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Many pet owners shudder at the prospect of opening the jaws of a highly resistant animal. Like getting a rectal temperature or cleaning up a hairball, it just doesn’t come naturally. However, with time and patience, brushing their teeth becomes a normal part of responsible pet ownership. 

In fact, when you brush your pet’s teeth regularly they adapt to this new routine. The best part about this? Your efforts will be rewarded with overall health and wellness.

Caring About Animal Oral Health

Plaque and tartar build up can lead to gingivitis, infection, and periodontal disease. Left untreated, oral bacteria can cause infection in the mouth or it can spread to major organs like the heart,kidney or liver. This is a great reason to brush your pet’s teeth.

Getting Started

Pets need time and encouragement to understand that brushing is okay. Younger pets are usually more receptive, but even so, the strange sensations associated with brushing can take a while to subside. If you have a young pet, we recommend introducing them to a specially-designed pet toothbrush or your finger in their mouth as soon as possible. 

Regardless of age and temperament, pets respond to positive reinforcement training. Give them consistent feedback when they do something right. To effectively brush your pet’s teeth, reassure them and give them extra attention.

Steps for Success

It is critical that you choose a time when your pet is typically relaxed and happy, such as after a long walk or a full meal. 

  • Aim for several minutes every day, or at least as often as possible. 
  • Remember, human toothpaste is not safe for use in pets. 
  • Have a couple of high-value treats to entice your pet to sit still while you poke around in the mouth. 
  • A soft-bristled toothbrush with an angled head is ideal to reach molars. Finger brushes also work well for smaller pets.

Brush Your Pet’s Teeth

It may take a couple weeks to establish this new routine. Try to follow these simple steps each time so your pet begins to anticipate what’s next:

  • Keep it short and sweet.
  • Praise them.
  • Don’t force them; if they resist, try again tomorrow.
  • Stand behind your pet while they sit down in front of you. While you begin to lift the lip and peek inside, have a treat at the ready to keep them focused.
  • Rub your finger on the gum line.
  • Add a dab of pet toothpaste to your fingertip or toothbrush and start to slowly circle around each tooth.
  • Starting at the back of the mouth, focus on the gum line at a 45-degree angle. 
  • Don’t worry about the inside of the teeth as much as the outside.
  • Watch for any bleeding of the gums. If it doesn’t subside, please call us. 

Supportive Measures

In addition to regular wellness visits, professional scaling/polishing, digital imaging, and other supportive measures, you can supplement your pet’s dental health with products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council, such as rinses, chews, water additives, food, and more. Check out the lists of VOHC Accepted Products for dogs and cats, and feel free to contact us at Rutland Veterinary Clinic and Surgical Center