Last week I covered basic dental anatomy in dogs and cats. I also said that this week’s post would cover keeping teeth healthy, so that’s what we’ll cover today. I’ll mostly be showing dogs with the audiovisual information I have today. Cat people, it still applies! I will spend time next week talking about how dogs and cats differ in their dental health. For now, you can follow all of the same information and techniques for both.
A thorough oral exam is part of your pet’s routine examinations at Pet Authority. We also offer free Dental Examinations so that we can provide you with accurate information about the status of your pet’s oral health. We make recommendations for how to care for your pet based on the oral exam.
Keeping your pet’s teeth healthy can be accomplished in many ways. Not every pet will allow or accept all of these methods. I’ll rank them in order from most to “least” effective. Just try to remember that doing ANYTHING to promote good oral health is beneficial to your pet.
Brushing Is Best
Just as with our own oral health, brushing your pet’s teeth DAILY is the most effective way to keep the teeth healthy. Most dogs will allow you to brush their teeth. Some cats will, too. I’ll admit that my own cat won’t let me, but Dr. Williams’ cats allow her to.
The basic steps for teaching your pet to have his or her teeth brushed are:
• Start by dipping a finger in a bit of pet toothpaste.
• Rub this finger gently over your pet’s gums and one or two teeth.
• Repeat until your pet seems fairly comfortable with this activity.
• Gradually, introduce a gauze-covered finger or a q-tip and gently scrub the teeth with a circular motion.
• Then, you can begin to use a toothbrush, either an ultra-soft model designed for people or a
special pet tooth-brush or finger brush, which is a rubber finger covering with a small brush built in at its tip.
• Finally, once your pet is used to brushing, introduce the use of pet toothpaste in liquid or paste
form. Most of these contain chlorhexidine or stannous fluoride – ask your veterinarian for his
recommendations. Don’t use human toothpaste, as it can upset your pet’s stomach. Your vet may
also advise the use of an antiseptic spray or rinse after brushing.
Some pets will require many days or weeks at each step before they’re willing to cooperate fully. It takes patience and persistence. Try to make it a fun experience with lots of praise and even some treats. Here’s a video that shows how to brush a pet’s teeth.
There are a wide variety of toothpastes out there to choose from. We prefer and stock CET pet toothpaste. It contains an enzyme system that helps to dissolve the plaque film that is the beginning of dental disease. We have several flavors of CET Paste at the hospital: Vanilla Mint, Poultry (this is a favorite), Malt, Beef, and Seafood.
There are numerous toothbrushes out there for pets. The most important thing is to make sure that the brush has soft bristles.
The last comment on brushing is important for your pet’s comfort. If your dog or cat’s teeth look like the photo below, brushing may be painful and cause bleeding from the gums. Your pet will most likely require an anesthetized oral assessment and cleaning/treatment before you can begin brushing. Be kind to your pet and don’t force the issue of brushing if you’re getting too much resistance.
Chews and rinses are next…