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Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth Could Extend His Life. (Easy Oral Care Tips)

Is it just bad breath? Or the start of a deadly disease?

What would you say if I told you that a single act, performed 1 minute a day, could increase your pet’s lifespan by 3 years or more?

If you have been anywhere near our Facebook page in the last 30 days, you’ve seen infographics, photos, quotes, data bites, anything to help raise awareness for February’s Dental Health Month. Why? Because so many pet parents still don’t know that routine dental care can add YEARS to their best buddy’s life span.

“When a client asks me how long their puppy will live, I usually respond 15-17 years if you brush their teeth daily … 11-13 years if you don’t,” Dr. Jan Bellows

Peridontal Disease Grade 2

Cleaning your pet’s teeth can be easy and fun!

There are numerous products on the market now to help you take care of your pet’s oral hygiene. From three-sided toothbrushes, to Salmon flavored toothpaste, to water additives and specially-shaped dental chews, there’s no lack of products and support, to help get you started. For those new to the game, here are my 6 simple tips to a EASY oral care.

Diet plays a large role in dental health.

DIET – Veterinarians will tell you that kibble is great for scraping and cleaning the teeth, while RAW food enthusiasts swear by the nutritional supremacy of homemade diets. Canned food feeders love the convenience and “real food” taste. Here’s the takeaway. Whatever you’re feeding, make sure it is a healthy food. If you feed a dry food/kibble, you can look up your pet’s food here. If you prefer a kibble-based diet, I recommend going 4 stars or higher (like Nature’s Select Premium Pet Foods), but if you’re on a tight budget, moving from a 1 or 2-star ranked food to a 3-star ranked food, will do wonders for your pet’s health. Remember – you can also supplement your pet’s processed foods with whole foods for increased health!

Raw Food Meal c/o

Nature’s Select Grain Free Range Hearty Recipe

CARAMEL – Are you a huge RAW or BARF diet fan? How about canned foods? Love those for your pet? Great! Here are a few things to remember. Canned foods and other sticky foods (think what you serve your pet in their RAW diet) can stick to the gums and teeth, essentially, like caramel. This can accelerate periodontal disease, among others. While the pet will clean their teeth through pulling/scraping the meat off bones (especially with PREY feeding), a healthy brushing routine is definitely a bonus to help prevent oral disease.

What about my dog/cat? They won’t let me near their mouth!

Brushing with paste and gels.

TO BRUSH OR NOT TO BRUSH? Brush. If you can. Some pets detest it, while others don’t mind a bit. Have a puppy? Start them young. Fun flavored gels, like this Salmon gel, and a finger brush are all you need to get them started. They’ll love teething on the rubber finger glove also! Get your fingers or a toothbrush in their mouth with LOTS of positive reinforcement. This is also a great way to introduce an oral care routine to your adult or senior dog or cat. Some pets like to lick the gel off your finger as well! As they move the gel around their mouth with their tongue and saliva, the gel coats their teeth, helping get rid of tartar and plaque.

If your pet has signs of periodontal disease already, you may want to move right up to using a toothbrush. Special 3-sided toothbrushes make the work simple and quick and clean the teeth thoroughly, but a regular toothbrush works well also. Just remember to get all three sides of each tooth.

Natural alcohol-free gels and sprays like Denta-Sure can be easy to use.

Spray and Go Dental Sprays

DENTAL SPRAYS – Some companies even offer a dental spray that you can simply spritz in the pet’s mouth. My personal favorite! Simply pull your pet’s lip up and spray 1 – 2 times each side. You can (if your pet will let you) accelerate the benefits by wrapping some gauze around your finger and rubbing your pet’s teeth after application. Some pet dental sprays and gels contain alcohol, which is a controversial ingredient in the natural/holistic pet care realm.

I have used both a gel with alcohol (trace amounts to help kill bacteria on the gum line) and an alcohol-free oral care spray. I can tell you from personal experience that Avery minded the alcohol-free version less. With the alcohol-version, while it did work, I had to chase her through the house to apply it.

Water-Additives – Make sure to read the label and research the ingredients.

AGGRESSIVE PETS – Some pets just will not tolerate a toothbrush, no matter how much praise you offer or if you find steak-flavored toothpaste. This could be due to several factors, including existing oral pain. I recommend a trip to the veterinarian for a dental checkup to ensure there is no pain or tenderness in the mouth before proceeding.

Water additives like this one can be a great help. While not a substitute for regular dental care and cleaning, a water additive that helps reduce plaque and tartar is better than no treatment, or waiting to treat your pet until a tooth cleaning visit.

Tropiclean offers a water-additive, Fresh Breath, for oral health.

CAREFUL THOUGH. If you have a multi-pet home, read the label. Some additives are not safe for cats or other animals, and if your pets share a water source, you will want to be extra careful. UPDATE: Additionally, you may find after reading the ingredients, that many “natural” water additives still contain ingredients you may question.

Depending on how aggressive your pet is, you may be okay to allow them to ingest some artificial ingredients, weighing the effects of those ingredients against threats like oral disease, heart disease, and kidney disease. Some pet parents opt to bring in a trainer to help work with the dog, offering a positive rewards system in exchange for access to touch inside the pet’s mouth. Ultimately, you will have to decide what is right for you and your family.

What about chew toys for dental care?

CHEW TOYS, CHEW STICKS – Chews are a GREAT way to help your pet scrape off plaque and tartar while they play! Choose all-natural chews (NOT RAWHIDE/BEEF HIDE) that are fully digestible or fun rubber chews. I’m a big fan of all-natural bully-sticks! Dogs love these things!

As always, with any chew, never leave your pet unattended and be sure to take the treat or toy away when it becomes a choking hazard. (*Rawhide and similar products have been known to “gum up” in the intestinal tract, blocking the pet from passing waste. If not addressed with costly surgery quickly, the pet can die from waste toxins building up in their system.)

Bully sticks offer a great way to help clean your dog’s teeth!

Teeth-cleaning and regular vet visits…

REGULAR VET VISITS – Your pet should be seeing a vet at least once a year for an annual checkup. Checkups are a great way for your vet to help keep your pet up to date on vaccinations, check your pet over (including their teeth and gums!), as well as answer any questions you may have. If you’re up to snuff on keeping your pet’s teeth clean with routine brushing, you may never need to schedule a teeth cleaning appointment for your pet!

Teeth cleaning appointments can be necessary for some pets and some pets who have never benefited from proper oral care may even have to have teeth extracted. During teeth-cleaning appointments, most veterinarians place the pet under sedation while the pet’s teeth are cleaned. As with any procedure, even sedation carries risk. Some veterinarians do offer cleaning without sedation, but this also depends on how submissive and well-behaved your pet is. Take-away? Keep up with your pet’s oral care and make sure to schedule your pet’s annual checkup so the vet can see how well you’re doing!

Your pet’s oral care is IMPORTANT. Science is now linking poor oral care to diseases like heart disease and kidney failure. Your commitment to care for your pet an extra minute a day could help save them from terrible illness later. Have questions? Comments? Email them to me at

UPDATED: 6/27/2017