Did you know dogs and cats should have their teeth brushed regularly, just like humans?
Daily brushing is the most effective way to prevent periodontal disease (which can lead to chronic pain, tooth loss, and organ damage). Experts recommend you aim to brush at minimum 4-5 days a week for 30 seconds per side for effective dental upkeep. Most pets should also get regular preventative dental cleanings from their veterinarian, just like humans do!
Here’s your step-by-step guide to brushing your pet’s teeth.
(Want to see a demonstration? Watch our tooth brushing tutorial with Dr. Page and Sheldon!)
How to Brush Your Pet’s Teeth
If your pet has never had their teeth brushed before, don’t dive in headfirst with the toothbrush. It’s important to first get your pet comfortable with the idea of having their teeth and gums touched (this is called deconditioning, and you can read all about it here). Introduce each step gradually, and use plenty of treats and praise to make it a positive experience.
1. Start with Your Finger or a Cloth
Choose a calm time to begin when your fur-baby is relaxed; exercising them first can help to get some energy out. Hold your dog or cat in your lap or sit beside them comfortably. Using your finger or a soft cloth, gently rub the outer surface of the teeth in a circular motion. Start with only a few teeth at a time. Keep these sessions short, and give plenty of treats and praise!
2. Taste the Toothpaste
Once your pet is calm and familiar with you reaching into their mouth, apply some pet-safe toothpaste to your finger and let your pup taste it. Never use human toothpaste, as this can contain ingredients which are toxic to dogs and cats. Slowly, rub a small amount of the toothpaste over their teeth with your finger or cloth. Continue giving praise the whole time.
3. Bring in the Bristles
This step is all about becoming friends with the toothbrush! There are many types of brushes to choose from. Many pet parents find it easiest to begin with a finger brush. Allow your pet to sniff and investigate the brush at their own pace, before trying to reach into their mouth with it. Apply a bit of pet-safe toothpaste to the brush and let them lick it off. Continue giving treats and praise, to build a positive association.
4. Tooth Brushing Time
Once your pet is comfortable with the brush itself, begin gently rubbing the toothbrush (with toothpaste applied) on the outer surfaces of their teeth. You can start with just one tooth, and if it goes well, end the session there! Gradually work your way up to doing more teeth in one session, over the course of several days or weeks.
When brushing, use gentle circular motions on the outer surface of the tooth, near the place where the tooth touches the gums. Don’t worry about brushing the tips or insides of the teeth (your pet’s tongue tends to remove a lot of plaque from these surfaces!). Focus on the large cheek teeth and the canine teeth - these are where plaque and tartar accumulate most quickly.
Soon enough, your fur-baby will be a tooth brushing pro!
By making tooth brushing a positive experience, you’ll have a much easier time keeping your fur-baby’s teeth clean on a regular basis at home. Go slowly at first and work your way up to full brushing; the effort you put into getting your pet comfortable will pay off in the end. If the process is stressful and uncomfortable for both of you, you’re more likely to simply stop doing it altogether!
Dental hygiene doesn’t need to take a long time – just 30 seconds of brushing on each side of the mouth daily can be enough to ward off tartar and dental disease! And this can be a wonderful bonding time for you and your fur-baby.
Tooth brushing not only lowers your pet’s risk of gingivitis and periodontal disease (and costly dental procedures in the future), but also keeps their breath fresh and supports healthy organs to contribute to 360° of Happy Health® throughout their life.