Do your brush your pet’s teeth regularly?
Chances are, your dog or cat is more than just your pet. It’s more likely that you view that animal as a member of the family – and you take their health seriously. But how often do you remember to brush their teeth?
February is Pet Dental Health Month, and while we absolutely want you to see your vet for regular dental cleanings, there are things you can do at home to give your dog or cat a brighter smile and fresher breath.
Why brush your pet’s teeth at home?
Just like your own teeth, your pet’s teeth can get dirty, and once that happens, the smell of their breath can be a bit disgusting. Like your own teeth, regular brushing can remove plaque and tartar that can cause problems beyond the bad breath.
It’s not always easy, but once you get into a rhythm and schedule of brushing your dog or cat’s teeth, you may see improvement in the look of their teeth, and the smell of their breath, too. You’ll also reduce the potential for larger issues that may require extractions and make chewing more difficult for your pet. Specifically, regular brushing can help to reduce the occurrence of these things:
- Tartar and plaque buildup
- Periodontal disease
- Broken and cracked teeth
- Damage to internal organs
How to brush your pet’s teeth at home
- Start slow: If you don’t already brush your pet’s teeth, your dog or cat won’t be thrilled when you grab them and shove a toothbrush into their mouths. So start slow. Use a brush that slides over a fingertip first, and gently massage the teeth. As your dog allows this more frequently, consider transitioning to using an actual pet toothbrush.
- Make sure the tools you use are appropriate. The toothbrush you finally choose must be comfortable for your pet’s mouth. It should have soft bristles too. There are other options you can explore if you struggle with getting tools into your pet’s mouth to clean their teeth.
- Supplement with toys and treats that encourage dental cleanliness. Kong-type dental toys (sometimes smeared with a xylitol-free peanut butter to encourage your dog to play with it), bones, and other chew-toys that have a brush-like shape could be great to get some dental care in without your pet knowing what you’re doing.
- Make sure you schedule regular cleanings with your veterinarian. Brown and yellow teeth are an indicator that your pet needs a professional cleaning. A veterinarian will work with your pet and get as much of the yuck off as possible (if not all of it) during their cleaning. Many veterinarians’ sedate pets for dental cleanings, to make sure they can get as much as possible off, and your pet won’t be freaking out and struggling as they do the procedure.
How often should you brush your pet’s teeth?
The general consensus is that pet owners should aim to brush their furry friends’ teeth every day. As far as the amount of time per session – that depends on your pet’s comfort level. Aim for as long as they will let you brush, whether you use a finger brush or an actual toothbrush, and consider supplementing with toys, treats that are designed to scrub the dental plaque off, and other tools.
If you’re looking for ways to clean your pet’s teeth and they fight the process, a water additive may be a good option for animals that absolutely cannot stand to have their teeth brushed. These are usually pretty simple to use. You’ll also want to talk to your vet about other tools, techniques to brush your pet’s teeth, and get any tips they might offer to make the process easier.
One last tip: visit your vet for regular cleanings
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again. Your vet can do the best cleaning job for your pet, and can take care of dental issues before they become larger health issues. It’s vital that you get your pet’s teeth cleaned regularly. If you see brown and discoloration on your dog’s teeth, if your dog’s breath is particularly bad, and especially if you notice they’re having trouble chewing, or their gums are inflamed and bleeding, it’s very important to get your pet scheduled for a checkup and cleaning.
As pet sitters, we want your pets to be as healthy and happy as you do, and at Presidential Pet Care®, we encourage all of our clients to see their veterinarians regularly. You wouldn’t skip a dental cleaning because you can easily get a toothbrush into your mouth and brush your teeth, would you? Your pet deserves the same level of attention. Even if you are able to brush your pet’s teeth on a daily basis, there’s no reason to NOT visit your veterinarian for a cleaning each year, just like their regular checkups.