Maintaining Your Pet’s Dental Hygiene

From the time we are young, we are told how important it is to brush your teeth at least two times a day. However, proper dental care is often overlooked in canine and feline care. Just like humans, poor dental hygiene in dogs and cats can result in periodontal disease, which leads to chronic bad breath, tooth loss, and even organ failure. These health issues can start when your pet is only three years old. Brushing your pet’s teeth will not only keep your pet at peak health, but help you avoid various surgeries for extractions and other treatments.

Train Them Young 

Cats and dogs are creatures of habit. Whether it be their diet or their exercise routine, they get accustomed to schedules and activities at a young age. With that in mind, it is important to start brushing your pet’s teeth when they are a kitten or a puppy. You should start the process like other types of training: slowly and with lots of positive reinforcement. This will prevent them from becoming aggravated from a sudden invasive addition to their daily routine.

Buying the Right Supplies 

While brushing your pet’s teeth is important, it is also important to make sure you’re using the most effective supplies. Many pet toothbrushes and toothpastes vary in style and ingredients, which impact how effective their brushings are.


According to veterinary practice, you should never brush your pet’s teeth with human toothpaste. The toothpastes we use daily contain abrasives and high-foaming detergents that pose a danger to a pet’s health. However, toothpastes made specifically for pets can be found in all pet stores and come in appealing flavors like poultry and seafood.

What about Baking Soda?

You may have heard friends or family recommend using baking soda as a substitute for toothpaste. Baking soda, with its high alkaline content, can – if swallowed – causes an upset stomach.


There are specific toothbrushes designed for pets. Like brushes for humans, there are a variety of styles for pets including:

  • Angled handles
  • Multiple heads (which brush the inside, outside, and top surfaces of the teeth)
  • Small brushes for easy access
  • Finger toothbrushes to protect your fingers from your pet’s teeth

You can even use a soft toothbrush designed for human babies for some breeds of dogs and cats. However, what brush you choose mainly depends on the size of your pet and how well you’re able to maneuver different brushes.

Many vets suggest starting out with a finger brush for puppies and kittens, which is one of the easiest to use. However, no matter which brush you choose, you should always be gentle and take it slow while brushing. Accidentally poking your pet’s gums with the brush can cause irritation and give the routine a negative association.

Toothbrush Training: A How-To Guide

The general guide of brushing shared by many veterinarians includes the following steps:

  1. Put a pea-sized morsel of toothpaste in your pet’s mouth and instantly reward them with one of their favorite toys or treats. 
  2. Then, the next day, increase the amount of time between giving your pet the toothpaste and the reward.
  3. Gradually increase the amount of time each day.
  4. Introduce the brush with a small amount of the toothpaste they’re now familiar with to your pet’s mouth and immediately reward them after. 
  5. Continue brushing every day.

Pet Dental Hygiene Check-Ups 

It’s always a good idea to bring in your dog or cat for regular check ups. Veternarians, like the teams at Bregman Veterinary Group, will check your pet’s teeth for any signs of issues. If they notice any signs of problems like gingivitis, they will likely recommend a professional cleaning. For these cleanings pets are typically sedated with general anesthesia in order to remove any built up plaque, which will help relieve swollen gums. If any teeth are beyond saving they may need to be removed during the same procedure.

Overall, maintaining your pet’s dental hygiene at home and keeping them up to date with vet check-ups will keep your pet happy and healthier over the years.

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