There are many ways to help maintain your dog’s or cat’s teeth and gums in good condition, but there is only one that will work as a single solution. Surprise! It’s brushing their teeth daily. Not twice a week, but just once daily will keep their gums healthy which is what will keep their teeth in their head where they belong.
The tricks are:
1. Using special, flavored toothpaste that kills bacteria.
2. Remembering to use it daily.
3. Training pets to allow brushing.
1. Get CET or DVM brand toothpaste (or any other comparable product) from your veterinarian or pet store. There are different flavors so use your best guess for which to use. Personally I can’t imagine using seafood flavored toothpaste, but a cat should be ok with a little tuna breath.
2. Ah, remembering to remember! Memory experts will tell you to attach the new item to remember to one that you are already doing. Select a time of the day that you will have an entire one minute free and are doing something that you do every day, like:
- Turning on the T.V. (velcro toothbrush to remote)
- Waiting for the one commercial that you don’t need to see again. (I have done surgeries that take less time than some cookware ads).
- Before a daily walk – dogs will fetch the brush to tell you it is time for the walk.
- You can brush your pet’s teeth when you brush your own teeth.
- Set your cell phone alarm to remind you. Obviously you must be home at this time or it won’t be effective.
A. Your pet – accepting brushing
- Do not rush to get to actually brushing! You need to first train the pet to accept the brush in their mouth.
- Get a soft bristled tooth brush. This can be a special pet brush from the vet or just an inexpensive soft brush.
- Create a positive image of the brush with the dog or cat.
a. Hold the brush in your hand while feeding and giving the pet treats (and/or petting her). After a few days or even a week or two, the dog and some cats will approach you when they see that you are holding the brush. You now have created a positive association!
4. Put a treat on the brush (peanut butter, cheese spread, etc.) and let the pet lick it off. Do not allow the pet to chew the brush. Do this for a couple of days.
5. Put the flavored toothpaste on the brush and let the pet lick it off. If Fido is less enthusiastic with the toothpaste, a little bit of the original treat can be put on the brush with the toothpaste.
6. After a couple more days of toothpaste licking, brush the incisors (front teeth) a little after the pet licks the toothpaste. Notice how well they accept the brushing. They usually won’t resist at this point.
7. Proceed to full mouth brushing.
B. Pet owner- brushing the pet properly
- Cover brush with plenty of toothpaste.
- Now that the pet is ok with the brush, gently brush the upper and lower incisors (front). Do not use any restraint other than placing your hand on the muzzle to lift the lips to get the brush in. If the pet wants to back away (and isn’t frightened), you can get help holding them in one place – gently. This should only be necessary for a short time however.
- Proceed to wipe the toothpaste over all of the rest of the teeth on the outer surface only. Don’t try to get inside because it normally isn’t necessary (longer action keeps the surface cleaner). Also you risk scaring the pet or stimulating a gag reflex. Don’t miss the last two molars on the upper jaw as they tend to curve inward from the rest.
Remember that brushing the dog or cat is different than yourself. We are taught to vigorously brush our teeth and gums for 2 minutes. This is unnecessary for pet brushing because all that needs to be accomplished is spreading the antibacterial paste throughout their mouth.
Save your pet from pain and frequent periodontal treatments (including extractions) by brushing their teeth daily. And save yourself from doggie breath and the expense of periodontal treatments. It only takes a minute and the right toothpaste. Send us a video when you become a master at brushing your pet’s teeth!
William Wiatt D.V.M.