How often do you go to the dentist? How many times a day do you brush your teeth? How often do you brush your pet’s teeth? How often does your pet have a professional dental cleaning?
According to Cornell University, only 10% of cats will make it through their life without having a dental problem. This means 9 out of every 10 cats will have a dental issue in their lifetime. 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. Brushing a cat’s teeth isn’t much different than brushing a dog’s teeth, it just takes more patience!
Read on as we walk you through how to brush your pet’s teeth.
Never use toothpaste made for humans. Fluoride and artificial sweeteners can be harmful to your pet.
Start off early! Get your puppy/ kitten used to you handling their mouth. Lifting their lips. Touching their gums and teeth. 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. When this becomes routine then brushing isn’t a big deal.
Have patience. It will take some time for your pet to get used to handling their mouth, the taste of the toothpaste and the feeling of the brush.
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. A rope toy is a good starting point for dogs. 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.
BEST = BRUSH
Brushing the teeth with a toothbrush or polishing with a wash cloth or gauze sponge is the best way to care for your pet’s teeth at home.
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.
- Toothbrush/finger brush – a soft bristled tooth brush that matches the size of your pet’s mouth works best.
- Wash Cloth/Guaze – some prefer to use a cloth or piece of gauze to the rub or “polish” the teeth.
- Pet Toothpaste – Choose a flavor that your pet likes. Choose an enzymatic toothpaste. These enzymes will help breakdown bacteria before they turn to plaque to stick to the teeth.
Introduce the toothpaste on your finger, brush or gauze/cloth and allow your pet to lick it off. Positive reinforcement -praise and maybe a tiny bit more of the paste as a reward.
Once used to the object (brush, cloth or gauze) begin to lift the lip while your pet is licking the paste.
Gradually over the course of several days to weeks depending on your pet’s tolerance, work your way up to using the brush, cloth or gauze to wipe the pet’s teeth. Focusing on the canines (pointy fang teeth) and the pre-molars and molars in the back of the mouth. These are the primary areas for tartar to form and cause gingivitis. Focus on brushing at the gum line – where the tooth and gum (gingiva) meet.
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.
BETTER = CHEW
Some pets just don’t tolerate the act of you handling their mouth and that’s ok! There are still options for dental care. There are many dental diets on the market as well as dental chews. You will need to keep in mind that these forms of treats will add calories to your pet’s diet and need to be calculated accordingly. We don’t need Fido or Fluffy adding on the pounds just because the teeth are being taken care of! Chews and diets will only work for pets that actually chew!. 2 crunches and a swallow or just simply a gulp won’t allow these products to be effective.
- Dental diets need to contain the VOHC seal of approval. This ensures that the product has gone through testing that proves it does the job! Hill’s T/D is a prescription diet that can be used successfully as diet alone or used as treats.
- Dental Chews also need to contain the VOHC seal of approval. We recommend Oravet chews or CET Hextra Chews, Veggie Dent Chews or Purina ProPlan Veterinary Chewz. You will need to offer these as recommended on the package for successful dental care.
GOOD = DRINK
So you can’t get your hands in their mouth and they swallow the treats whole, now what? There are water additives. These substances are added to the water and as the pet drinks will treat the mouth to help decrease the plaque and tartar build up. This is not the most effective approach to dental care but studies show that it does help! We recommend Healthy Mouth as a water additive. No matter which product you choose, be sure to mix according to the package directions. Always provide a separate water bowl with fresh plain water in case your pet has an aversion. Be sure the product you choose is safe for all the critters that may drink it in your house!
Remember, no matter what steps you take for home oral care, professional cleanings may be needed from time to time. At home maintenance will decrease the amount of time and amount of money spent on professional cleanings. By staying ahead of your pet’s dental care, you are increasing the amount of fresh-breath kisses your furry friend can offer!