Dental care is a big part of general health care for dogs — but it isn’t always an easy thing to accomplish for many pet parents.
Some dogs really don’t like their mouths handled, and sticking a toothbrush in there is nearly impossible. But there are options, ranging from dental wipes, gels and water additives to treats, powders and sprays.
Melissa Zangerle, VCA licensed veterinary technician and regional technician director, says it is very common for dogs to not like having their teeth brushed. She says common factors include dogs being head shy — meaning they can associate a hand reaching down from above toward their head with stress or discomfort — or they are just not used to having their teeth brushed or their mouths looked at or touched.
The best way to brush a dog’s teeth
The best way to brush dogs’ teeth is by using a dog toothpaste (never human toothpaste) and to brush all surfaces of each tooth in either a back-and-forth motion, or up-and-down motion, says Melissa. But, if this isn’t possible, as long as you are using a dog toothpaste consistently (ideally once daily), it will still benefit your pup’s teeth whether you use a toothbrush or your finger. The key is making your dog comfortable.
“The biggest tip is training them to become more used to having their teeth brushed, with the hope they eventually even enjoy it,” says Melissa. “The younger you can start this positive association, the better. This way they become used to having their mouths touched and played with.”
Alternatives to a dog toothbrush
Debra Decker, director of marketing for Pet King Brands, Inc., says there are many different types of dental products on the market such as toothpastes, water additives, sprays, dental wipes, treats and even diets to promote good dental health.
“Brushing a dog’s teeth is the method most veterinarians recommend,” says Debra. “Yet, according to studies, such as one published by the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry, only 2 percent of pet parents practice daily care brushing of their pet’s teeth. This can be due to busy lifestyles, lack of pet acceptance or a pet parent uneducated on the importance of providing daily oral care.”
She says that in addition to yearly dental cleaning by a veterinarian, establishing a consistent routine is best. For many that means finding a product or mix of products that are easy to use for both pets and their parents.
Common brushing alternatives include:
- Water additives are just what they sound like — they are added to water, requiring no hands in mouths. Pet King Brands’ Oratene Enzymatic Brushless Water Additive and TropiClean’s Fresh Breath Certified Wellness Collection Dental Health Solution are a couple of examples.
- Dental sprays do require some interaction with your dog’s mouth, but some dogs may be OK with this since it’s still quicker than brushing. The Oratene Enzymatic Brushless Breath Freshener is applied by spraying three pumps onto teeth, gums and inside cheeks as needed.
- Dental gels might work for dogs who don’t appreciate sprays, and can also be used without brushing for some products. TropiClean’s Fresh Breath Certified Wellness Collection Vet Strength Gel is applied with two drops of gel on each side of your dog’s mouth. When your dog licks his or her lips, this will help the gel coat their teeth and gums.
- Dental wipes can be useful for dogs who don’t mind your fingers but still don’t want a toothbrush. Earthbath’s Tooth & Gum Wipes and Jax & Cali’s Toothbrush Wipes are used by wrapping around your index finger and wiping the teeth and gums.
- Dental powders like Swedencare’s ProDen PlaqueOff can be used as a food supplement. The supplement uses a kelp ingredient, AN ProDen, which is organic, natural and sustainably harvested in the waters off the Scandinavian coastline, containing no additives. The powder is sprinkled over a dog’s wet or dry food once a day, and results are usually seen between three to eight weeks.
- Dental treats may work for dogs who don’t like anything added to their food or water. There are many on the market. Swedencare also offers dental bones, soft chews, crunchy bites and new ProDen PlaqueOff System Holistic Soft Bites containing Kelp AN
Debra from Pet King Brands says not having to brush your dog’s teeth makes it easier for the pet parent to administer and for the dog to accept at-home dental care, which in the long run can increase consistency.
“When establishing a dental routine that can be adhered to, it’s important to not rely just on dental chews,” says Debra. “Many pet parents like dental chews because they are easy to give and can be used as a reward with dental benefits, but it’s best if it’s not the only thing done for a dog’s dental health. Taking a multi-pronged approach is often recommended by veterinarians.”
Proper dog dental care
While brushing is considered best for proper dog dental care, this isn’t always possible. Many useful options for dog teeth brushing are available for pet parents. Whatever you choose, do it every day and try to use multiple methods that your dog will accept.