Of Bristles, Beans, and Bouviers

Barnum has decided to follow in the bouv family tradition in my home — the tradition of eating toothbrushes.

Recently Kali at Brilliant Mind Broken Body wrote about how much daily care goes into the upkeep of a service dog. I must admit, while I try to do all the things she listed, I don’t always succeed. Sometimes I’m just too exhausted. Sometimes my dog is not cooperative. Sometimes they’ve eaten the grooming tools.

It started with Jersey. Back then, for dental care I used a finger brush — one of those little white, flexible-plastic finger cots with nubs on one side. You apply the toothpaste to those little bristle bumps and rub the teeth and gums with it. This was very easy to do because Jersey was very placid and because she loved the taste of the toothpaste. (Back then, it was liver flavor. For some reason, they don’t make that flavor anymore, which is a shame, because it was the only flavor Gadget liked. But I’ll get to him in a minute.)

Jersey had impeccable manners. She was calm, quiet, reserved. She never jumped up or barked or stole food. She was a real little lady.

One day I went to get the finger brush and it was not on the coffee table, where I normally kept it. I thought I must have put it on the dog crate instead. Nope, not there. I looked and looked. I figured I’d eventually find it (which turned out to be true), but I also wondered — because it had disappeared so completely — if Jersey had eaten it.

I mentioned this idea to a friend and they thought it was ridiculous. This was a friend who does not have any pets, I should add.

I ended up ordering a new one, on the theory that it’s always good to have a backup, and that if I replaced it, I’d  probably find the old one. That’s what happened. The new one arrived, and shortly thereafter — about a week since the first one went missing — Jersey vomited in the kitchen. As I cleaned it up, I noticed a weird thing among the slime.

It was hard and yellow and fused together, but after taking a good look, I now knew for certain where that finger brush had gotten to. After that, I kept the dog dental care items on a higher surface.

Then, along came Gadget. I started out with the finger brush, and then I discovered the three-headed brush by Triple Pet. It has three sets of bristles so that you can get all three sides of a dog’s tooth at once. It’s brilliant. Gadget was not wild about it, but he learned to be very patient and put up with it. After the liver flavor toothpaste was discontinued I tried a few, some of which he hated. Others he tolerated. Poultry was the most palatable, so I stuck with that, and he eventually became very relaxed about tooth-brushing.

However, in the early days, when he was first getting used to the brush, he would chomp on it while I was brushing. After all, there was something in his mouth, it tasted somewhat like food, and it was between his teeth. Because the articulating heads are three pieces instead of one, they are not as strong as a regular toothbrush head, and one day, chomp chomp chomp, he bit the brush heads off.

So, I replaced that one, and I taught him to receive tooth brushing without chomping. We were able to use the same toothbrush for the rest of his life. So, technically, he didn’t actually eat the toothbrush. He did routinely eat bars of soap and once ate and then later barfed up some latex gloves that had been in the trash, though.

Barnum is not very fond of having his teeth brushed, and he is only moderately cooperative. However, he really likes the taste of the poultry toothpaste.

Having learned my lesson not to leave dog tooth brushes and tooth paste at nose level, I keep Barnum’s brush and paste on top of his crate. One night, he was in his crate while I was eating dinner. I heard him chewing on something. At first, I assumed it was his antler or some other chew toy. Then I thought, “He doesn’t have a chewy in there, does he?” I pondered this for a few moments while I gulped down my mouthful of food.

I decided to just check what Barnum was doing. That’s when I discovered his toothbrush had fallen into his crate. And he was chewing it — what was left of it.

Blue-handled toothbrush on the right has three piece head neat and clean. A dark blue pastic back with bristles pointing up, tucked behind and articulating neatly between a bristle head on either side, one yellow, one white. The bristles are all neat, clean, the same size and shape. Next to it is a yellow-handled toothbrush. Of the three heads to this brush, the center back piece is gone completely, snapped off at the base. The right and left sides (one orange, one gree) are severely bent, curling up at odd angles, with the plastic chewed almost flat in places. There are only three ravaged clumps of bristles left on the green head (as opposed to 12). The orange had has more bristles left but is also flattened and missing pastic as well as several bristles. Those that remain are mashed, bitten off and going every which way.

Guess which one used to be Barnum's brush?

I found an old one (the blue one), and will use that from now on.

On the left, yellow tooth brush with only two heads, both badly mangled and missing many bristles. On the right, clean, whole toothbrush with three articulating heads.

As you can see, there is a chunk of plastic, as well as a significant amount of bristles, missing.

Oh, just one more picture. . . .

view of the underside of the toothbrushes

You can see the blue piece on the brush on the right that is totally missing from the mangled one on the left.

Of course, I tried to examine Barnum’s poop for the following week to see if I saw bristles or a small piece of blue plastic. I never did, but there were a couple of times he poop when on walks with my helpers, and I didn’t see “the contents.”

However, Barnum also started having seriously rank flatulence every day. Bouviers are often champion farters, but Barnum is not usually an offender. I had recently added pinto beans to his diet, though. The question was, “Are Barnum’s emissions due to the beans, or is this a sign that the toothbrush pieces are lodged somewhere, irritating his gastrointestinal tract and causing digestive distress?”

I really did not want to have to take him to the vet for x-rays. Instead, I switch Barnum to a bland diet, without beans, and within 24 hours, the farting went away. So, I think we have escaped a brush with disaster.

-Sharon, the muses of Jersey (delicious!) and Gadget (crunchy!), and Barnum, SDiT (Where’s the rest of my poultry chewy? Why did you take it away?)

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17 Responses to “Of Bristles, Beans, and Bouviers”


  1. 1 Karyn August 14, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    I read the piece at Brilliant Mind Broken Body. I don’t do everything she does, but I do a lot. Teeth are the critical thing here because Thane seems to be a plaque builder even with his raw diet, probiotics, and such. Right now I have no truly MCS safe toothpaste for him. Poultry is now Roasted Chicken and makes me violently sick. Thane also is not impressed by the change. I used to use the triple brush like you are describing, but after a couple fell apart, I stumbled on the quadbrush. Its made much better and has a bit of bristles on the bottom making it four brushes in one, but the three main brushes are designed as one brush so breakage isn’t an issue- plus no rubber smelly grip. They are way better designed. I get mine at dogtoys.com One difference I notice between me and you, is that I replace Thane’s toothbrush (and did so with Met as well) as often as I replace mine. I also do periodic soaks with them.
    Right now I am using the Petzlife gel and spray system and its smelly. I do it in the front room right before we head in the bedroom for TV and bed but use mask and gloves to do it. Its supposed to help loosen up tartar. I know it did work well for Met but despite their claim that what I now have is the original formula, the original did not have added flavor so was less toxic. It does not bother me by how I do it, but would if I used my bathroom or did it at another time of day.

  2. 2 Martha August 15, 2011 at 12:51 am

    My dogs haven’t eaten their toothbrushes, but my second guide Zorro ate soap. I was distracted at a friend’s house when I heard run run slide slide. I went to see what it was, asuming my dog was the cause. Zorro was doing zoomies in her tub/shower, and when I called him out, he bolted out the other bathroom door with the bar of soap. There was a nice trail of soap bits from the bathroom to the living room, *embarrassed*

  3. 3 Courtenay August 15, 2011 at 1:33 am

    I’m very curious about the pinto bean addition and why you did it!

  4. 4 Laura August 15, 2011 at 9:00 am

    LOL Yuki tears up those rubber ‘balls’ that are like open mesh. Forget the balls, she takes the pieces and throws them around and then chews them like bubble gum!

  5. 5 Sharon Wachsler August 15, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    It’s a complicated answer, I’m afraid. Part of it is that I give Barnum a Lyme prevention tincture every day. It’s in an alcohol base, and he hates the taste and smell. I could squirt it with a syringe, but it’s a lot more pleasant for both of us if I can put it in a food that will absorb it. Since most of his food is raw meat, that doesn’t work. I prefer not to use kibble for anything I can get away with. (There are a few things nothing but kibble really works for, but other than that, I don’t feed him kibble.)

    The other issue is that he used to have recurring UTI due to calcium oxylate crystals. I read up on calcium oxylates, and it seems primarily to be caused by too much calcium in the diet and/or not enough antagonists of calcium, such as phytates. So, I reduced his bone meals and try to reduce other calcium, but we use cheese for training not infrequently because it’s the most high-value treat that is not totally messy (like raw beef cubes are).

    I read up on which foods are high in phytates. Basically, fruits, vegetables and grains are. High meat/protein diets are considered contraindicated for calcium oxylate issues, but I didn’t want to do that because he does well on a mostly raw meat diet. So, instead gets a small amount of grain and veg along with his tincture and fish oil, but if he gets too much veg, he will vomit the next morning. One of the highest phytate foods is pinto beans. So, at one point I bought a variety of high-phytate foods, and I have been rotating through them. Grains and legumes are convenient because they soak up the Lyme tincture, and he digests them well.

    Thus, the pinto beans. BTW, since I did my research and changed his diet, he ha not had any UTIs, whereas before he had repeated and persistent ones. I cooked the beans some more to make them extra mushy, and now all’s quiet on the Western front. wink.

  6. 6 brilliantmindbrokenbody August 15, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Well, that list is an ideal. A thing to aim for. How often do we actually meet ideals, eh? We do our best to keep up with all of that, but I’ll admit we fall short. Right now, we’re trying to catch up his nails – they got too long while my fiance was working at the summer camp because he was too damn tired to do much of anything on the weekends when he came home, and there was always a lot to do.

    I don’t know if they’re dog-safe, but I know bay, carroway, cumin, and anise are known for reducing gas. Cooking them with the beans could help. I was also going to suggest cooking the bejeesus out of them, but I see you’ve already discovered that.

    ~Kali

  7. 7 brilliantmindbrokenbody August 15, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    I found a recipe that sounds like it could be made safely for you, if you were interested in making your own toothpaste for Thane.

    6 teaspoons of baking soda
    1/3 teaspoon of salt
    4 teaspoons of glycerin. If you are a vegetarian or vegan dog owner, you can opt for the glycerin that comes from plants.
    In addition to these ingredients, you can either mix in 2 teaspoons of organic, low-sodium beef broth

    Mix together everything but the broth until you get a paste, then add the broth if desired. It needs to be stored in the fridge, but it’d be MCS-safer.

    ~Kali

  8. 8 Karyn August 16, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    WOW Kali
    This sounds really promising. I just might give it a try with Thane. Right now I’m really needing to focus on tartar issues with him so using Petz Life pretty religiously but its so expensive that once things settle- meaning he is off the Lyme antibiotics, this would be awesome. You are a gem!

  9. 9 Karyn August 16, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    The rubber balls like an open mesh design are called Holee balls. They are great for my boys playstyle but due to my MCS they are a glove and outdoor toy. .

  10. 10 Karyn August 16, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    Ahhh the nails! As I laid in bed this morning waking up with Thane, I discovered why he has been ice-walking on floors so much lately- between the forests growing between his pads and his nails- ARG
    Usually I have to do them about once a month and the hair about twice a month but since we are not out near as much, his nails are a chore to put it lightly.

  11. 11 Karyn August 16, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Another approach to de-gassing beans is to soak them overnight and then drain and rinse them and then cook them with fresh water. Interestingly the organic cooked beans I buy for myself don’t cause me gas at all. I was going to recommend tripe or tripett for the herbal tincture. Interestingly the stuff I have read in Healing Lyme says herbal tinctures are not as effective as capsules or fresh herb. I’m not sure if thats just for those with the disease or if its considered an across the board thing, but thought I would mention it as powder can be so much easier to mix up in foods like tripett or ground raw meats. I have an easier pill dog, but one who sometimes needs me to empty capsules into things at times when he needs multiple supplements at once.

  12. 12 Sharon Wachsler August 16, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    I did soak them overnight, but I’m not sure if they got cooked in fresh water or not. However, now that they have been super-cooked, we are not having any gas.

    I do use Tripett, actually. We use it in his Kongs. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that for the tincture. I will consider it.

    Yes, I personally do lousy with tinctures. I can’t tolerate them, so I have tended to do capsules of dried herbs for myself and also did for Gadget. I started that with Barnum but ran into two problems:
    1. To give him a high enough dose, every day, for most of the year, meant many, many capsules, which is very expensive and also requires lots of pilling.
    2. Some of the preventative herbs are hard to get in a form that is safe for dogs as capsules. For example, Japanese Knotwood is most commonly sold in Resveratrol, which is made with grapes.

    I decided tincture was the best option.

  13. 13 brilliantmindbrokenbody August 18, 2011 at 12:52 am

    Hudson gets positive THICKETS springing up between his pads. I have to trim them out about once a month. It’s annoying, because he hates me doing it and keeps trying to yank his paw away.

  14. 14 brilliantmindbrokenbody August 18, 2011 at 12:54 am

    Very welcome, Karyn. If I were you, I’d read the ingredients on the Petz Life – the first 3 ingredients I listed are the most common active ingredients in dog toothpaste. They may also add silica, but that’d be all of the usual suspects. Which is to say, this may work just as well.

    The recipe did originally say you could use peppermint extract instead of the beef broth, but if I recall correctly that’s not typically a MCS-safe ingredient.

  15. 15 Karyn August 18, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Kali
    Trimming once a month would be awesome- Thane’s is more a weekly job to keep his forests under control LOL
    I got that done and his nails- found a nail he had quicked himself on so we stayed home yesterday to let it and a household injury he gave himself some healing time

  16. 16 Karyn August 18, 2011 at 11:25 am

    That makes sense why you went to tinctures. I empty capsules into Nupro, tripett, ground meat to reduce amount of pilling right now for Thane. He’s great when I want to just pill him but I know he can get a gag issue if I pill too much. He seemed at one point to have a very mild form of MegaE but I have not seen it since going raw. Even so I don’t like to overpill just in case.

  17. 17 brilliantmindbrokenbody August 24, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    I probably should be trimming Hudson’s out more often, but with how much it annoys him, I don’t want to push it, you know?

    Yeow on the quicked nail and the household injury – hope Thane’s back to good health quickly!

    ~Kali


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