Taking Care Of Their Smile: How to Brush Your Pet’s Teeth
It seems easy; if you want pet care advice, just ask Alexa or Siri or do a short Google search. Of course, it’s always hard to know what and who to trust on-line.
At Redwood Veterinary Hospital we believe your source of reliable pet care information should be your family veterinarian. In that spirit, we’d like to share with you the importance of preventative dental care for your pet and more specifically, how to brush their teeth. When it comes to pet health and longevity, caring for your pet’s oral health can play an important role, and we believe can improve the quality and quantity of your pet’s life.
Issues with the teeth in pets are often “silent” problems, and pet owners may not even know their pet is suffering with dental disease. Dental disease is one of the most common pet health conditions we see. It affects a whopping 85% of pets by the time they reach 4 years of age.
A Dental Care Plan of regular exams, professional cleanings, and x-rays, as well as home care can help keep dental disease in check. At-home brushing plays a critical role by slowing the return of plaque and tarter between cleanings. Learning how to brush your pet’s teeth is not difficult, and in most cases can be mastered with a little time and patience.
The Hard Truth About Periodontal Disease in Pets
Aside from causing bad breath and red, swollen gums, dental disease can make it painful and difficult for pets to eat, cause bacterial infection and gum disease, and lead to tooth loss. Additionally, if periodontal disease is not addressed, the bacteria in the mouth can migrate to the bloodstream, causing damage to the heart, liver, and kidneys.
How To Brush Your Pet’s Teeth
You know how important brushing your teeth is to your personal dental and overall health. The same is true for our pets. Habits are formed early, so it’s undeniably easier to begin a habit of brushing your pet’s teeth when they are young. Keep things positive and give lots of rewards. Even your adult pet will learn to tolerate, if not enjoy, this gentle attention.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Purchase a pet toothbrush that’s the right size for your pet’s mouth. Angled pet toothbrushes work well for large dogs, and a finger brush can be perfect for cats and small dogs.
- You’ll also need pet-specific toothpaste. Human toothpaste products are made quite differently and should never be use for pets. Also, pet-specific toothpastes are designed to be swallowed and often are flavored in ways that will be appealing to pets.
- To get started, just gently pat and rub the outside of your pet’s mouth for a few minutes so they get used to being touched on that part of their body.
- Let your pet lick the pet-specific toothpaste off your finger to familiarize them with the flavor.
- With more toothpaste on your finger, and only if your pet tolerates it, gradually slide your finger inside your pet’s mouth on the cheek/lip side of their teeth, and rub back and forth gently. Common sense should guide you here. If your pet is especially sensitive about their mouth, and/or if there is potential, he/she may try to bite, teeth brushing may not be possible.
- Substitute the toothbrush for your finger, using the same technique.
- Hold the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle to the gums, with the brush pointing towards the gums.
- Work the toothbrush in a circular motion, focusing on the outside of the teeth only. We do not recommend trying to brush the inside (tongue side) of the teeth.
- Gradually work on spending 30 seconds brushing each side of the mouth.
Take things slow. It may take several sessions to gradually build up to actually brushing the teeth. As we’ve said before, this process will take time and patience, but the reward will be great. End each tooth brushing session on a positive note and remember that consistency is more important than perfection.