We often get asked, “how do I go about getting my dog to let me brush his teeth?!”. This is a great question, and more often than not, the answer is to start early!
However, in most cases, it isn’t until a pet has reached their adult years (when the dental disease begins to rear its ugly face), that owners become aware of the importance of brushing their pet’s teeth. Starting early is no longer an option at this point.
Here are 5 tips that may help you to get started:
1. Start slow! Don’t even bring the toothbrush out. Begin by handling the muzzle area for a few seconds a couple of times each day. Then get your pet used to you lifting their lips and touching their gums. Make it a positive experience and preferably during a quieter time of the day. It’s helpful to end each session with positive reinforcement such as a treat or a game with their favourite toy.
2. Time to introduce a little toothpaste. Make sure you only use pet appropriate toothpaste. Do not use human toothpaste. Put a small amount on the tip of your finger and rub it on their gums. Next time, try rubbing it on their canine teeth (fang teeth) and then depending on their tolerance level, work around the entire mouth. Go slow. You don’t need to accomplish this all in the same day.
3. Introducing the toothbrush. You can use a pediatric toothbrush, small finger brush or a pet toothbrush recommended by your veterinarian. On the first day, start by letting your pet smell the toothbrush and even lick a little of the flavoured toothpaste off the end. The next day you can try wetting the bristles and using slow circular motions, brush just the canine teeth and then stop. Give your pet a break and don’t forget to reward them with a treat or their favourite game. If using toothpaste, it works best to press the toothpaste firmly onto the bristles with your finger before you start. If this really upsets your pet and becomes a battle, stop. Go back to steps 1 and 2 for a bit longer.
4. You are now ready to start brushing along the top teeth from the canines to the back in small circular motions. You can slowly work on the length of time you spend brushing your pet’s teeth. You only need to concentrate on the outside of the teeth, as this is where most of the tarter build up occurs in our pets.
5. Finally, you are now ready to tackle those front teeth. This may be the area you will find the most resistance with your pet. Hold up the upper lip with your thumb while gently taking hold of the muzzle and use an up and down motion along the front teeth.
Remember, take it slow; every little bit counts. Your veterinarian is there to help and can even give you a brushing demo to help you get started!
Written by Van Isle Veterinary Hospital