Last week, we discussed tips for keeping your cat’s oral hygiene up to par. If you’re a dog owner, unfortunately, you’re not off the hook! One of the best and easiest ways to maintain your pup’s health is to develop an oral care routine. It sounds daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are three simple ways to get started…

Chew bones and toys are your and your dog’s best friend. Having your furry friend gnaw on a bone is a great (and affordable) way for your pup to keep his teeth clean and gums strong. Look for bones and chew toys at the pet store that are durable and long lasting, versus edible bones, which some dogs can finish in a matter of minutes. If your dog isn’t a chewer, try coating it with peanut butter or a soft cheese.

Brush your dog’s teeth. You probably knew this one was coming, and although we hate to say it, brushing your furry friend’s teeth is a surefire way to keep your dog’s mouth clean and healthy. Daily is ideal, but a few times a week is much better than nothing. Like cats, the earlier you start, the more pleasant it will be (for both of you!). Picking the right time to brush will also make your job easier; after your morning walk, for example, Fido is relaxed and exercised, and will be less likely to resist. One important note: always use canine toothpaste, as it excludes fluoride, an ingredient found in human toothpaste toxic to dogs.

Once you have established an at-home regimen for your pup, schedule an appointment with a veterinary dental specialist for a routine check up – professionals recommend every 6 or 12 months. These days, dental specialists are trained to cover a wide array of canine oral care, and they will be able to detect any existing or potential problems in your pup’s mouth.

Lastly, remember: creating the routine is the hardest part. Once you’ve got that down, you’ll be saving yourself from the hassle of dental disease and oral surgery down the road.