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On Your Mark ... Get Set ... Brush!
Here are ten tips everyone should take to heart when it comes to brushing their pets’ teeth. Sure, not all pets make great candidates for brushing, but a veterinarian will have no sympathy for a pet owner complaining about bad breath and expensive dental procedures if they never learned how to brush their pets’ teeth, trained them to sit still for brushings, and actually do it frequently.
#10 Train Your Pet to Tolerate It
We're not saying he’ll ever love it. But he should at least tolerate brushings.
Less than 10% of dogs are actually trained. It’s likely that an even smaller number is trained to accept a toothbrush or fingerbrush in their mouths. Hire a trainer if you must, but make a point of teaching him that the toothbrush is his friend.
#9 Start Early
Ideally, all pets should be acclimated to brushing before they ever show signs of periodontal disease (80% of pets have periodontal disease by the age of three). Training always works best when you begin early — but don’t despair if you didn’t.
#8 Learn How
Have someone actually demonstrate the procedure on your pet. Make little circling motions. Concentrate on the outside of the teeth. Skip the tongue.
But remember, you can’t do it all — especially if your pet is predisposed to serious gum disease. Regular dentals (as often as every six months for some pets) are strongly recommended for these guys … along with brushing, of course.
#7 Lightning Fast Brushings are Better than Nothing
It doesn’t have to take you forever. Half a minute of brushing twice a week is waaaaay better than skipping it altogether. You’d be surprised how effective just thirty seconds can be when it comes to removing early plaque.
#6 Don't Rely On Others
Letting your groomer do it every few weeks is NOT a substitute for brushing your pet’s teeth at home and receiving routine dental care by your vet. Regardless of how it’s advertised, a groomer’s welcome addition to a pet’s dental regimen doesn’t mean it’s a panacea for everything dental that ails her.
#5 Check With Your Vet First
It’s not recommended you initiate a brushing regimen if you haven’t had your pet’s teeth evaluated first, especially if heavy tartar, bleeding gums and loose teeth are the case. You’re better off waiting for a proper professional cleaning than chancing the pain and severe discomfort of your own dental ministrations.
#4 Get It All Off Professionally First
Even mild to moderate tartar buildup won’t disappear with brushing. Before you begin a new brushing routine, a round of professional cleaning is probably the first line of business.
#3 Ask How Often Brushing is Needed
"How often should I brush?" is the most common question on this subject. The answer: "It depends." Once a week is the minimum. Twice a week for those more likely to develop plaque. Daily for severe periodontal disease patients.
#2 Use the Right Tools
Toothbrushes for pets are all the rage in pet stores. They sport fancy handles, angled bristles, finger attachments and super-fine fibers. But an extra-soft bristled baby toothbrush works great, too. And for those who won’t tolerate something hard in their mouths, we recommend a gauze sponge. Its rough surface is just nubbly enough to abrade the plaque … and not the gums.
#1 Don't Forget the Toothpaste!
Just as with the brushes, nothing fancy is needed here. Baking soda is good enough but flavored toothpaste for pets can sweeten the pot (poultry flavor, anyone?). When pets won’t tolerate fancy pet toothpaste or Arm & Hammer’s finest (or regular store-brand baking soda), even water on a brush beats not brushing at all. Just make sure you steer clear of fluoride-filled or artificially sweetened human-grade stuff. Remember, xylitol kills pets!