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One thing is for sure: today’s dog owners are getting way more involved in cleaning their dog’s teeth at home to prevent high cost dental cleanings (you can see my vet bill below). And since this is a hot topic with lots of questions, I thought I’d share my personal experience since making the switch from dog toothbrush to waterflosser.
The first and most common question is this:
Can You Use a Waterpik on A Dog?
I absolutely do! And at the end of this article, you can watch a video of my dog Frodo getting his teeth cleaned with our waterpik. I have found that when used gently and properly, the waterpik is highly effective at removing my dog’s plaque and the bonus is that my dog prefers the waterpik over his toothbrush.
The process is so effective and far more enjoyable that we’ve permanently traded in the toothbrush for the waterpik and never looked back. I use this particular brand Waterpik Waterflosser (product link and pricing) for several reasons which I’ll share in my thorough review below.
Why I Like Using This Waterpik on My Dog’s Teeth
I suppose if I was just going to use the waterpik on my own teeth and not my dog’s, the model might not matter so much. But since I’m using it on my dog twice a week, this model has a few special features that other waterpik’s don’t offer and they are features well worth considering for dog use.
Aside from the neat and clean design, this is why I use and recommend this waterpik if you’re going to use it on your dog:
Built in Gentle Timer
Whenever you’re doing something inside your dog’s mouth, it seems like you’re in there forever. In reality, what feels like 3 minutes of brushing is often less than one minute and that’s one reason I like using this Waterpik over regular brushing.
This waterpik I recommend has a built-in gentle timer. After 30 seconds, you can feel a pause in the vibration which tells you it’s time to move from one area of the mouth to the next. Then it gives a second gentle reminder when you should be half way through.
Not all water flossers come with a gentle timer. I particular like this type of notification because my dog is easily frightened by beeps and tones that other waterpiks come with. If this appliance beeped, there would be no way he’d let me use it.
It has Quiet Operation
Again, my dog hates most appliances that make noises. He runs away at the sight of cordless drills, dustbusters and blenders. While this waterpik isn’t silent, my dog makes zero fuss while it’s operating just a few feet away from his face and that’s a big deal.
Easy Stop/Start Water
The button used to stop and start the flow of water is in the perfect location on the wand. You simply use your thumb to turn it on or off and it responds immediately. Some waterpiks do not have this handy on/off switch.
Plenty of Free Attachments
This unit comes with about 7 attachments which is more than enough for sharing with another human and your dog. They are also color coded so you don’t use fido’s attachment by mistake.
Perfect Size Reservoir
The specs say a session lasts for about 1.5 minutes, but every time I use it, the session lasts at least 2 minutes. As long as you fill the reservoir to the top line, you should experience the same 2 minutes or more. That’s the perfect amount of time: 30 seconds for each section of your dogs mouth.
This is a highly impressive feature. A lot of waterpiks have a low setting and a high setting and nothing in between. This one has 10 settings and you will find one that is perfect. Always start gentle and work your way up.
And though I’ve never used the number 10 setting, on my teeth (or my dog’s) , I have used it to spray at stubborn toothpaste globs left behind in the sink.
When you add up all of these features, I think it’s a great waterpik to use on your dog. But if you have a different model or are interested in a different style or version, it will very likely be fine. Just keep in mind the really important things like sound and reservoir size.
Use this waterpik link to see the recommended product on amazon and then scroll to the bottom to see other types of waterpiks with different features and pricing.
My Dog Prefers Waterpik to Brushing
Anytime a dog enjoys a type of grooming, we are far more likely to keep up with the maintenance and we may actually get enjoyment out of the time together. This is exactly the case with the waterpik.
My dog definately prefers the waterpik over dry brushing. Though he can’t tell me why he prefers the waterpik over brushing, I think it’s because when the water pik mixes with his chicken flavored enzyme toothpaste, it tastes like a really good treat.
If you can get a dog to enjoy mouth cleaning, you are way ahead of the game because that is half the battle.
Is There a Waterpik For Dogs
I don’t know if there is a waterpik that’s made specifically for dogs. If there is, I’m sure it would cost twice as much and probably for no good reason.
Whether it’s arthritis supplements, treats, balms, shampoo, pee blankets, bedding or in this case “water piks” if it’s marketed for dogs, the cost always goes up. Now in many cases such as with medicine or toys, it’s appropriate to stick with products made for dogs.
But there are times when a human grade product can be used in place of a dog product without sacrificing benefits (and for a lot less money) and the waterpik is one of those times.
The waterpik I use on my dog is the same waterpik I use on myself and I have not had the need to look for an alternate product. We don’t share the attachment (that would be gross) but we share the appliance.
My dog has his own water brush and waterpik attachment and the wand gets disinfected with Lysol after each use.
How to Use a Waterpik on a Dog
If you get the waterpik I’m recommending, it comes with multiple heads for sharing. So before you waterfloss your dog’s teeth for the first time, I recommend trying it on your own mouth so you can feel the different water intensities.
Once you’re comfortable using it on yourself, you’re ready to try it on your dog. If it’s your dog’s first time, let them get used to seeing it in the house and I would even suggest rubbing a dab of peanut butter on the actual appliance for extra measure.
Here are a few more precautions :
Use The Lowest Setting – Always start with the lowest setting and work your way up. As a reference, I never go past 4 for my dog and it still removes the plaque.
Use Warm Water – If the water is too cold or too hot your dog may not be agreeable. Therefore, use slightly warm water that is (ideally) the same temperature as your dog’s mouth.
Use Dog Toothpaste – The enzyme action of poultry flavored dog toothpaste is a winner in my book for 2 reasons:
- Even though the toothpaste is “chicken flavored” it doesn’t smell like chicken afterwards. The enzymes really do make his breath fresher than when we don’t use the enzyme toothpaste.
- My dog loves the taste which means he tolerates the 2 minute waterflossing without issue.
Whether you’re using the brush attachment or pick attachment, rub the dog toothpaste across your dog’s gums or on the brush head before you begin. I use Enzadent (link to product) and it has a lot of comments you can read from other dog owners too.
Choose Location Wisely – This is a wet, hot mess and you’ll see lots of gunk come out of your dog’s mouth. If your dog is small or medium you are lucky enough to do this in the kitchen sink or bathtub. For big dogs (like my 90 pounder), I take him outside.
The ideal position is for him to be laying down on my porch, at the top of the stairs, with his mouth hanging over the first step. This allows me to sit on a lower step and perform the water flossing without breaking my back and it helps keep his head down.
Point the Nose Down – Because water is coming out of the wand you want to avoid your dog swallowing and drinking (or gagging on) all the water. Use one hand to keep your dog’s nose pointed down the entire time and the water will naturally flow out of his mouth.
Work from Back to Front – You don’t necessarily have to see everything the whole time. You’ll be able to feel through the wand if the pick is on the teeth or gums, which is not the case when using a traditional toothbrush. This alone will make it easier on your dog as most dog’s don’t appreciate their cheeks being pulled up and out.
Work in Quarters – Consider your dog’s mouth 4 separate quarters and address each quarter for 30 seconds.
- Top right
- Bottom Right
- Top Left
- Bottom Left
The wand sends a hand signal after 30 seconds. When you feel the signal, move to the next quarter. When you feel the 2nd signal, you should be halfway through the cleaning. This gets easier to predict after a few sessions.
How Much Does it Cost to Clean Your Dog’s Teeth Professionally
So I mentioned earlier that I’d show you my vet cleaning bill and here it is. It’s rather expensive.
Anytime I think, oh I’m too tired right now or it can wait until tomorrow, I remind myself of the $900 bill I paid for his dental cleaning back in 2014 and it snaps me right out of it.
While my dog didn’t require any extractions, the bill still ended up at $890 when all was said and done. I’m sure the same procedure today in 2019 would be more like $1200 – $1500. I just had an estimate for my cat and it came in at $1250 (my cat does NOT allow brushing or waterpik cleaning).
And aside from the cost, which can be a big setback, the idea of putting my dog through dental surgery and under anesthesia really bothers me. Anything can happen especially now that he’s over 12 years old.
Together, the Waterpik (link to product) and a tube of poultry toothpaste (link) is no where near what you’d shell out for a professional cleaning and it promotes bonding and quality time with your dog. Your dog’s breath will be fresh because teeth and gums are actually clean.
Since adopting an in-home routine, my dog hasn’t needed additional cleanings. Basically, if you can keep up with plaque removal, you avoid tartar build-up. The waterik definitely removes plaque and here are some other good habits.
How To Remove Plaque From Dogs Teeth Naturally
I do 3 things to take care of my dog’s teeth naturally
Waterpik – personally, I love the waterpik method and so does my dog. He is really patient with the waterpik and he obviously enjoys the poultry flavored enzyme toothpaste.
Teeth Wipes – You can buy gauzy wipes or you can make them. In the end, you’ll spend just about the same.
To make them, it’s really super easy. Simply use sterile gauze. Apply a dab of virgin coconut oil and a little cinnamon on the sterile gauze and get scrubbing. You might want to wear a rubber glove because it’s a slimy job.
Clean Through Chewing – My freezer has a stockpile of turkey necks which I give my dog (thawed but never cooked) when I want him to clean his own teeth. Here are some warnings: do not give a raw turkey neck to a gulper dog. If your dog gulps food without chewing or if you’re not sure, skip it.
My dog chews everything forever and is a pretty picky eater. It takes him about 10 minutes to eat a turkey neck and he’s 90 pounds. When he’s eating it, I watch him the entire time. He takes his time and when he’s done, his teeth look incredible.
Scaling Dog Teeth at Home vs. Waterpik
My vet loves that I use a waterpik on my dog and she encourages both the waterpik and teeth wiping as a regular form of mouth grooming. However, in my opinion, scaling is a real dental procedure that is best left to professionals. I do a lot of home treatments on my dog, but here is why I don’t scale my dog’s teeth at home:
Enamel Etching – Even if you use light pressure, the scaling device could etch your dog’s enamel. And since you’re not following scaling with polishing, the little scratches through the enamel leave your dog’s teeth susceptible to buildup inside those scratches. Even if you can’t feel the scratches, they are there.
Teeth should be nice and smooth so food and saliva glide off. Tiny scaling scratches to not leave teeth smooth and easy to maintain.
Think of the last time you had your own teeth cleaned and polished at the dentist. If you run your tongue across your teeth before the polishing takes place, your teeth feel a little dry and etched. However, after the polishing, teeth feel smooth and strong, like there is nowhere for food and bacteria to hide
Cleaning a Dog’s Teeth Without Brushing – Final Summary
Let’s sum everything I do to clean my dog’s teeth without brushing:
First and foremost: I use a waterpik. Not only do I recommend a waterpik, but I clean my dog’s teeth and gums with a waterpik and it works wonders for making the plaque fly off.
Second: I use wipes in between the waterpik, either homemade from sterile gauze or or reliably produced and highly rated dog dental wipes.
Third: I give him something to chew on that is healthy and won’t damage his teeth. I give my 90 pound senior dog a raw turkey neck but that’s because my dog is a slow chewer. I watch him the entire time even though he’s been eating these for years. Never give your dog a bone and leave her unattended.
Of all of the above, waterpik, teeth wipes and chewing action, the method that (visibly) makes the plaque fly off is the waterpik method. The waterpik seems to get every nook and cranny and my dog has grown to like it.
Video – Watch My Dog’s Teeth Being Cleaned with a Waterpik
Best of luck with your waterpik grooming. Remember to use it on yourself first, start slow and at the lowest setting before working your way up. If your dog has mouth issues or if you’re not sure, you should call your vet and discuss using a waterpic before attempting.
Don’t forget the chicken flavored enzyme toothpaste. Here is the final link for both products again:
Thanks for visiting Senior Dog Days!