We all love our pets, and we do our best to give them a happy and healthy life, but looking in their mouth may be one of the things we don’t even think about. Unless we’ve noticed less than fresh breath, so to speak, we may not realize that our pets have dental disease, one of the most common conditions affecting pets today.

So common, in fact, that by the age of 3, over 85% of pets have some form of dental disease. And dental disease is not only painful for your pet, it can cause swollen and bleeding gums, difficulty eating, bacterial infection in the mouth, and even systemic disease of the heart, liver, and kidneys.

In addition to regular dental exams and professional dental cleanings, brushing your pet’s teeth at home on a daily basis is one of the best ways to prevent the plaque and tartar buildup that causes dental disease. If you just rolled your eyes, laughed, or sighed when we mentioned brushing your pet’s teeth, bear with us! It’s really not as hard as you think, and we’re here to give you our best tips.

First Things First

First, some dental disease basics. Dental disease in pets begins with bacteria causing plaque to build up on the teeth and at the gumline. Within days, this hardens into tartar, or dental calculus. Next, the bacteria start to work their way under the gumline, causing gingivitis. If left undisturbed, the bacteria then destroy the supporting structures of the tooth, including the root and the bone beneath. And the bacteria don’t stay in the mouth. They enter the bloodstream as well, causing damage to internal organs.

Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth

Daily brushing is a wonderful way to control and prevent these problems. We recommend you start with a clean slate – no pun intended. A professional dental cleaning and oral examination lets our veterinarians assess each of your pet’s teeth and the health of their gums. Digital dental x-rays can show us if there is disease or any other problem under the gums that we can’t see. Contact us to schedule your pet’s dental cleaning, and let us clean away all the plaque and tartar as well as polish any rough surfaces to prevent future buildup.

Once you’re ready to begin brushing your pet’s teeth, purchase the right tools for the job. You’ll need a pet sized toothbrush, or a fingerbrush. You’ll also need pet toothpaste, as human toothpaste can make your pet sick.

Next, begin brushing your pet’s teeth using the following steps.

  • Get your pet used to having her mouth handled by gently touching and petting the outside of her muzzle
  • Let your pet lick the toothpaste off your finger
  • Gradually slide your finger into your pet’s mouth
  • Substitute the toothbrush for your finger, using the same process
  • Hold the brush at a 45 degree angle toward your pet’s gums
  • Use a circular motion to brush your pet’s teeth, concentrating on the outer surfaces of the teeth
  • Work up to 30 seconds on each side of the mouth

Each of these steps should be performed on a different day, with lots of praise and rewards. As with any pet training program, be patient, positive and go slowly, and you’ll start to notice it getting easier.

Brushing your pet’s teeth takes time, patience, and practice, but the payoff is a healthier pet. She’ll be more comfortable and less prone to infection, dental disease, and fractured teeth.

If you need assistance or have any questions about brushing your pet’s teeth, please don’t hesitate to contact your team at Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital. We’re here for you, as always!