A clean, healthy mouth is safer and more comfortable for your pet than tooth decay, chipped or broken teeth, swollen gums or painful mouth infections. Fortunately, it is easy to clean your pet's teeth at home to prevent many dental problems.
Easy Pet Dental Care at Home
Brushing your pet's teeth is no more difficult than brushing your own teeth, but it is important to get your pet used to having its mouth, teeth and gums touched and handled. The more accustomed your pet is to the task, the easier it will be to brush their teeth daily.
- Get the Proper Toothbrush
A pet toothbrush is different than a human toothbrush. Pet toothbrushes have very soft bristles to avoid irritation or injury, and they come in different sizes to be suitable for different pets' mouths. Finger brushes are best for cats and small dogs, while larger brushes with angled handles are better for larger dogs.
- Use Pet-Friendly Toothpaste
Human toothpastes are not suitable for pets, as they have different ingredients that can upset your pet's stomach. Instead, opt for a pet-friendly, enzymatic toothpaste. Many pet toothpastes have flavors your pets will like, such as poultry, beef, fish or peanut butter. These pastes are also safe for pets to swallow.
- Start Slow Without Brushing
To get your pet used to the taste and texture of toothpaste, start by putting a small dab of the paste on your pet's lips so they can lick it off, or allow them to lick a small taste off your finger. As they get used to the taste, they will learn it can be a treat and they will be less resistant to having their teeth brushed.
- Use a Safe Brushing Technique
Hold your pet's toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and focus your brushing efforts on the gum line, where the teeth and gums meet. This is where food and bacteria mix the most, encouraging plaque to form. Move the brush in small circles or ovals, and switch directions often to remove plaque most efficiently.
- Don't Forget Interior Surfaces
To clean the inside surfaces of your pet's teeth, gently squeeze their muzzle and lift their lips, tilting their head back slightly to open the mouth and expose the inside surfaces. If your pet resists this action, don't worry too much, as the rough surface of their tongue will help keep this area cleaner than other parts of their teeth.
Ideally it is best to clean your pet's teeth daily, but it may be necessary to start with just 2-3 brushings each week as your pet gets used to the task. The entire brushing should only take 1-2 minutes per day, but if you can't reach all their teeth in that short time, just rotate which teeth you clean with each brushing. After finishing, praise and reward your pet to keep brushing a positive task your pet can look forward to instead of dread.
More Tips to Clean Your Pet's Teeth
In addition to brushing your pet's teeth at home, there are other ways to ensure their dental health.
- Examine your pet's mouth weekly for any signs of dental problems, including loose or broken teeth, swelling, pain or discoloration. If you find a problem, contact your veterinarian to schedule an appropriate checkup or extra care as needed.
- Offer your pet dry, crunchy pet food and treats, as well as appropriate chew toys. These items are mildly abrasive and help remove stuck-on food and plaque to keep your pet's mouth healthy between cleanings.
- Schedule annual dental veterinarian visits, or consult your vet if more frequent visits may be necessary. These dental visits should include deeper cleanings, gum examinations, x-rays and other care you cannot provide at home.
It's easy to clean your pet's teeth at home, and taking good care of your pet's mouth is an essential part of being a caring, responsible pet owner to keep your furry family member happy, comfortable and healthy.