We recently learned from the American Veterinary Association (AVMA) that only TWO percent of dog owners brush their pet’s teeth. Knowing that, it’s not surprising that 65 percent of dogs with stage one periodontal disease go untreated.
If tooth brushing in your household is anything like it was here, this stat probably makes a whole lot of sense!
Every single time we went to brush Westin’s teeth, it was a major chore. It got to the point where we were almost ready stop trying. Almost.
But being that we’re in the pet health industry ourselves, we knew too much to let plaque build up on our family-member’s teeth. Poor dental hygiene can lead to more than bad breath. It can shorten your pet’s life! And can we all agree that our pets don’t live long enough as it is?
Opting out of tooth brushing is simply not a viable solution.
Why you should be diligent about brushing your pet’s teeth
No matter how much they fought, we wouldn’t let a kid go months without brushing their teeth because we know the consequences. Well, the consequences are the same for our pets.
Even if your pet only gets the best pet food, plaque can build up on the teeth over time. Bits of food get stuck in one spot and bacteria does its thing to eat away at the tooth. This causes cavities. Have you ever had a cavity? When they get big enough, they can get infected and lead to a world of pain!
Pets instinctually hide pain because in the wild, pain equals weakness. It’s a survival instinct.
Now, imagine your pet dealing with worst tooth pain you have ever had – and trying to pretend everything is okay. I don’t want this for Westin, and I’d imagine you don’t want this for your pet either.
Unfortunately, we can’t explain these things to our pets. We can’t get them to understand that brushing their teeth today may keep them from experiencing pain in the future. This is beyond their comprehension. So we must find other ways to get our pets excited about tooth brushing.
We went through months of struggle with our dog before we finally found a few solutions that seem to work. I understand that what works for our dog may not work for your dog or cat, but it’s all about trying things to see what sticks. Try everything until you find something that makes the process of tooth brushing bearable for your pet. Who knows? They may even grow to love the bonding time with you!
How often should you brush your pet’s teeth?
The ideal answer to this question is every single day. Plaque can turn into tartar in about 36 hours. That’s not a lot of time. If you can’t swing a tooth brushing every day, shoot for every other or every third. It’s true that any effort is better than no effort, but if you can’t commit to brushing at least once a week, you may want to think about whether you have time to properly care for a pet.
Three Tips for Getting Your Pet to Love Tooth Brushing
1. Start Early!
If your pet is still in the baby phase, this tip is extremely important. Start around the time a puppy or kitten has gotten all its deciduous (baby) teeth. This happens around eight weeks. The purpose of starting this early isn’t to avoid cavities. Not yet. Your pet will lose these teeth soon. At this point, we are getting them in the habit of brushing their teeth before they’re too big to put up a major fight. If your pet is already too old for this, don’t worry. It’s still not too late.
Keep reading and you’ll see our best tips for getting ALL pets to love, or at least tolerate, having their teeth brushed. The more often you brush, the more likely your pet will be to tolerate or even enjoy tooth brushing. A few minutes of brushing could avoid costly and painful tooth extractions later in life.
2. Be Consistent
Pets, dogs especially, are creatures of habit. When you mess with a pet’s routine, you’re likely to see signs of stress. They may start messing in the house or protesting with a bark or meow. They may even tear up your furniture. You probably have learned this in other areas of training, but it also applies to tooth brushing. If your pet knows what to expect and when to expect it, he or she will be more welcome to the idea. Set a time for tooth brushing that you can stick to most days.
3. Make it a Tasty Treat
Pet toothpaste comes in flavors like poultry, beef and tuna that your pet is likely to love. This in itself may not get your pet to love the actual brushing, but it does offer something for your dog or cat to look forward to. If part of the experience is pleasurable, it will help your pet associate something positive with the overall experience.
Another tip to help your pet enjoy the experience is to space brushings out between meals. If you brush right after a meal, your pet may be too full to care about the toothpaste flavor. If you brush right before, your pet might be too focused on the food flavor to allow you to brush.
The first brushings
Don’t expect your dog or cat to be excited about the toothbrush right away. On the contrary, it is likely to look like a toy they want to bite. To get your dog or cat excited about brushing their teeth, make the toothpaste seem like a treat. First provide it on your finger at designated brushing times. After two to three days of this, introduce the toothbrush. First, let your pet lick the toothpaste off the toothbrush instead of your finger. After a day of this, go straight for the pet’s mouth with the toothbrush. They should welcome the brush because they can smell the treat that is coming their way. It may take a few days before you are doing any significant brushing, and that’s okay.
Other Ways to Maintain Your Pet’s Dental Health
In addition to regular tooth brushing, there are other things you can do to keep those pearly whites in good shape. Ask your pet about the best dental chew toys for your pet’s breed.
But we also add a spritz of the Tartar remedy to Westin’s water to help keep tartar from building up. If you’re concerned about your pet’s dental health and hygiene, we can provide suggestions for a regimen designed to bring your pet back to a state of good health.