Good dental care is essential to your pet’s health and well-being, and, like you, she needs at-home, daily dental care to maintain proper oral health. Dental disease can affect the whole body, causing not only gingivitis, tooth decay, and bone loss, but also organ damage. Also, the heart valves are especially prone to attracting oral bacteria, which can lead to cardiac disease. Prevent the pain and infection associated with dental disease by keeping your pet’s mouth clean and healthy, beginning at home.
How to care for your pet’s teeth at home
Since dental care is such an important part of your pet’s overall health, a wide array of oral health-care options are available. Ideally, a dental health-care plan is well-rounded and includes chews, treats, water and food additives, toothbrushing, and even prescription diets. Your pet may prefer tartar-prevention powders or liquids added to her food or water, or she may allow you to safely brush her teeth. Choose what works best for your pet to keep her teeth tartar-free and eliminate gingivitis.
How to brush your pet’s teeth
Daily brushing is the gold standard for at-home pet dental care. Such a regimen may be challenging in the beginning, but your pet will reap the health benefits for years to come. If your pet has never been introduced to a toothbrush, follow these steps:
- Choose an appropriate toothbrush — Full-size people toothbrushes don’t fit well in dogs’ and cats’ small mouths. Use a soft, child’s toothbrush or a finger brush instead, or simply rub a damp paper towel or gauze over your pet’s teeth daily to wipe off plaque before it hardens into tartar.
- Pick the proper toothpaste — Never use people toothpaste, which contains fluoride and will harm your pet if swallowed. Pet toothpaste is fluoride-free and comes in many pet-friendly flavors, such as poultry, beef, and vanilla.
- Begin slowly — Don’t suddenly stick a toothbrush in your pet’s mouth if she has never had her teeth brushed before. Many pets don’t appreciate their mouths being touched, so go slowly and ensure your pet is comfortable and relaxed before proceeding to the next step.
- Gently massage your pet’s muzzle, rewarding her for her cooperation — This will help your cat or dog get accustomed to you touching her face and holding her muzzle. Choose high-value treats you know your pet likes to form a positive association with muzzle handling.
- Lift your pet’s lips, and dab flavored pet toothpaste on her gums and teeth — If your pet doesn’t have loose, floppy lips you can lift, slide a finger coated with toothpaste under her lips, along her gums and teeth. The toothpaste itself will reward your pet for allowing this strange new activity.
- Add in the toothbrush — At this point, your pet should associate the toothpaste smell and the handling of her mouth with tasty treats. Now, add a toothbrush for some serious scrubbing to make the toothpaste work at eliminating plaque. While a finger and toothpaste will remove some plaque because of the toothpaste’s abrasive properties, a toothbrush will save your fingers and help reach the back molars. Begin by using the toothbrush gently, slowly work up to more vigorous brushing, and then stick to the pace your pet finds comfortable.
- Make it fun — Always stock up with treats and end a toothbrushing session on a positive note. If your pet shows any fear or aggression, stop immediately. Then, return to the previous step, and progress even more slowly. Some pets may never tolerate toothbrushing and will need other at-home care products.
If tartar has already accumulated on your pet’s teeth, she’ll need it removed with a professional dental cleaning under anesthesia. Once her teeth are scaled and polished, she’ll have a fresh, clean mouth to begin her at-home dental-care regimen. Make brushing fun, and always end sessions on a positive note. If brushing your pet’s teeth is still a struggle, call us to discuss other at-home dental-care options.
Choosing dental-care products
With so many options available for pet dental care, the hardest part may be choosing the right product. Find the product that best suits your pet from the wide assortment of oral-health products available, including:
- Water additives
- Food additives
- Oral sealant
- Oral wipes
- Prescription dental diets
All dental products claim to eliminate plaque and tartar while freshening breath, but not all products can back up that claim. Choose products that display the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval, which verifies that the product does slow plaque and tartar accumulation. The VOHC is not a regulatory agency and only tests products that are voluntarily submitted for clinical trials, but its approval does mean the product achieves the required dental efficacy.
Is brushing your pet’s teeth troublesome? We can help. Schedule a dental-health consultation appointment to discuss at-home dental-care techniques and products.