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My Method For Toothbrushing

Close up of a light blue dog toothbrush
Slide – BG
Ginger cat sniffing a toothbrush

Ok…I am going to share how I train my clients to train their pets to tolerate and participate with toothbrushing.

First of all…don’t our pets figure out pretty quickly where they will get fed and at what time? So, let’s maximize that knowledge.

Pick a place…in the house where you will be apt to do this EVERY DAY. Don’t do this on the couch while you watch Oprah one day and then on your bed right before you go to bed then next.

Call the pet to that place and reward them for arriving (with a little toothpaste on your finger if they like it). Tell them that they were good in an excited voice and then be done with that. Repeat everyday….UNTIL the pet starts showing up looking for the treat. It took me about 2 weeks for “Crayons” (my cat).

Then, once they are coming on their own…seeking the reward, up the ante a LITTLE bit. By that, I mean, now put the toothpaste on the toothbrush. When they show up for the reward, let them eat it off the toothbrush. Do that until they don’t care that it is on the toothbrush. Again, for me that was about 2 weeks.

Then place your hand on their head so lightly that you can hardly feel the hair under your hand and encourage them to eat the reward off the toothbrush. Crayons did not trust this step immediately. She was concerned but I spoke sweetly and said..”It’s OK…if you want the reward, take it.” Eventually, she ignored that my hand was there and ate the toothpaste. It took about 3 weeks for her to totally not care that my hand was there.

Now, your hand is placed so that your thumb is in the corner of the pet’s mouth. Pull back the cheek so that you can just see some teeth. Dab the toothbrush on those teeth and pull it away immediately. Reward with toothpaste from the tube. Everyday I move the toothbrush a little more.

It took Crayons about 3 months before she permitted this without objection. **And, she is a cranky tricolor cat. Her medical record actually says “Vicious cat”!

I challenge you to try this at home with your own pets. This is bar none the best thing you can teach clients in order to provide wellness and save big time money.

Vickie Byard, CVT, VTS (Dentistry)
President of the Academy Of Veterinary Dental Technicians