Caring for your pet’s teeth at home is an excellent way to lengthen the time between dental cleanings, and help prevent plaque, tartar, and dental disease for your dog or cat. With the right approach, most pets willingly accept tooth brushing and other home dental care. It is important to use toothpaste formulated for cats and dogs-the flavours are more appealing to pets, and it is safe for your pets if swallowed.

Using a gradual approach is the best way to accustom your pet to having his mouth and teeth handled. By forming positive associations with tooth brushing, your pet will look forward to this important part of his home health care. Each step may take from a few days to several weeks-this is normal. Don’t rush your pet, let him progress at his own pace and comfort level.

Step 1: Allow your pet to taste the tooth paste from your hand or from the tube. Praise him or her and provide food rewards when they taste or lick the toothpaste. Oral Care Chews are excellent rewards, and contain the same cleaning enzymes found in the toothpaste. When your pet eagerly awaits his toothbrush and toothpaste, move to Step 2.

Step 2: Touch your pet’s lips for a few seconds, while giving toothpaste, praise, and food rewards. Gradually increase the time you can handle your pet’s mouth, always using praise and food rewards. As your pet becomes more comfortable with having his lips touched, begin to move his lips and touch his teeth. Handling the mouth while your pet licks the toothbrush is an excellent intermediate exercise between Step 2 and Step 3.

Step 3: Allow your pet to lick toothpaste directly from the toothbrush. If he or she is hesitant at first, try adding a treat such as a small amount of peanut butter to the brush, and switch to toothpaste after a few days. As with the other steps, use verbal praise and food rewards when your dog or cat does anything that seems to be moving in the direction of having his teeth brushed. When your pet is happy to see the toothbrush, because he’s sure something good is going to happen, move to the next step.

Step 4: Slip the brush between your pet’s lips and teeth on one side of the mouth. Give verbal praise and food rewards. Gradually increase the time the toothbrush is in the mouth, until you can move the brush slightly. Distracting the dog or cat with food rewards may make this transition easier. Slowly increase the brushing time, until you can brush the outsides of all of your dog or cat’s teeth. Very few dogs and cats will accept tooth brushing inside the mouth; so do not worry about attempting this unless your pet truly welcomes it. It is much more important to brush some of the teeth regularly, than to stress your pet out by trying to pry his mouth open and brush the insides of the teeth. Again, use food rewards and praise. Many clients reward their pets with Oral Care rawhides after tooth brushing.

If at any point your dog or cat seems frightened or uncomfortable, back off a step or two, until he or she is comfortable with the level of handling once again. This is very normal! Not all dogs or cats will accept tooth brushing, but there are alternatives if you still wish to care for your pet’s teeth at home. Oral rinses are available to add to the water bowl daily or directly rinse your pets mouth. Dental chews and toys can also improve dental health. Adding a little toothpaste to a chew toy allows your pet to do the work for you.