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Toothbrush | Paste

The Best Toothpaste and Toothbrush 
for a Shih Tzu

Overview

Dental care for your puppy or dog is a vital part of his or her overall at-home care. The good oral hygiene that you provide will help prevent your Shih Tzu from suffering painful tooth infections, rotted teeth, and loose teeth that will eventually fall out. 

Dental chews do play a role in this; however, one of the best things that you can do as well is to scrub your Shih Tzu's teeth with the right toothbrush and a super-effective toothpaste. 
This is what will work to help remove plaque and stop the spread of both plaque and tartar that can wind its way under the gum line.

We humans brush our teeth and it really doesn't make sense to not do the same for our dogs. There is nothing different about our canine family members that would make them invulnerable to tooth decay.  

How Often to Brush the Teeth

In a way, this question almost sounds silly. To many, the answer will seem obvious. However, for far too long, owners have been taught via advertising or simply by myths that dogs take care of their own teeth.

And dental chews, while a very important part of care, will also word things in such a way that you'd think a chew was all that was ever needed.

This said, if you are going to commit to keep your Shih Tzu's teeth clean, it doesn't make sense to step in only half the way.

So, you'll want to make an effort to brush your Shih Tzu's teeth once per day. In fact, the more you do this, the better your puppy or dog will become at tolerating it. If it is only done sparingly, a dog may completely shy away. 

You will find that once you get into a habit of using a toothbrush and paste on your Shih Tzu, that your dog may actually start enjoying it. 

Some of the best pastes come in very enticing flavors. 

Tips for Effectively Brushing a Shih Tzu's Teeth

1. Decide how often you are going to brush the teeth and stick to it. Once a day is recommended. Any time of the day is just fine; however, many owners find that after dinner and an evening walk works well, since a dog is well-fed and is ready to relax.

2. Choose a quiet, comfortable location. Brushing the teeth will not make much of a mess, because dogs are meant to swallow the paste (this is why you should never use human paste), so in the living room or other pleasant area works well. 

3. Hold your Shih Tzu in your lap, so that they'll be no escaping. Remember that in time, this will become a normal part of your dog's routine.

4. If your dog is not used to this, you can start with a finger-brush or just your own finger with a small dab of paste on it. You can graduate up to a regular brush as your dog is acclimated to this. 

5. Aim to scrub for a good 3 minutes. If you use the right products, there is no need to extend this out further. 

Choosing the Best Toothbrush or Dental Tool for a Shih Tzu

Toothbrushes: These are the #1 option, as they are the most effective. When you are choosing a toothbrush, you'll want to keep a few things in mind:
1) Size - One of the most common issues that prevent an owner from being able to properly brush their dog's teeth is wrong sizing of the brush. You'll want a handle that allows you to have a solid grip and importantly, the size of the head which holds the bristles will need to fit inside your Shih Tzu's mouth with enough room for you to maneuver it over and around his teeth.
  
Since brushing all exposed side of the teeth and angling down toward the gum line is important for proper cleaning, you'll want a bristle head that is shaped and sized for toy breed dogs.

2) Firmness - Another common element that gets in the way of a brush doing its intended job is that over time, it becomes soft from use. Even if you chose the best brush for your puppy or dog, every 3 to 4 months, it should be replaced. 

If you use 3 to 4 new toothbrushes each year (a very small expense, relatively speaking), you'll be using a brush with proper firmness. 
3) Shape - Your Shih Tzu probably doesn't have tons of patience while you brush his teeth. Therefore, the best toothbrush will be one that does the job as fast as possible. Brushes that have 2 sides work excellent. In addition, if you obtain the right one, these heads will be angled at 45 degrees, which is optimal for correctly cleaning the gum line.
Finger brushes: These are small rubber pieces that fit over a finger to manually clean a dog's teeth. The bristles on these are more like nubs, and will not be as effective as a canine toothbrush; but, since it is less intrusive, this can be a good choice if your Shih Tzu does not tolerate a handled brush.

Also, these can be a good starting point for some dogs that need time to get used to having their teeth touched. 

Dental wipes: If it is your only tool available, wipes are certainly better than nothing. Dental wipes are good for supplemental cleanings; however, they will not have the abrasive quality that is needed to actually scrub away particles and plaque.
Recommended toothbrushes are ahead, seen after a section on pastes. Want to get right to it? Jump to Recommended Brushes and Pastes

The Best Toothpaste for a Shih Tzu

Choosing the right toothpaste for your Tzu is a vital part of dental hygiene. Using human products is a serious misstep that can cause dangerous toxicity. And using a cheap paste can greatly decrease the effectiveness of the brushing.

Why human toothpaste is so bad - Some owners make the mistake of thinking that warnings to stay away from human products is part of a marketing plan to see more canine-specific products; however this is not the case at all. 

There are 2 ingredients in human toothpaste that can cause terrible poisoning with dogs and for toy breeds like the Shih Tzu, not much is needed:

1) Fluoride - This chemical was first used mainly as an insecticide to kill bugs and as a poison to kill rodents (mainly rats). As preposterous as it may sound, it is a by-product of manufacturing (chiefly of the aluminum, copper and iron industries) and in the 1930's when governments did not have a good idea how to possibly dispose of it, they decided to add it to water supplies and toothpastes since in low quantities it appeared to help with tooth decay. 

During the 1970's and 80's dentists would put gobs of fluoride in mouth-guard type devices and have children sit for 30 to 60 minutes to allow the fluoride to sink into the teeth.  

Studies have proven that when you consume too much it has devastating health consequences. Two things to note: #1, Dogs swallow toothpaste, thus they WILL ingest it and #2 the line of 'how much is too much' is blurry at best.

It can cause teeth to weaken to the point of crumbling away, it can damage the musculoskeletal and nervous systems and for humans, it causes close to 10,000 bone cancer deaths per year in the US. Shocking? Yes. A reason to never brush your Shih Tzu's teeth with human toothpaste? Absolutely.

2) Xylitol - If reason #1 above was not enough, the other ingredient that can be harmful is xylitol, which can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar levels and can cause liver disease.
Qualities of a great canine toothpasteThe paste that you use will serve a few important purposes:

1) It will have mild abrasives that will work in conjunction with the brush to remove tiny particles of debris, bacteria, and plaque.  

2) It will work to remove staining from the enamel of the teeth.

3) It will have a pleasing taste (to a canine) that will play a huge role in how accepting the puppy or dog is to having his teeth brushed.

4) It will be a non-foaming formula that is easy and safe for a dog to swallow. 

5) A nice added bonus is that quality toothpaste will also temporarily freshen a Shih Tzu's breath.
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