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Alternatives to brushing a dog’s teeth

Note: I received store credit and free products from 1-800PetMeds in exchange for writing about the company. 1-800PetMeds is not responsible for the content of this post.

Do you brush your dog’s teeth? Like, ever?

If you brush your dog’s teeth even once a month, then you’re doing better than I am with my dog Ace.

I’m just not motivated to brush his teeth. I’ve done so probably five times in seven years.

Ace’s vet has always said my dog’s teeth look relatively clean, especially considering he will be 8 years old in March. His chompers are white, but he’s beginning to have some visible tarter buildup on his canines and molars.

I know the majority of pet owners are like me. We love our pets and want them to be healthy, but frankly we’re just not going to brush their teeth. Like, at all.

So instead of lecturing you on something I don’t do, I thought I’d suggest a few alternatives to tooth brushing. These do not necessarily replace the benefits of daily brushing, but they are better than nothing.

Alternatives to brushing your dog’s teeth

1. Provide your dog with something to chew on.

This is my number one suggestion, although you do have to be somewhat careful about what you give your dog to chew. Every dog has a different chewing style, and it’s impossible for me to make recommendations appropriate for all dogs.

One of the safest options is a rubber Kong-type toy (aff link). I like to recommend these if you need something to occupy your dog when he’s left home alone.

For my own dog, Nylabones are another great option, but you have to be careful with any chew toy. Nylabones are very dense and could potentially crack a dog’s teeth, but they seem to work for Ace. He loves them!

Ace also gets raw chicken and turkey bones in his diet, which he doesn’t exactly chew on but he at least crunches them up. (Don’t give your dog cooked bones.)

Some dog owners choose to give their dogs raw pork and beef bones for chewing. You do have to be somewhat careful about feeding larger bones, because you don’t want the dog to crack his teeth or attempt to swallow large, non-edible pieces.

Just know your dog, consult with a vet if you are not sure and make sure to supervise.

2. Dental wipes for dogs and cats.

1-800PetMeds sent me a product called Super Dental Wipes for dogs and cats.

Each wipe is mint flavored and helps clean your pet’s teeth in order to help prevent plaque and tarter buildup, according to 1-800PetMeds. The active ingredient chlorhexidine is what kills the bacteria

These are great for pet owners like me who would like to do something to clean the pet’s teeth but are not motivated enough to actually brush the teeth. The wipes are easy to use because you just wipe the teeth and gums vs. brushing them with a brush and toothpaste.

Ace is pretty tolerant and puts up with having his teeth wiped. They’ve been a nice option for us so far.

3. Dental care solution to add to a dog’s water.

Be Fresh for dogs and cats
1-800PetMeds sent a product called Be Fresh Dental Care Solution.

This is a water solution you can add to your pet’s drinking water to help maintain healthy teeth and gums, according to 1-800PetMeds. It can be used for dogs and cats, and the chloride dioxide is what kills the bacteria.

I’ve been adding about 1 teaspoon of the solution to each of my dog and cats’ water bowls each morning, although the directions say you can add a teaspoon to every 8 ounces of water. Like the bottle says, my animals don’t seem to notice a difference in taste.

I’m a little hesitant about adding extra chemicals to their water, so this is a product I don’t plan to use long term. As with all products, each pet owner has to weigh the pros and cons and make the best decision for his or her pets.

4. A finger toothbrush for dogs and cats.

1-800PetMeds sent me a finger toothbrush, which is a small brush that fits on the end of your finger. It can be used to gently brush debris from your dog’s teeth and doesn’t necessarily have to be used with toothpaste.

If you’re trying to get your dog used to having his teeth brushed, most trainers will recommend you start out by touching his teeth with your fingers. A finger toothbrush could be used once your dog is already used to having his teeth touched. Most dogs will tolerate a finger toothbrush better than they will an actual toothbrush.

OK, now be honest, do you brush your dog’s teeth?

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[…] Read our guide to Alternatives to Brushing A Dog’s Teeth. […]


Thursday 6th of February 2014

I brush my dog's teeth, maybe once a week. Sometimes more if I remember. She's a pretty heavy chewer - we give her antlers and a variety of toys to chew on and she was still getting some buildup after the vet cleaned her teeth when we first adopted her. I would like to avoid another teeth cleaning due to the cost and the fact that I don't want her to go under anesthesia unless she is actually having surgery.

So, I decided to give brushing a try. It took me a while - maybe a few weeks - to build up to getting her to sit long enough to get her whole mouth done. The first day was just her getting to see everything and getting to lick some toothpaste. :) I don't know that she actually loves me sticking my fingers and tooth brush in her mouth, but she tolerates it. Probably because I let her lick the toothbrush at the end. :)

Also, I use a soft people toothbrush. I tried using a dog brush, but I feel like the people one does a better job, and it does it faster.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 6th of February 2014

I like what you are doing - good advice for the rest of us.

Ruckus the Eskie

Thursday 6th of February 2014

These are great alternatives! I brush daily or every other day for the most part but I can see that it will be difficult to do so in other pups. You should link your posts to Thoughtless Thursdays! They are quite informative and useful. I even appreciate non relevant random posts too! ;)

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 6th of February 2014

OK I'll have to join in one of these Thursdays :)


Thursday 6th of February 2014

Sephi always had good teeth and so does Maya. So I never bothered to brush my dogs' teeth until I got Pierson. Even though he likes to chew on stuff too, there is just something about him (genetics, the way his mouth is shaped, or something) that makes his teeth collect plaque. So yes, I do brush his teeth regularly. I use Tropiclean, which says you don't have to brush. But I brush anyway.

Paul W

Thursday 6th of February 2014

We don't brush, but we do have the vet clean their teeth once a year. Our smaller dogs get some build up, but our Dingo has white perfect teeth. The vet said it can be genetics as well as chewing and other factors that can cause build up. I never thought genetics would have a role in clean teeth.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 6th of February 2014

I guess it makes sense that genetics play a role.