National Pet Dental Health Month

Feb 15, 2014 | 2014 Articles, Pets, Sandra Murphy

by Sandra Murphy

Want to keep your dog or cat’s breath fresh and his teeth sparkly clean? Learn to brush his teeth for him. It’s not as difficult as it sounds; there are toothpastes made just for pets in flavors they’ll consider a treat.

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have periodontal disease by the age of three, making it the number one disease in cats and dogs. Periodontal disease can not only lead to bad breath but can also irritate the gums and cause inflammation known as gingivitis, possibly leading to bone deterioration, tooth loss and other health problems.

How do you get Fluffy used to a toothbrush? First get her used to your hands around her face. Touch lips, nose and tongue when a kiss is offered. Teach the trick “Smile!” by lifting a lip and exclaiming how pretty her teeth are. Massage the jaw line, lips and mouth for 30–60 seconds, once or twice a day.

When Kitty or the Pupster are used to you doing that, introduce the toothbrush. Dogs are like toddlers–everything goes into their mouths! This will work to your advantage, but don’t let him chew on the bristles. Show him the toothpaste, let him sniff and take a taste. Put a tiny amount on the toothbrush and brush a front tooth or two. End the lesson before either of you is discouraged or overwhelmed. ONLY use pet toothpaste, never your own, which may have ingredients that will irritate the dog’s gums and tongue. Kitty may be more resistant so go slowly. You may end up brushing a few teeth at a time rather than all of them at once.

Some dogs enjoy a daily brushing while others feel twice a week is quite enough. It depends on the amount of tartar on his teeth and the condition of his gums. If you’re in doubt, ask the veterinarian.

To have your veterinarian clean the dog or cat’s teeth can be a costly procedure. It also puts older pets at risk because of the anesthesia required. Brushing is less stressful, less painful, less expensive and a good opportunity to bond with your dog as well as teach him a new “trick.”

To help pet parents take notice of their pet’s dental health needs, Unleashed by Petco is hosting the #UNLStyle Beauty Close-ups Contest February 1-22, 2014 during National Pet Dental Health Month. Pet parents are encouraged to care for their pet’s smile and then visit Unleashed by Petco’s Facebook page and click on the contest application to submit their photo for a chance to win $2,500.

To enter the contest, visit and click on the contest application. For every contest entry, Unleashed by Petco will donate $10 to the Petco Foundation up to $10,000, helping animal-welfare organizations find lifelong, loving homes for millions of orphaned pets, as well as fund spay and neuter efforts, animal assisted therapy programs and humane education. On March 7, 2014, the 10 winners of the Unleashed by Petco’s #UNLStyle Beauty Close-ups Contest will be announced, with the top five dog photos and top five cat photos winning up to $2,500. More information can be found at

If you are unfamiliar with Unleashed by Petco, they are smaller boutique style stores rather than the supermarket sized stores. They are in a number of states and expanding. To find a store near you, check the website. Best of all, your pet can go to the store with you–not only allowed, but encouraged!

Now, go talk to your pet about his pearly whites and how the two of you are going to keep them that way!

You can find more animal rescue, therapy animal, and other pet related articles in our pet section.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra’s short stories on UnTreed Reads including her new one Bananas Foster.

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