Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth at Home
Brushing your pet’s teeth can go a long way toward preventing dental disease. Some pets resist brushing, but most eventually accept it, especially if you start a brushing routine when your pet is young (10 weeks to 10 months). Aim at brushing your pet’s teeth once each day or at least three times a week.
Choosing a Toothpaste
Choose a pet toothpaste your pet likes (don’t use human toothpaste or toothbrushes on your pet. Human toothpaste may be toxic if ingested by pets, and human toothbrushes are usually too big for their mouths). Place a small amount of toothpaste on your finger, and offer it to your pet daily for several days as a reward or treat. This will condition your pet to view brushing as fun and rewarding. Once your pet accepts toothpaste as a reward, use your index finger to stimulate the brushing motion of a toothbrush, while praising the pet and giving the daily dose of flavored toothpaste.
Proper Brushing Technique
After five to seven days, introduce your pet to a soft-bristled pet toothbrush; you can apply a small amount of the flavored toothpaste at the beginning and end to reinforce the conditioned behavior. Position the brush at a 45-degree angle to the tooth, and make small circular motions beginning at the back of the pet’s teeth, moving forward and around to the other side. Eight to ten strokes are sufficient for each area.
If you notice the following warning signs, it may be time for a professional dental cleaning.
- Bad breath – one of the first signs of dental disease.
- A yellowish-brown crust of plaque on the teeth near the gum line.
- Red and swollen gums.
- Pain or bleeding when your pet eats or when the mouth or gums are touched.
- Decreased appetite or difficulty eating.
If any of the above symptoms are present, locate a NPDA provider near you and schedule a professional dental cleaning for your pet.