Dogs need their dental care, too

Jan Rosen, a veterinarian with the Washington Animal Jan Rosen, a veterinarian with the Washington Animal Rescue League, brushes Emmy Lou's teeth. (March 17, 2009) Photo Credit: AP

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Marc Morrone Newsday columnist Marc Morrone

Marc Morrone was born in 1960 in the Bronx and, when he was 2, his family moved to ...

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Q. Our dachshund has terrible teeth and the vet said we must brush them daily. We bought a special toothbrush made just for dogs, but she is terrified of it and when we bring it up to her face to show it to her, she runs away and cowers. How can we get her used to it? --Frank Edwards, Hempstead

A. You actually do not even need the toothbrush at first. As a general rule I have found that just one of your fingers rubbing against the dog's teeth with toothpaste made just for dogs can provide enough friction to do a pretty good cleaning job. And most dogs like the taste of the toothpaste.

At first, just let her lick it off your finger, and then, as she really gets into it, you can move your finger into her mouth and gently rub her teeth and gums as she is swallowing the toothpaste. When her mouth is totally desensitized to your brushing her teeth like this, just leave the toothbrush on the floor with some toothpaste on it. Most likely, she will walk up to the brush and lick the paste off it and pick it up in her mouth and get used to it.

At that point, you will be able to use the toothbrush to really give her teeth a good cleaning. It is all about looking at the situation from the dog's point of view.

Q. We have a few bird feeders in our backyard, and a neighbor's cat hides in the bushes near the feeder. We have seen him catch quite a few birds that are feeding on the ground. The neighbor refuses to keep the cat inside, but she did put a bell on the cat's collar. However, the cat still catches birds with the bell on. Is there anything else we can try? --Mary Williams, Brentwood

A. I learned this trick a few years ago from my readers: Get some chicken wire two feet high and erect a floppy fence in a circle about 4 feet wide around the pole the bird feeder is on. When the cat rushes to catch a bird, the wire mesh stops it long enough to allow the birds to fly up and away. I have tried the chicken wire fence, and it works great.

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