Do you brush your teeth every day? What about your dog or cat? They don’t have thumbs, and they can’t reach the sink, so it can be tough for them to brush their own teeth.
Brushing your pet’s teeth is one way you can help maintain their dental health at home. Over time, plaque will build up on the surface of their teeth, harden into tartar, and can cause problems like gingivitis and periodontal disease. Brushing their teeth just a few times a week can help to decrease plaque build up and keep their mouth healthy.
Image from Diagnostic Imaging Atlas.
Getting started with brushing your pet’s teeth can be the hardest part. Most dogs and cats will come to accept teeth brushing as part of their normal routine, with a little patience. Try these steps to incorporate teeth brushing into your pet’s care.
- Only use toothpaste that is made for dogs and cats. Toothpaste for people can be toxic if swallowed. Most pet toothpaste is flavored with chicken, beef, or fish, or some other flavor that pets like.
- Start slow. Every day, around the same time, put some toothpaste on your pet’s toothbrush, and let them lick it off. This will get them used to the taste of the toothpaste, and used to feeling the brush near their mouth.
- After 2-3 weeks, try to gently brush the front teeth with the toothbrush. Your pet may try to bite or chew on the toothbrush. This is fine, as long as they don’t bite it into pieces.
- After 2-3 weeks of only brushing the teeth that you can easily see, try to brush the outside surfaces of the back teeth.
- Be very careful trying to brush the inside surfaces of your pet’s teeth. Most plaque and tartar build up will be on the outside surfaces, so often brushing the inside surfaces is not necessary. If your pet will let you, it is okay to try to brush the inside surfaces of their teeth.
- Always be careful when working around your pet’s mouth. Even the most well-behaved pets may bite if they feel threatened or scared. Always go slow, and listen to your pet if he needs a break.
- Making brushing a part of your pet’s routine is easiest if you do it around the same time every day. Maybe it’s the first thing after breakfast in the morning, right when you get home from work, or the last thing before you go to bed. Whatever time works for you, keeping to the same time will make it easier for your pet to accept brushing as part of his routine.
This video from the American Veterinary Medical Association also has some great tips to help you get started brushing your pet’s teeth.