With dogs and cats, poor dental hygiene can lead to the development of periodontal disease, which is not only a result of bad breath, but can expose several risks to the animal’s general health. Fortunately, several methods exist to help maintain good dental health in animals. Among these, we find brushing its teeth, the most effective method to prevent these problems. With this article, we want to help you understand its importance and the best techniques to achieve it.
Why brush my dog or cat’s teeth?
Several factors can influence the development of plaque and tartar, such as genetic disposition, race, diet, chewing habits, dental malocclusions or bacterial flora. To maintain a good oral health for your pet, brushing its teeth is by far the most effective method. Its main advantage is the mechanical effect. This brushing effect helps to dislodge the plaque and prevents tartar. While it is the most effective, it can also be the most difficult for some to perform, but you can rest assured, this article is here to give you tools for success.
As for other methods, the important thing is to choose a product with sufficient contact time with the teeth and gums of the animal. In addition, if you choose products that act on bad breath, the important thing is to make sure that it is not only a neutralizer of odors, but that there is indeed an effect on the bacteria which produces these bad smells. Dental toys are recommended not only for oral health benefits, but also for chewing activity. However, they are rather seen as complementary objects to brushing teeth. They cannot replace the mechanical action carried out with the brush, which can access places that the dental toy cannot reach.
How should I brush my pet’s teeth?
It is easier to start when they are young, since habits are created more quickly. You can start very softly and gently to touch the mouth and gradually add your finger to it. Then, it is important to present the toothbrush to your animal before putting it in its mouth. You can start by making your pet lick the product off the brush to allow it to get used to the texture of the bristles. The last step in the process is to introduce the brush calmly and without constraint. Consistency is essential to obtain good results.
Now, let’s talk about the more technical aspect of brushing its teeth. You can brush only the outer side of the teeth, because with all the movements of its tongue, it is rare to see an accumulation of dental plaque on the inner side of the teeth. The brush should be at a 45-degree angle from the gingival margin, as shown in the figure below. Then, using a back and forth motion, you can gently brush your pet’s teeth. The idea is to brush all the teeth well, starting with the canines, then the premolars and molars, and ending with the incisors. No need to press hard on the brush.
To make the experience positive for the animal, you can, throughout the process, add treats as rewards.
The adaptation period will depend on each animal, some will take longer than others. The important thing is that the experience remains pleasant for them and that it is above all not traumatic. You should not force the animal since it negatively conditions it. Instead of wanting to have its teeth brushed, the pet will want to run away. It’s important to go at its own pace and start with shorter sessions. The best brushing experience is with a well-cooperating animal. The ultimate goal is to brush its teeth every day, but it’s not an overnight process.
What should I use for my pet’s dental hygiene routine?
When it comes to choosing a toothbrush, it’s best to have one with soft bristles. Those with hard hair can irritate the animal’s gums. Therefore, a children’s toothbrush with soft bristles can do the job for a small to medium mouth very well. Also, the size of the brush should be adapted to the size of the animal’s mouth.
It is recommended to regularly change toothbrushes and not share them with other family members to avoid transmitting bad bacteria. In addition, after a while, the bristles of the toothbrush deform, and therefore lose their effectiveness against plaque.
As for the toothpaste, it is important not to take one for humans since they contain ingredients which may be harmful to animals. This is why buying a toothpaste designed specifically for them is preferable. Plus, choosing a product that is appreciated by the animal will help make the experience more enjoyable.
How often should I brush my dog or cat’s teeth?
The key is consistency. You need to brush its teeth regularly for best results. Ideally, brush your pet’s teeth daily with a product that works against plaque buildup.
When is the best time to start good dental habits with my pet?
In the best of all worlds, brushing its teeth should start at a very young age. When the animal is still a baby, it’s easier to start new habits. In addition, it greatly contributes to the animal allowing you to manipulate its mouth, and makes the action easier while growing up. This establishes a good foundation for their dental hygiene habits that continue throughout their lives. However, it’s never too late to start good dental hygiene habits! They may take longer to establish, but this can still be done at all ages.
This concludes our article on brushing your pet’s teeth. We hope you feel more prepared and confident about the execution. We also hope that you understand better the importance of this action in the life of your adorable pets. We invite you to read our other blog articles that could provide you with more knowledge on the oral health of your animals. You can write to us if you have any questions or comments, we are here to help and support you throughout this process.
Niemiec, Brook A. (2013) Veterinary Periodontology. John Wiley & Sons, 372p.
Harvey C, Serfilippi L, Barnvos D. Effect of Frequency of Brushing Teeth on Plaque and Calculus Accumulation, and Gingivitis in Dogs. J Vet Dent. 2015 Spring;32(1):16-21.
Photography by @the_little_dog_crew