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4 Tips to Make Pet Tooth Brushing a Habit

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By now you’ve probably heard that dogs and cats should have their teeth brushed regularly, preferably every day. Good dental care is vital not just to the health of your pet’s mouth, but also his entire body.

Dogs and cats who aren’t used to having their teeth brushed may be uncomfortable with the procedure. After all, toothbrushes are a purely human invention. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t provide your pet with this important aspect of dental care. Instead, plan to make tooth brushing a happy and pleasant experience for your pet. Here’s how:

  1. Assemble the tools you’ll need to brush your pet’s teeth. Start by choosing the type of toothbrush you prefer to use. It can be a rubber finger cap or a bristle brush; both are available from pet supply retailers. You can also opt to use just a gauze pad wrapped around your finger. Next, select the toothpaste. Only use toothpaste made especially for dogs and cats, available from pet supply retailers. Toothpaste made for both dogs and cats will have a meat flavor. Toothpaste for dogs may also come in peanut butter flavor.
  2. Next, introduce your dog or cat to the toothbrush. Put some of the toothpaste on the brush and let your pet lick it off. (If he’s not that excited about the toothpaste, use peanut butter or soft cheese.) Don’t attempt to brush his teeth yet. The idea right now is to help him associate the toothbrush with something pleasant.
  3. Once your pet seems comfortable with the toothbrush—he gets excited when he sees it or at least doesn’t seem afraid of it—it’s time to begin the brushing. Place some toothpaste on the brush and very gently rub it on your pet’s front teeth for just a few seconds. If he tolerates the brushing, praise him and tell him how great he is. Do this several more times, for just a few seconds each, to set him up for success.
  4. The next day, brush a little bit longer, and praise him if he tolerates it. Gradually increase the amount of time each day. Once he’s doing okay with having his front teeth brushed, slowly begin including more teeth each day until you are finally brushing his entire mouth. Be aware it may take a few weeks before you are giving him a thorough brushing, but that’s okay. It’s most important that your pet is comfortable with the procedure.

By taking the time to slowly introduce your dog or cat to tooth brushing, you’ll make the process easy for yourself and stress-free for your pet. You may also find that the time you spend together working on this will strengthen the bond between you.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

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