Tricks To Start Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth

This slow introduction to brushing will help you establish a routine.


It’s an old wives tale that dogs have cleaner mouths than humans. Periodontal disease is the number one disease diagnosed in veterinary medicine. Dirty mouths lead to build of bacteria, plaque and eventually calculus (tartar).  Years of plaque build-up creates a city of bacteria and minerals thriving on your pet’s teeth – not to mention liver, kidney and heart disease!IMG_4617

Dental chews and treats, rinses and water additives are options for keeping your pets mouth happy. Brushing, however, is the gold star!

How would you would feel, if you hadn’t brushed your teeth for 5 years?  This is the case with a majority of the patients I anesthetize for dental cleanings.  Many dental patients spend several hours under anesthesia because they need several teeth extracted.IMG_4619

Daily I’m confronted by owners who don’t, can’t, or won’t brush their pet’s teeth.  Often, they laugh at me as I pull out the complimentary toothbrush when discharging them from Fluffy’s $1800 dental!

Don’t say you can’t without trying first.  Follow my tech tips and gets started today.

Here’s the brushing advice I give clients on a daily basis.  This slow introduction to brushing will help you establish a routine.  Daily brushing is the key to preventing dental disease, and I know it can seem impossible.

Tech tips

Take it slow and have fun!  I cannot stress this enough!  

Week 1 – Spend time just touching your pet’s mouth. Lift their lips and touch their teeth.  After each positive interaction reward your pet with a low calorie, tasty treat.  This will reinforce their good behavior.

Week 2 – Buy a soft bristled toothbrush from your local pet store or obtain one from your veterinarian.   Dip the brush in something tasty like beef broth, chicken broth or tuna juice.  Let them lick the juice off!  Touch your pet’s mouth and teeth with it.  Then reward them.  Do this daily for the rest of the week.

Week 3 – Purchase toothpaste specially formulated for pets from your vet or a pet store. Put a small amount (pea-sized) of toothpaste on the toothbrush.  NO BRUSHING YET – You’re still in the introductory phase. Just get your pet used to the taste and feeling of the toothpaste and toothbrush.  Reward, and repeat daily for the week.


Week 4It’s time to start brushing!  Put the toothpaste on the toothbrush, gently lift the lip and start brushing.  Focus on the gum line; that’s where bacteria live.  Use gentle pressure and circular motion just as you would your own teeth.

Focus on one quadrant at a time – Upper Right, Upper Left, Lower Right, Lower Left.  Just get through one quadrant, unless you pet already is a super star!  Reward them, clean the toothbrush and put it away until tomorrow.  Repeat daily moving from one quadrant to the next.  By the end of Week 4 you should be able to brush their whole mouth in one sitting!

Do what you can to make it a daily habit, even if it means only getting half of Fido’s teeth done one day, and the other half the next.  It’s better than not brushing at all. Right?

Once again, as with all pet care, prevention is key!  Keeping your pets teeth clean at home, will prevent costly dental procedures and unnecessary anesthesia time.  Even if you brush daily, remember to have your pet’s teeth examined annually by your veterinarian.  They’re the professionals and will keep you on track.

Remember…Take it slow, REWARD, REWARD, REWARD, and have FUN!

Author: Aubrie Ricketts

Experienced Licensed Veterinary Technician, Executive Master of Business Administration - University of Nevada, Reno. I love marketing and promoting preventative medicine and pet wellness. I have a dedicated passion for veterinary anesthesia and pain management.

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