Home Dental Tips for your Pet
Regular visits to your veterinarian help keep your pet healthy and happy, and dental cleanings help keep your pet’s teeth strong and disease-free, but did you know that to ensure continued good health, your pet’s dental care should continue at home?
By keeping track of your pet’s dental health and actively adding attention to oral hygiene to your pet’s daily routine, you can help stave off disease and infection, and it only takes a few minutes a day.
- tooth brushing
- food and treats
- chew toys
Brushing your Pet’s Teeth
While the idea of brushing your pet’s teeth may seem odd, it is actually the best home dental care you can provide for your pet. Regular brushing helps prevent tartar and plaque buildup, which in turn can prevent periodontal disease, and can also serve as bonding time for you and your pet. First, it’s important to have the right materials –
While you can use a human toothbrush, as long as it’s ultra-soft for sensitive teeth, it’s recommended you use a toothbrush specifically designed for pets. Pet toothbrushes are softer than human toothbrushes, ultra-soft, and are designed to fit the shape of your pet’s mouth and teeth. There are a variety of pet toothbrushes available, ranging from standard-looking toothbrushes to brushes that attach to your fingertip.
Never use human toothpaste when you’re brushing your pet’s teeth; human toothpaste is toxic if swallowed and contains additives that can make your pet seriously ill. Pet toothpaste, on the other hand, is designed to be edible since your pets can’t “rinse and spit”. In order to make the toothpaste palatable, they’re usually flavored with things pets will like, such as poultry, beef, or fish.
Get Started Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth:
In order to properly brush your pet’s teeth, it is essential that they’re comfortable with the idea. Most dogs and cats will not immediately take kindly to having their teeth brushed, but with patience and gradual introduction, most grow to like or at least grudgingly endure a daily oral hygiene regimen.
1. Make sure your pet feels comfortable and non-threatened, using minimal restraint and praise throughout the procedure.
2. Keep the procedure short and positive, using praise throughout.
3. Your pet will need to get used to the taste and texture of the toothpaste. One way is to place a bit of toothpaste on the tip of your finger and let your pet lick it off. Remember, NEVER use human toothpaste – always use toothpaste made especially for pets.
4. Now your pet needs to become comfortable with having something brushed against their teeth and gums. When you’re starting out, use your finger instead of a toothbrush, and gently rub along the gum line, starting in the front and working your way back.
5. Once your pet is used to having something against their teeth and gums, it’s time to switch to the actual toothbrush or dental sponge you’ll be using. Without actually brushing, run the toothbrush along your pet’s gums and teeth and let your pet get used to the texture of the bristles.
6. The final step! Your pet is now used to the taste of the toothpaste and the texture of the brushing implement. It is now time to brush. Gently lift the upper lip and place the brush at a 45º angle and begin a gentle, circular brushing motion. Since pets don’t typically build up tartar in the same places as people, brushing the inside and sides of the teeth isn’t really necessary – instead, focus on the outer surfaces of the teeth, perhaps starting with the easily accessible canines and working your way back.
7. Remember to keep the session as short and positive as possible. When you’re all done, be sure you reward your pet with praise and a treat!
Food and Treats
It’s no surprise that your pet’s diet has a great effect on their dental health. Canned and soft foods stick easily to teeth and can contribute to plaque and tartar buildup. While it’s a myth that dry food can adequately serve as a toothbrush substitute, there are several brands commercially available that have been scientifically proven to help reduce plaque and tartar.
Treats can be more than just a reward – dental treats help fight plaque and tartar, massage the gums, and may even freshen your pet’s breath. Not only that, but treats are fun for both you and your pet. After all, who doesn’t like giving their furry friend a tasty tidbit now and then?
There are many brands of dental treats on the market, the more well-known being Greenies®, Petrodex®, and C.E.T®.
Chew toys not only provide your pet with some fun, but also assist in daily home dental care by helping scrape away plaque and tartar that hides above the gum line.
While hard chew toys such as cow hooves, processed animal bones, and toys made of hard nylon are commercially available, they are also one of the main causes of broken pet teeth. Safer alternatives include cotton rope toys, Gumabone®, and rubber toys such as Dental Kong®.
Rawhide strips are also popular, but there are a few problems with rawhide – not only is it not digestible, but pieces often break loose and may cause choking. If you’re giving your pet a rawhide strip, be sure to do so only in moderation and under supervision.