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K9 Dental Health: Teeth Cleaning Tips, Tricks, and Enrichment Options for Oral Care

Updated: May 13

For humans, brushing our teeth is a normal part of our daily routine.

But what about for our pets?

According to statistics, 80% of dogs have some form of dental disease by 3 years old. That's a huge percentage!

As a result, it's very important to begin dental care for our pets at a young age, and implement dental care strategies regularly.

Here are some tips for keeping Fido's teeth pearly white.

In Today's Article, We'll Cover....

  • Choosing a toothbrush/toothpaste

  • Teeth Cleaning (Tips & Tricks, including desensitizing your dog to their toothbrush)

  • Using Natural Chews for Dental Cleaning

  • Enrichment Toy Options for Dental Cleaning

Choosing a Toothbrush

Finger Sleeve: A small toothbrush that fits over your finger. These are a great option for small dogs!

Classic Toothbrush: Toothbrushes with your standard handle and bristles. Most K9 variations are quite long to allow easy access to your dog's back teeth.

Finding a Toothpaste

When it comes to toothbrushing, you'll want to find the right toothpaste. The good news is, there are TONS of different toothpaste flavors for dogs on the market. Chicken, beef, mint - you name it! Finding a flavor that your dog really enjoys can make oral hygiene more enjoyable for your pup.

Always look for a dog friendly toothpaste, which shouldn't include:

  • Artificial Colour

  • Fluoride

  • Alcohol

  • Artificial Sweeteners (Xylitol)

  • Antibacterials

I use Animora, a Canadian brand that can be found here.

Note: Please do not use human toothpaste on your dogs. The ingredients can be extremely harmful and toxic to your pets.

Now, Time to get Brushin'!

When I talk about brushing my dog's teeth, most people often say that their dogs would never let them get a toothbrush remotely close to their mouths. However, with a few steps and lots of positive reinforcement, it's much less menacing than people think.

Step One: Desensitizing your dog to facial touch.

Using high rewards (think: Shredded chicken, cheese - anything of extremely high value to your dog), reward your dog whenever they let you touch their face, muzzle, lips, etc. Once they're okay with you touching their face, gradually begin to expose their teeth, rewarding each time they allow you to do so.

Tip: Short, high reward sessions work great! Always remember to give your dogs a break, especially if they're feeling overwhelmed.

Step Two: Getting them used to toothpaste.

Begin at first by placing a small amount on your dogs food. If they like the taste, that's a good sign! Then, start introducing it to your dog via your fingertip.

Step Three: Desensitizing them to their toothbrush.

Again using high rewards, begin desensitizing your dog to their toothbrush. Reward any time your dog interacts with the toothbrush (sniffs, licks, even when they put it in their mouth on their own.) Gradually build your way up to sessions where you can put the toothbrush into your dog's mouth without issue, and place the bristles against their teeth/gums.

Step Four: Apply Toothpaste and Brush!

When your dog is used to their toothpaste and toothbrush, now you can get going on brushing. Here's a quick video on how to brush your dogs teeth:

Natural Chews for Dental Cleaning

It's no secret that dogs love to chew. Chewing is an innate canine behavior, and the act of chewing can help clean our dog's teeth and gums.

Some of my favorite dental cleaning chews that I use for my dogs are what we jokingly call "nature's toothbrushes": raw. meaty. bones.

Such as:

  1. Chicken/ Turkey/ Duck Necks

  2. Chicken feet

  3. Duck Feet

  4. Chicken Backs

  5. Chicken Wings

* Note: Cooked bones are very dangerous and may splinter with use. This is why I recommend raw, meaty bones for teeth cleaning, and never cooked bones.

For more help on how to pick the perfect raw meaty bone for your dog based on size, click here: Raw Meaty Bone Help.

Enrichment for Dental Cleaning

Yes, it's possible! With so many toys on the market, you'd be surprised at the items available that double as both practical teeth cleaners and mental stimulation.

Toys on the market that double as dental cleaning and enrichment:

Bristly Brushing Stick (double down and use this with their K9 toothpaste!)

Note: While some chews and toys are a great way to brush your dogs teeth and gums, it's still important to maintain regular toothbrushing in your dog's routine.

No matter what method you end up choosing to maintain good dental health for your dog, you can be certain that you're making a positive impact on their livelihood and quality of life in the long run!

References & Further Reading:

* Please note, this piece should not be substituted for veterinary advice. Should you have any concerns about the oral health of your pet, please contact your veterinarian.


Looking to have a happier, healthier dog? I've put together some of our favourite resources for you in one place - my first book!

Filled with canine enrichment activities and tips and tricks, I hope you love reading it just as much as I loved writing it.

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