By Dr. Jess Trimble
Did you brush your pet’s teeth today? Teeth brushing for pets is just as important as it is for us. Did you know that dental disease is one of the most common diagnosed diseases in adult pets? What’s more, dental disease can spread to other internal organs, causing discomfort elsewhere in the body and leading to serious complications. The good news is that all of this can be prevented with some solid teeth brushing habits.
You should brush your pet’s teeth once a day. That’s surprisingly often, right? (Don’t take our word for it, check the AVMA’s recommendation!) The thing is, brushing any less often than three times a week makes it far less effective in slowing tartar buildup, which is the root of most oral health issues.
Easier said than done – we totally get it. Most dogs and cats aren’t born fans of teeth brushing, but we’ve put together a 4-week plan that can help your pets get acquainted and comfortable with the routine (and helps you keep your sanity). If your pet acts scared or resists, stop and try again tomorrow, but don’t give up! As with any health habit, the key is consistency. Each week builds on the previous one, so continue trying until your pet is comfortable with each phase before moving on.
Week 1: It’ S All About The Visuals
During this week, the goal is to make sure your pet associates seeing the teeth brushing supplies with a positive experience. Once a day, every day for a week, just bring out your toothbrush and toothpaste. Let them see it, sniff it, and then reward them with love, praise, attention– and maybe a small treat or two.
Week 2: Let’ S Get Personal
During this week, we’re introducing touch. You want to start getting your pet used to having the toothbrush near his or her mouth, while still making it a positive experience. Once a day, every day for a week, simply move the toothbrush along your pet’s lips and face. Brush their cheeks, touch their nose, and get them comfortable with being touched by the brush. Then reward them as you did in Week 1.
Week 3: Can You Taste It? You’re Over Halfway Done!
We’re moving on to taste. Once a day, every day for a week, put a dab of toothpaste on your finger and touch your pet’s teeth. Let them lick the toothpaste. Reward them with love and praise, and attention and continue to brush your pet’s lips and muzzle.
Week 4: Bring It All Together
This is when we introduce the actual sensation of tooth brushing. This week is critical. Really try to make it a good experience and don’t fight your pet. Take it slow, but do it every day. Show them the supplies, brush their cheeks and lips. Then put a dab of toothpaste on the brush and touch the brush to your pet’s teeth. You don’t need to do the entire mouth. Start with the big canine teeth in the front, then gradually build up to doing more teeth every day.
Ready to get started? We recommend a triple-sided toothbrush, designed specifically for all of your pet’s nooks and crannies. For another line of defense, consider supplementing your pet's diet with Greenies or Perio Support Pro. These products help prevent the accumulation of bacteria, reduce plaque and keep your pet’s mouth cleaner in between dental cleanings.
Because dental disease can also hide along the gum line and in places you can’t easily see, we recommend that every pet has an occasional full dental cleaning from a full-service veterinarian, especially for pets over 3 years of age.