’s teeth without having to buy expensive dog-treat-flavored canine “toothpaste,” this is mighty good to know about.

I would not inflict it on the Queen every day. About once every three days seems to suffice to suppress the dogitosis. Baking soda is very high in sodium; inevitably the dog will swallow some of it. Excess sodium is bad for you. So it’s probably safe to assume it’s just as bad or worse for your dog. But as an occasional thing, paired with an effort to rinse off as much as possible: why not?

Adjunct Strategies

Try to get Fang to chew on foods or treats that abrade the teeth a little without adding sugar, salt, or weird chemicals. Some dogs really love various kinds of raw veggies and will chew them up. I once had a golden retriever that thought hearts of cabbage and pieces of cauliflower were gourmet delicacies; in absolute doggy delight, he would chomp on them, scrubbing his teeth in the process. Cassie likes carrots — she’ll treat these like chew sticks, too. Choffing on something like this helps to scour the exposed surface of the teeth. Experiment around with things like raw cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and apple slices to see if your dog can be tricked into a little self-cleaning activity.

Prefer these kinds of natural treats to commercial treats from the pet store or grocery store, which are akin to muffins or candy in terms of dog dental health.

The cleaner you can keep Fang’s teeth, the more you will save on vet bills. The veterinarian has to sedate your dog (expensively) before having at its teeth. If you’d like to be scared, VERY scared, visit this terrifying site on the subject.

6 thoughts on “Veterinarian Bill Avoidance: Clean the Dog’s Teeth”

    • Oh, dear. That is just awful!

      Though 14 sounds old for a cat, my mother-in-law had cats last into their late teens. One of them was 20 years old when it croaked over…not much left of the cat by then, but still…

      I’d be a little afraid to try this tooth hygiene trick on a cat, since they not only can bite, they can claw the bedoodles out of you. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. Maybe test it without baking soda? Wear a Kevlar shirt? And start early, when they’re still kittens.

  1. Woah, sending this over to The Wife right now…our dog has what is offered referred to as garbage breath. The smell that comes out of the 4 pound dog is NUTS.

    • If it doesn’t work, you might want to cave in and take the mutt to the veterinarian. Stomach ailments can cause bad breath, as well as gum disease.

  2. Our dog just had a vet dental cleaning and it was $300 for the cleaning, anesthesia and pre-op blood work. It sounds like a lot but I spend more than that each year on my teeth which DO get brushed and flossed 1-2 times a day so it’s all relative.

Comments are closed.