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Once upon a time, the fact that I am a crazy dog lady made me stand out among my friends. It was a unique character trait, as in, "Don't mind that Emily is on the floor at the party, she is just talking to the dog."
But in recent years, America as a whole has caught up to my level of fanaticism — and I am here for it. We now live in a world where we consider pets to be not only our dear family members, but also bonafide celebrities. If living in a world populated by "dog-fluencers" who have more followers than you do isn't a sign of the times, I don't know what is.
My fiancé and I adopted a puppy last summer from the SPCA, and since I am newly engaged, I will just say that Zadie is definitely in the top two best things ever to happen to me. So when Bark, makers of the popular toy-filled subscription boxes, invited us to a professional photo shoot to try out their new dental service, Bright, I jumped at the chance.
It was actually fortuitous timing; we had just found out a friend brushes her own dog's teeth EVERY DAY and were flooded with shame. We have never brushed Zadie's teeth. The one time we tried, she acted like the toothbrush was an electric cattle prod and we both ended up covered in scratches. Pretty rich for a creature who regularly sticks her snoot into piles of NYC trash, but I guess the heart wants what the heart wants.
I talked to my vet about my dog's lack of a dental routine, and she made me feel less alone if not better.
"I would say most clients do neglect their dog's dental care," Dr. Karen Cantor of Westside Veterinary Center told me. “We probably have 20% that are good about brushing their dogs' teeth."
That tracks with a study commissioned by Bark that found that more than two-thirds of dog parents have never brushed their dog's teeth.
"If you're doing it at home you do ideally have to do it daily to be effective," Cantor said. "Some people come in annually to get a professional cleaning, which can be enough, but then the dogs have to be anesthetized and nobody wants that."
I decided it was more than time to give Zadie's teeth the attention they deserved. At the photo studio, the Bright people squirted some chicken-flavored toothpaste onto a tasty dental stick and told me that the enzymes in her saliva would activate the enzymes in the gel to break down debris on her teeth, no brushing required. Zadie licked off the toothpaste before eating the chew, which they assured me was fine, and then got a major case of the zoomies, which was not that great for our photoshoot prospects.
Luckily, peanut butter exists. There was a lot of peanut butter involved in getting her to stay still for these photos. I would say as a dog model she did ... medium-okay. However, she is killing it at eating her dental chews every day.
If you sign up for a subscription, Bright sends you a dental kit once a month that costs a dollar a day for the toothpaste and dental chews. I know I mentioned that her taste is not exactly discerning, but for what it’s worth, Zadie wolfs them down like a champ.
I asked Cantor if there was any hope for people who were worried that it might be too late to begin a dental routine for their dogs.
"The reason we like to start brushing when they're young is so they get used to it and it becomes a habit. And a lot of times they grow to like the attention," she said. "But there's definitely still hope even if you didn't start right away. We tell people to begin with a toothbrush with nothing on it, or if you're doing chews with toothpaste, let the dog taste the product alone. Any dental care is better than none."
Cantor made a profound impression when she told me how much easier it is to take care of your dog's teeth before the situation becomes a smelly nightmare.
"Prevention is the best thing," she said. And obviously, I want the best for my pup. Did I mention she's the greatest thing that ever happened to me?
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