When it comes to your pet’s health, one of the most important tasks you can perform is regular tooth brushing. While it may not rank as one of your favorite activities, pet dental care is essential to overall health and well-being and offers numerous benefits, including a longer lifespan.
In a previous blog, we discussed the signs of periodontal disease and the harm it can cause when left untreated. Yet, while many pet owners are concerned about oral health, there’s still trepidation when it comes to pet tooth brushing.
The team at Long Animal Hospital is here to help!
Essential Pet Tooth Brushing Tips
Before we get into the process, it’s a good idea to have some useful dental supplies already lined up on the counter. Among these, you will need:
- Appropriately sized toothbrush for your cat or dog
- Pet-specific toothpaste (do not use human products as they may contain ingredients that can harm your pet)
- A rubber brush designed to fit over your fingertip
- Some gauze or cotton
- A towel
- Small treats
Once you have everything, remember that you will need to find a time when your pet is relaxed, such as after a nap. If your pet is a small dog or feline, you may allow him or her to cozy up on your lap. Otherwise, sit next to your pet under good lighting for a better view of the teeth and gums.
- For the first few days or weeks, just practice getting your pet used to having his or her mouth touched. You can do this by wrapping a finger in gauze and dipping it in chicken broth or tuna water (to create a positive association with brushing). Allow your pet to lick the flavored water off the gauze until he or she begins to associate this time with a reward.
- After of a few of these sessions, try gently lifting the lip and lightly touching the teeth and gums. When your pet is used to this, you can lift the lip further to reach the teeth in the back of the mouth.
- When your pet has adjusted to the sensation of gauze, try using the rubber fingertip brush coated with a tiny dab of toothpaste. Move the brush in a circular motion over your pet’s teeth and gums—gradually move, toward the back of the mouth.
- If your pet responds favorably to the toothpaste, begin using the toothbrush, slowly getting him or her used to the feel of the bristles. Praise your pet after each brief practice session.
- When your pet is comfortable with the brush, continue to increase the time you spend brushing, including circular motions and against the gum line to remove any food particles. Eventually work your way up to about 5 minutes each day (or at least 3 times per week).
- Offer a lot of verbal praise, a small treat, or snuggles throughout the process and when you’re finished.
If Your Pet is Resistant
If your pet is resistant and is small enough, you may wish to use a towel to wrap your pet’s torso like a burrito. This can protect you from claws, as well as provide soothing pressure for some pets.
For pets experiencing fear or anxiety, please contact us. Don’t try to force the issue; we’re happy to provide assistance. Also let us know if you need further instructions or additional recommendations.