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  • Writer's pictureNAH Admin-Coordinator

Dental Hygiene for Pets that Hate Toothbrushing

Did you know dental hygiene is just as important for pets as it is for humans? To fight oral diseases like periodontal disease, we typically recommend brushing your pet’s teeth daily as part of their health and wellness routine. But what happens if your pet refuses to accept a toothbrush in their mouth? Well, in celebration of Pet Dental Health Month, we are here to help with tips on how to maintain your pet’s dental hygiene even if they hate toothbrushing!

Tip 1: Use your finger or a finger brush instead of a full-sized toothbrush

When it comes to anxiety with toothbrushing, some pets are simply scared of a foreign object being in their mouth. To help them get more comfortable with this feeling, you can work on slowly desensitizing them to it. Start by applying a pet-safe enzymatic toothpaste to your finger and gently massaging it onto your pet’s teeth every few days. Once they become comfortable with this activity, you can gradually increase to doing it every day. After this, you may opt for using a finger brush - a toothbrush head that fits on the end of your finger - for your pet’s daily brushing. Finger brushes allow for a deeper clean between your pet’s teeth while maintaining the same basic feel as before in your pet’s mouth. Once your pet becomes comfortable with a finger brush, you may opt further to try a full-sized toothbrush again or just stick with the finger brush for their daily dental health routine.

Tip 2: Give your pet dental chews regularly

If your pet still isn’t keen on any type of brush alternative, don’t worry! There are other ways to keep their pearly whites in check! One of these is to give your pet a Veterinary Oral Health Council-approved dental chew regularly.  Dental chews that have received a VOHC seal have been proven to provide better oral healthcare in pets through rigorous testing. Giving your pet a VOHC-approved dental chew as often as daily can help reduce tartar and plaque build-up on your pet’s teeth in a treat they will enjoy. To view which pet dental chews are VOHC-approved, visit

Tip 3: Use food or water additives

There are several different food and water additives on the market that have been proven to fight tartar and plaque build-up when sprinkled on top of your pet’s regular food or mixed into their water bowl. These products often come in either powder or liquid form and include enzymes that help to break down tartar and plaque without sacrificing the flavor of the food or water your pet already loves.

Note: additive supplements are also a great option for pets that have recently had oral surgery and need to stay away from dental chews or brushing during healing! 

Dental health is an important part of your pet’s wellness, which is why we are always advocates of whatever oral care routine your pet is comfortable with. Some dogs and cats may never be comfortable with teeth brushing, and that is okay! Meet your pet where they are at by implementing some of these tips, and keep up with your pet’s annual physical exam to ensure their teeth remain sparkling and gums remain supple. 

Worried about if your pet is already experiencing periodontal disease? Learn more about the signs and symptoms here, or schedule a dental consultation at any of our locations today!


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