dogs brushing teeth

Riley Doesn't Brush Her Teeth

Riley is our 13 year old West Highland Terrier.  We’ve raised her since was a puppy. I’ve always considered myself to be a good dog owner.  Riley takes daily walks, gets plenty of attention, and eats some organic dog food that the clever salesgirl convinced us to buy.  It’s made of fois gras or something ridiculous like that.


Admittedly, Riley doesn’t get quite as much attention as she did before we had kids - especially around the holidays.  Her Christmas ornaments have been sent to the back of the tree, and she has had to wear the same hot dog costume the past three Halloweens in a row.


Even so, I still felt confident when I recently took Riley to the vet for her check-up.  Imagine my surprise when the vet asked:  How often do you brush her teeth?  Huh?!  I am supposed to brush the dog’s teeth?  I consider the day a success if I get my kids to brush their teeth.  If floss is involved, I’m up for mother of the year.


At least when I take the kids to the dentist, I have my answers prepared.  Do they floss daily?  Of course.  (Or at least anytime they get popcorn stuck in their teeth).  Do they brush after every meal?  Oh sure, I pack their toothbrushes in the lunch box.


It all dates back to the lies I told my orthodontist in my pre-teen years.  Of course I wear my retainer at all times.  And no, I certainly was not chewing a big chunk of Hubba Bubba when my bracket popped off.


I’ve taken an informal poll of my peers, and can’t find anyone who brushes their dog’s teeth.  But apparently, many people do.  Because we haven’t, poor Riley now has two impacted molars and desperately needs a cleaning.  To complete the procedure, the vet actually puts the dog to sleep.  No Novocain or happy gas…just lights out.  Apparently dogs hate the dentist even more than humans do.


We scheduled Riley for surgery and thankfully everything went well.  Several hundred dollars later, both Riley and I are feeling as confused as ever.  The vet sent us home with some pain killer and a complimentary doggie dental kit.  It included a toothbrush, toothpaste, gel for her gums to prevent plaque buildup and a dental rinse.  Do you suppose I can teach the dog to gargle and spit?  What about floss?  I’ll be sure to post it on You Tube, so keep an eye out.


Riley is now fully recovered (at least physically) from her procedure, but she still looks at me with an expression that seems to say was all of this really necessary?  Either she thinks I’ve lost my mind, or she’s thinking that if I would have been brushing her teeth regularly, she could have avoided all of this. 


The other possibility is that the resentment could go much deeper.  For all I know, Riley could still be angry that we never sprang for those braces during her younger years.