How to Brush your pet’s teeth

I have a question for you… yes, you right there reading this blog…. How often do you go to the dentist? How many times a day do you brush your teeth? If you answered, “I follow the recommendations of the ADA.” Then I applaud your dental health. Now, two more questions… how many of you brush your pet’s teeth? Or take your pet to the vet for a regular dental cleaning?  I bet there are a lot less of you that can say that you take care of your pet’s teeth as well as you take care of your own.  Can I ask you to take a minute and ponder why that is? … … … No judgement here. I will be honest with you, I don’t brush my pet’s teeth either. I should but don’t and I don’t have a good excuse for it.


Inside our clinic, we have more clients that will take care of their dog’s teeth but not as many who care for their cat’s teeth. I was reading an article from Cornell University, that said about only 10% of cats will make it through their life without having a dental problem. Now, factor in that there are 85.8 million cats owned in the US only. If your luck is anything like mine, then your cat will have some sort of dental issue. But there is hope for cats and dogs! You can brush their teeth at home to help keep their teeth and the rest of their body healthier. This blog will walk you through how to brush your pet’s teeth. Brushing cat’s teeth isn’t much different than brushing dog’s teeth, it just takes more patience!


First, some helpful information:

  • Never use toothpaste made for humans. There are ingredients inside human toothpaste that can be harmful to your pet.
  • Use a specially designed toothbrush just for pets.
  • Start off early! Get your puppy/ kitten used to you messing around their mouth. Lifting their lips. Touching their gums and teeth. When this becomes routine then brushing isn’t a big deal later on once they get their adult teeth in.
  • Have patience. It will take some time for your pet to get used to messing with their mouth, the taste of the toothpaste, etc.
  • Is there a certain toy your dog likes to chew on? Smear a little toothpaste on the toy to get them used to the taste of the toothpaste. Rope toys for dogs is a good starting point. The motion of playing tug of war with toothpaste over the rope will work it over their teeth. By making it fun, they are more inclined to accept this new routine.
  • Between brushing and professional dental cleanings, offer hard crunchy treats like carrots, apples or rice cakes as a “natural” toothbrush. If your dog doesn’t swallow chews whole, there is a product called Oravet that has a harder outer shell and toothpaste-type product on the inside that is designed to help “brush” the teeth and decrease the bacterial growth that causes plaque.


How to start brushing your pet’s teeth:

* It may take a few days on one step before you can move onto the next step. Make sure they are comfortable and tolerating a step before moving onto the next one. Once they are good for a step, you don’t have to do that step again unless they are having difficulty on the next step.


  1. Start by getting your pet used to touching their muzzle and holding their lips up.
  2. Place a few drops of water flavored with low-sodium chicken or beef broth (or tuna water for cats) on your finger and let them lick your finger. While they are licking, gently massage their gums and teeth with your finger. At this point, if you haven’t introduced pet toothpaste, let them sample the toothpaste.
  3. Either using a wet washcloth or a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger (again flavored with chicken, beef or tuna) and rub teeth/ gums. Just make sure that once you are done using the washcloth or gauze that the cloth or gauze is put away in an area where your pet can’t get to it and eat the food-smelling cloth.
  4. Repeat step #3 but instead of flavored broth, use pet toothpaste.
  5. Finally, use either a finger brush or pet toothbrush and pet toothpaste, gently brush teeth from gums to tip of teeth. Don’t worry if your pet will not allow you to brush the inside (the tongue side) of the teeth.  Work up to 30 seconds of brushing each side of the mouth.


Remember, yearly professional cleanings will cost a lot less than waiting until there are issues and the dental procedures includes extractions and heavy tartar removal. By staying ahead of your pet’s dental care, you are helping to increase many more four-legged “kisses”.


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