Ark Companion News

4 Easy Steps to Successfully Brush Your Pet’s Teeth

By February 7, 2018 No Comments
It’s that time of year again! February is National Pet Dental Health Month and the staff at Ark Animal Hospital in Liberty and Kansas City is all smiles to support your pet’s oral health through specials for dental cleanings, hosting a dental care class, and educating on dental awareness and care during veterinary visits. This month is key for highlighting the importance of pet dental health, but it should become a routine part of your pet’s care all year long and for life long. Having a healthy mouth is just as important for pets as it is for people.

To maintain a healthy mouth, tooth brushing is the gold standard. By doing this daily to every other day, you will stay ahead of the perpetuating plaque-tartar cycle that causes the most common dental condition seen in pets: periodontal disease. If periodontal disease is allowed to wreak havoc in your pet’s mouth it can lead to destruction of the supporting tissues surrounding teeth leading to tooth loss.

The Secrets to Success

Take it Slow

This will be a slow, gradual process and requires patience. Every pet is an individual and will have a different pace at how quickly you can move from one step to the next. Expect to spend 1-2 weeks on each step with finally reaching brushing in 4-8 weeks.

Short Training Sessions Daily

Keep it to just a few minutes to avoid stress and frustration from both parties. Once you are able to brush, it should only take 1-2 minutes.

Positive Reinforcement

Be sure to reward your pet during each training session so there is an association with something they see as positive.

Start with a Healthy Mouth

Ideally start with a puppy or kitten that is 8-12 weeks old and pause during their teething stage between 3-6 months of age. But it is never too late to start! With an adult pet, have your pet examined by a veterinarian to be sure the mouth is healthy and doesn’t need a dental cleaning first. If significant periodontal disease exists, brushing can be painful.

Getting Started: The Tools

The key is plaque removal. If this is not removed, it will have the chance to mineralize and harden into tartar in 36 hours which cannot be removed by brushing. There are many options available as to what tools can be used to remove plaque. Some are softer and more pliable compared to the traditional toothbrush, so they may be tolerated better by your pet initially.

  • Toothbrush
  • Fingerbrush
  • Gauze pads
  • Long cotton-tipped applicator
  • Washcloth
  • Dental sponges

Toothpaste formulated for pets can be used to help facilitate brushing with its fun, palatable flavors, has enzymes to fight bacteria and plaque, and further helps to freshen breath. If your pet is not sold on the toothpaste after a few attempts, you can try a different flavor or substitute it with water flavored with low sodium chicken broth or tuna water for cats. You can soak your plaque removing tool in this water as a tasty treat to ease them into brushing.

Tooth Brushing in 4 Easy Steps

1. Handling the Mouth

You want your pet to be comfortable with you gently lifting the lips so that the teeth are visible and running your fingers along the outer gum line.

2. Investigating the Tools

Lay out your toothbrush or alternative tool and toothpaste tube so your pet can check them out on their own and see them as normal household items.

3. Taste Testing

Place a small amount of toothpaste on your pet’s toothbrush or your finger and have them try it. You can also rub some along the gum line with your finger. If they are not acclimating to the flavor after a few days, then offer a different one or use the water flavoring tips discussed earlier.

4. Start Brushing!

Hold the bristles at a 45 degree angle and erase that plaque along the gum line. Just focus on the outer surface of the teeth, because the tongue does a good job keeping the inside surface of teeth clean.

Still go slow, brushing is an unusual feeling for your pet. You may not be able to brush all the teeth initially, but gradually work up to it. If you can’t get all the teeth, just focus on the ones that tend to get tartar build up faster: the large upper cheek teeth and canines are most common.

Unfortunately, tooth brushing does not work for everyone or every pet. It should not stress your human-animal bond and people do value their fingers! There are many options available aimed at achieving and maintaining a healthy mouth, but just know that there is no replacement for brushing your pet’s teeth.

When planning an at home program and seeking dental products for your pet, we recommend consulting with your veterinarian and checking out the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s website. They have a list of products for dogs and cats that have been awarded their seal of acceptance for proving their effectiveness against periodontal disease.

Take action against periodontal disease for a healthy mouth today!