How much do you know your pet's pearly whites? It may not be the most glamorous of jobs, but cleaning your pet's teeth on a regular basis plays a big role in keeping him healthy. Most people who ignore the task do so simply because they don't know where to start.
So here, in honor of National Pet Dental Health Month, are some easy-to-follow steps for brushing your pet's teeth:
1. Brush up on brush styles. Sure, you could grab a toothbrush from the tooth care aisle of your favorite grocery store. And if that works for you and your pet, go for it. But if those styles don't work for you — or if you're worried about mixing up the dog's toothbrush with your own, head to your local pet supply store. There you will find toothbrushes specially designed for dogs and cats as well as finger brushes that might be easier for you to maneuver.
2. Be picky about paste. The first time I ever tried to brush my puppy's teeth, I used whatever toothpaste I had in the bathroom. Two buckets of foam and spit later, my Labrador let me know that peppermint was not his favorite flavor. That's why they make pet toothpaste in flavors like chicken, liver and even peanut butter. Sounds gross, I know. But trust me, your pet will be much more willing to oblige if you've got her favorite flavor on the brush.
3. Start early and slowly. The sooner you help your pet get used to teeth brushing, the better this will go for everyone. The ASPCA website has step-by-step instructions for handling a dog's mouth and introducing a toothbrush. The key point to remember is to take the process slowly so that your dog can get used to the procedure before you actually start brushing.
4. Make it rewarding. It's unlikely that your pet will ever really love teeth brushing, but you can make the whole experience much more pleasurable for him by doling out the treats when he sits, when he lets you handle his muzzle, and throughout the brushing process.
5. Make it a habit. Now that you and your pet have made it through one round of tooth brushing, make it a point to make it happen more regularly. Tap it into your Google calendar, put a Post-It note on your fridge, or keep your dog's toothbrush next to your own (just be careful to avoid mix ups!) — whatever it takes to remind you to brush your pet's teeth. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends daily brushing of your dog's teeth. If you can't make that happen, at least aim for several times a week.