Recognize the “what the heck” look on their face? The struggle is real, but it’s worth it. Dental hygiene affects so many areas of your pet’s health that skipping is not an option. Brushing their teeth may not be the most fun either of you ever had, but we can at least help you make it as effective and quick as possible.
Start them young.
Puppies and kittens are delightfully trusting. If you start brushing their teeth daily from the beginning, they’ll accept it as just another strange part of life with humans, like going in a box full of litter or walking around tethered to a piece of fabric.
Try some Chicken-flavored toothpaste.
Ew, not you, your pet. Cat and dog toothpaste comes in a variety of savory flavors, but here’s the trick— use it as a treat. Offer them a little on your finger. If they like it, graduate to rubbing it on their gums. And never give them human toothpaste (or any other dental products). If swallowed, it’s very harmful for them.
Don’t go in brushes blazing.
Practice gently opening you pet’s jaw, supporting their head, and touching their teeth to get them used to fingers in their mouth. While you’re at it, note any darkened or loose teeth as a sign to see the dentist. Next, try a finger brush or a washcloth over your finger. If all goes well, you’re ready for a real pet toothbrush. It’s double-sided so you can brush both sides of their teeth at once. Make sure it’s the right size for your pet’s mouth (they come in big and small) and that the bristles are soft to prevent gum bleeding.
Easy does it.
Your dog or cat is as nervous as you are, so the most important thing is to reduce their anxiety. Approach them in a non-threatening way (i.e. kneeling beside them or cradling them rather than holding them down), and never try to force the situation. Let them sniff the brush and even lick some toothpaste off it. Start by brushing in small circles along the outer side of their teeth with the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gum line. Be sure to reach the back upper molars and canines, where lots of tartar builds up.
Heap on the praise.
See, that wasn’t soooo bad right? Now’s the time for lots of praise and treats so they’ll remember the good stuff more than the part where you were removing plaque. And if you give them a dental supplement treat, they’ll be getting their teeth even cleaner.
Remember, done is better than perfect.
When you’re dealing with a dental patient who’s not at all patient, sometimes you just do what you can. A full thorough brushing every day would be amazing, but a quick once-over three times a week is still much, much better than not brushing at all.