A Step-by-Step Guide to Brushing a Pet’s Teeth

A dog holds a yellow toothbrush in its mouth.

Pets have strong (and often adorable) opinions about many aspects of their daily lives. Not all of these opinions are good, which can make it hard to do things like brush their teeth. Sometimes, pet ownership involves doing what’s best for a pet despite their discomfort, frustration, and heated stand-offs (think giving them a bath or attempting to trim their nails). 

Brushing a pet’s teeth may be included on the list of things you both would rather not do, but it’s easier than you might think. 

It’s For Their Own Good

Plaque and tartar can cause big problems for pets. Periodontal, or gum, disease impacts the majority of pets over the age of three. Stinky breath is usually the first indicator, but by then a significant amount of damage has already been done to the teeth and gums. Pain, tooth fracture or loss, and bacterial infections can lead to systemic organ failure.

Luckily, dental disease is preventable by brushing a pet’s teeth early and often. And it’s so worth it!

In addition to home care, a pet’s teeth should be examined once a year. If needed, routine professional cleaning, scaling, and treatment of any problems will be scheduled, along with digital x-rays to understand the full scope. 

Start Brushing a Pet’s Teeth

Brushing a pet’s teeth is a great habit to start in their youth, but with commitment, patience, and encouragement, all ages can be trained to expect and tolerate this activity. 

Keep this exercise short and sweet. Use rewards and praise to keep your pet engaged and feeling good. Eventually, they will learn to accept your attention to their teeth and may even love it.

To get started, we offer this step-by-step guide:

  • Purchase a pet-appropriate toothbrush. Small finger brushes may be best for smaller dogs and cats, and angled toothbrushes are often better for a large dog’s mouth.
  • Human toothpaste should not be used when brushing a pet’s teeth. Instead, choose a pet-specific toothpaste that they’ll like, such as bacon or tuna-flavored.
  • Slowly get your pet accustomed to these tools, and allow for extra time to get used to them on or near their mouth. 
  • Allow them to sample some of their new toothpaste right off your finger.
  • Slide your fingertip into the mouth and apply some of the toothpaste directly to the teeth and gums. Over time, graduate to the toothbrush.
  • Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and brush in a circular motion toward the gum on the outside of the teeth.
  • Aim to brush for about 30 seconds on each side of the mouth, but if they let you go for longer, do it!
  • If you can do this every day or at least 2-3 times a week, your pet’s dental health will be much improved. 

Say Cheese!

If you have a pet with doggie or kitty breath, it’s time to get started with brushing. While dental disease is irreversible, you can stop it from getting worse.

Please let us know if you have further questions or concerns. We’re always here for your pet at Berkeley Veterinary Center.

Tags: , , ,