Pet Dental Care at Home

As you may have heard by now, February is National Pet Dental Health Month. Many people react with surprise when they discover that pet dental care should be a daily or weekly habit, but it’s true.

Our pets benefit from annual dental check-ups and cleanings. Many people think that’s enough, but if a person were to tell you that was all the dental care they ever received and that they never did any at-home care (like teeth brushing), you might take a step back… Why would our pets be any different?!

Think about it this way: we teach our children to brush their teeth starting from a very young age. We do it because we know that without regular brushing, their teeth will start to accumulate bacteria (plaque) that can damage their teeth, the bone beneath and, eventually, other organs of their bodies. We also do it because we know that dental problems can hurt. These are the exact same reasons we should brush our pets’ teeth. Regular brushing and veterinary cleanings can help your furry family members live longer, healthier lives.

Pet Dental Care – Brushing Their Teeth

The best way to take care of your cat and dog’s teeth in between doctor visits is to brush them, ideally every day or every other day. Of course, the idea of brushing your pet’s teeth can be daunting. It shouldn’t be, though! It’s actually very easy to do and can be a great way to bond with Kitty and Fido once you’ve trained them to do it.

Finger brush and toothpaste for pets

The right supplies are important! Here you see a finger brush and seafood-flavored pet toothpaste. Hopefully, my cats will find both acceptable.

First and foremost, you need to make sure you keep the activity FUN, so training and brushing sessions should be short and positive. In addition, you need to make sure you have the right supplies: a pet-sized toothbrush, finger brush or wipe and specially formulated pet toothpaste. Their favorite tasty treat for the end of each training session can’t hurt, either. Remember, this is an activity you want to do with them regularly throughout their lives. If it stresses them (or you) out, that won’t happen!

As with most activities, getting your pets used to having their teeth brushed works best if you start when they’re puppies and kittens. However, it is still absolutely possible to teach adult pets to accept it.

Brushing kitty's teeth

Here we see Zeke and Escher deciding if the toothpaste is okay to lick off the finger brush. Zeke (the black kitty) thinks the toothpaste is wonderfully tasty and will lick it off anything it’s on. Escher is intrigued by Zeke’s activity but not interested in joining in. He doesn’t like the seafood flavored toothpaste and will need a different flavor.

Here’s how you can get your adult cat to let you brush her teeth (dogs, too!):

  • Next, you need to get Kitty used to the feel of the toothbrush’s bristles. The easiest way to do this is to let her sniff it and then lick some of her (now liked) toothpaste off it. As they do this, you may be able to move it around on her front teeth (especially their canines – the large, long front teeth).
  • Get Kitty used to the taste and smell of her new pet toothpaste. It’s important you NEVER use human toothpaste for your pets (it can make them sick). Besides, pet toothpaste has flavors just for them, like seafood, poultry or malt. The best way to get her used to it is to put a little bit on your finger and have her lick it off. If she doesn’t like the flavor, you might need to try a different one until you get one she does like.
  • Kitty also needs to get used to you putting your fingers (and later a toothbrush) in her mouth. While everyone’s relaxed, start petting her around her mouth. Try lifting up her lips and examining her teeth (briefly to start). If that goes well, you can start rubbing her teeth and gums. Depending on your pet’s level of relaxation, you may be able to do this immediately. Others may take longer to acclimate.
  • Finally, you’re ready. It’s time to brush Kitty’s teeth. Take the toothbrush (or finger brush) with a little of the toothpaste on it. Hold it angled against her teeth along the gum line and brush. You only need to brush the outsides of her teeth (the cheek side).

Remember, it can take time to train any pet to do anything, especially when it comes to pet dental care. You may have a pet who accepts it readily. You may have one that takes a few weeks or months to get used to it. It’s also possible that your pet might never accept having his teeth brushed. In that case, talk to your vet about dental treats, rinses, chews, toys and specially-formulated food. These items can be helpful, too.

If you have questions about pet dental care or need to schedule a dental cleaning, give us a call! We’re having a special during the month of February for $15 off sedation dentals and $25 off full anesthesia dentals. (The veterinarian determines the level of sedation necessary.)