You eye each other across the room. You're using your sweetest, most coaxing voice, but behind your back you have a toothbrush covered in chicken-flavored paste. Your pet eyes you warily, knowing something is up. Those teeth haven't been pearly in a very long time, but it's not for a lack of trying.
About 80 percent of dogs will have some periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years old. In addition to dental checkups by your vet, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends regularly brushing your dog's teeth as "the single most effective thing you can do to keep their teeth healthy." It may even eliminate the need for occasional dental cleanings by your veterinarian.
In addition (or in place of cleaning, if your dog isn't a fan), you may have also tried dental chews or dental toys. The hope is that by gnawing on these items, your pet will scrub off the tartar and plaque buildup all by himself.
Personally, I've tried them all. My beautiful boy, Brodie, has breath that will make your eyes water. We've worked very hard on brushing. Normally he acts like I'm going to torture him when I persuade him to sit in the bathroom for a dental session. He either clamps down on the bristles as hard as he can or performs impressive gymnastics trying to evade my grasp. A few teeth get lightly grazed in the process.
The dental chews are equally unsuccessful. My pup doesn't understand that he's supposed to be taking his time with them. Instead, he manages to gulp them down (even frozen) which, I'm pretty sure, defeats the purpose of the exercise.
My friend has offered to scrape Brodie's teeth with a dental tartar scraper he bought online (and uses on his well-behaved dogs), but I'm pretty sure my anxious boy would never recover.
A glimmer of green hope
There may be a solution. Years ago, Petros Dertsakyan lost his childhood Pomeranian to dental disease. As an adult and the father of two dogs of his own, Dertsakyan knows the importance of dental care but also knows first-hand the struggles of taking care of a dog's teeth.
He decided to come up with a solution and, after lots of prototypes and testing, he developed what he calls Bristly, a "magic" toothbrushing stick that dogs hold down with their paws while gnawing on rows of flavored bristles. There's also a reservoir to dispense toothpaste during the whole process.
Dertsakyan put his invention on Kickstarter, hoping to raise $15,000 to fund his project. He way underestimated how much people want to avoid getting anywhere near their dogs' teeth. Just hours before the campaign ended, more than $437,000 had been raised from more than 10,000 backers. The products are scheduled to be shipped in October.
Here's the Bristly in action. I know my dog has high hopes it will work.