Prepare your pet to have their teeth brushed
It’s an unfortunate fact that nearly 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have periodontal disease by the age of 3! Many pets don’t display signs of problems even though they are in pain, so getting your pet used to having their teeth brushed is good for their health and wellness.
While it’s best to teach your pet to accept toothbrushing while they are still young, adult dogs and cats can be trained. It may take a little longer, but it’s worth the effort. Associating rewards with the sessions, before, during and after, can help keep dental care a positive event.
Choose a quiet time and place to begin. For small dogs and cats, simply hold your pet on your lap, facing away from you. For larger dogs, you should sit on a chair and have them sit beside you so that you can comfortably handle their mouth and teeth.
- First, let your pet become accustomed to having their face and mouth touched. Only once your pet will lie or sit quietly and comfortably for rewards, move on to the following steps.
- Lift the lips and apply a food-flavored toothpaste on the outer surfaces of the teeth. If your pet resists, you might want to try beginning with something yummy, fish paste or oil for cats or peanut butter for dogs. Be careful to apply it on the outside surfaces of the teeth to avoid being bitten by accident.
- Pet toothpastes come in a variety of flavors, so it may take some trial and error to find one your pet likes. Let your pet taste the toothpaste by first giving a little bit from your finger. (Never use human toothpaste—it’s not designed to be swallowed and has ingredients like fluoride that will make your pet ill.)
- Once your pet has accepted the taste of the toothpaste, apply a small amount to a soft cloth or gauze square and gently rub it over their teeth. For the first few lessons, it’s best to rub the cloth along just a few teeth rather than the whole mouth, especially if your pet is unsure or nervous about the process.
- After your pet is completely used to you rubbing their teeth with a cloth, it’s time to start using a toothbrush. Wet the toothbrush with some warm water before beginning and gently brush using a circular motion at a 45 degree angle to the gum line. Keep focusing on the outer surfaces of the teeth—there is no need to open the mouth to get to the inside of the teeth.
Expert Tip: Smear some toothpaste on the teeth as you near the end to avoid having your pet chewing on the toothbrush while you finish.
- Keep it fun! Positive reinforcement is key to getting your pet to look forward to this daily routine.
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