teethQ: How do I brush my pet’s teeth at home?

A: A typical basic home dental care program includes regular (daily) brushing and check ups as well as proper nutrition with a specially designed dental diet. Just like with humans, infected gums and teeth aren’t just a problem in the mouth for dogs and cats. Your pet’s heart, kidneys, lungs, intestinal tract, and joints may also become infected. The tartar and any infected areas of the mouth contain a multitude of bacteria that can travel to other parts of the body. Providing your pet with regular dental care including brushing their teeth at home will help prevent some of these more serious side effects.

To brush your pet’s teeth you must train your pet gradually over several weeks. Small dogs and cats are easily done when they are sitting on a table, or in your lap. Larger dogs can be sitting on the floor. When you first begin it may take 2 people to get the job done, but be careful not to over restrain your pet, keep brushing sessions short and positive. One person can hold your pet and the other can actually do the brushing. Praise and reassure your pet throughout the process, and don’t forget a treat as a reward afterwards.

Dab a bit of flavoured toothpaste from your veterinarian or local pet store on your finger (these come in flavours like chicken or beef). Don’t use toothpaste designed for humans because it could upset your pet’s stomach. Rub the finger gently over the pets mouth and teeth. Make the initial session short and positive.

Gradually introduce gauze over the finger and gently scrub the teeth and gums in a circular motion.

Finally you can introduce a soft toothbrush or a finger brush designed for pets. Special pet dental products are available from your veterinarian or local pet store. There are also specially designed dental diets and treats that can help with reduction of plaque and tarter build up between your pet’s dental check ups. Products with a seal of approval from the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) are products that meet a pre-set standard in plaque and tarter reduction in animals. Being an informed consumer of veterinary dental diets and products will be helpful in choosing the most efficacious products.

If your pet won’t cooperate with home brushing or if you already see brown tartar stains on its teeth or red and bleeding gums, its time to turn to your veterinarian for help.

Remember dental care is as important to your pet’s health as it is your own. You owe it to your pet to provide regular dental care and cleaning.

Happy brushing.