Brushing your pet’s teeth may sound strange, maybe even funny or illogical, haven’t cats and dogs lived tens of thousands of years without a toothbrush? Wouldn’t brushing your cat’s teeth be just as useful as taking them to get a spa treatment, is this just us taking things a bit too far? Pet’s dental care is more important than most pet parents think.
ARE YOU REALLY SUPPOSED TO BRUSH YOUR PET’S TEETH?
Just as humans now live longer than in the past, our pets are having longer lives and simple things like brushing their teeth will help them avoid a number of sicknesses that appear during these long lifespans. We can maybe get along for a while without brushing our teeth, but the consequences in the medium to long-term will not be good: pain, eating disorders, infections, and even worse illnesses as time passes.
So, yes, if you care for your pet, if you want to help them avoid pain and suffering, if you want to avoid expensive interventions and other serious infections, one of the simplest and most effective ways is to establish a tooth brushing routine with your pet.
WHY SHOULD YOU CLEAN YOUR PET’S TEETH
Human, cat and dog teeth start accumulating plaque and tartar (calculus) if they are not kept clean. Plaque is a sticky colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth and your pet’s too. If plaque is not removed regularly with tooth brushing, it hardens to create tartar that can no longer be removed with a toothbrush. These deposits very soon become responsible for other medical issues, including gingivitis, gum disease, teeth start loosening or fall out and other more serious infections appear. These infections can even spread to kidneys, liver, and heart. As you can see, the best idea would be to avoid these complicated issues, help your pet have healthy teeth, and maintain them healthy and pain-free while they are part of your family.
WHEN SHOULD YOU START BRUSHING YOUR PET’S TEETH
No pet, in the start, likes to have you stick your fingers in his/her mouth. Therefore the best idea is to start this routine when your pets are as young as possible. They will adapt better and will be more willing to partake in it, if the habit starts off when they are more flexible individuals.
With puppies, their teeth will not be fully grown until they are about 6 or 8 months old, but teeth-brushing training can begin sooner than that. When they are puppies, for about 5 minutes a day, try to accustom it, to you carefully sticking your finger in their mouth and gently rubbing his/her teeth. It will annoy them, but soon they will think it’s normal and give in. When the denture is fully grown, you can start with a soft bristle brush. The next steps include introducing toothpaste. Always give your pet a treat when they behave correctly.
If your dog is already an adult, it will take a little longer to get used to this treatment, but don’t give up and be patient. It’s never too late to take care of your cat and dog’s teeth. It may be a bit more complicated with adult cats and dogs, as they can be quite strong, their fear will make them run away and maybe even become aggressive.
You’ll need to create a calm and relaxed environment where the pet feels comfortable. In the case of cats, you can wrap them up like a “tamale”, leaving only their head exposed, to prevent them from moving and avoid mutual harm. We’ll also need positive reinforcement so they associate the experience with pleasant things. We can caress and offer them kind words in a soft tone, maybe even a nice treat afterward.
DO YOU HAVE TO BRUSH CAT’S TEETH TOO?
As mentioned before, both dogs and cats benefit from toothbrushing. The health issues are the same in both species and the benefits too.
HOW TO BRUSH YOUR CAT’S TEETH
Here’s how you can brush your cat’s teeth correctly:
- Make sure your cat feels calm and relaxed.
- Gently lift its upper lip and start brushing the surface of their teeth gently and downward, making sure to remove any accumulated food or residue.
- Use your thumb and index finger to open your cat’s mouth a little more, always gently.
- Brush the inside of your cat’s teeth, using the same technique as the outside surfaces.
- Once you’re finished, there’s no need to rinse, but you should allow the cat to drink water if he/she desires to.
CAT TOOTH BRUSHING ALTERNATIVES
In some cases, the experience is so unpleasant both for cats and their humans, that you might need to find alternative options, here are some:
- Cat Dental Toys: they are a complementary option, not a substitute, they help to clean your cat’s teeth. Being a toy, their interaction with them is usually positive and not very invasive.
- Cat Mouthwash: usually diluted in water, it’s quite a simple option. However, some cats do not like them at all.
- Toothpaste spray: as with the previous option, not all cats like this type of dental hygiene method, they are often scared by the sound and the way it’s applied.
- Dental Health Cat Food: some brands, especially those that have a veterinary-grade line of products, have varieties that help keep your cat’s teeth healthy. Check with your vet for the best options.
- Professional Cat Dental Cleaning: Routine dental examinations of your cat’s teeth by a vet are very important. Veterinarians will check the inside of your pet’s mouth and try to detect diseases in an early stage. Professional dental cleaning is done under anesthesia and even goes underneath the gums and other hard-to-reach places getting rid of plaque and tartar.
WHAT’S THE EASIEST WAY TO BRUSH MY PET’S TEETH?
The use of toothbrushes and toothpaste for dogs and cats is undoubtedly the best option. The mechanical effect that we perform when rubbing helps eliminate plaque and prevents plaque formation, it will not really remove ready-formed plaque. You can find different types of dental hygiene kits for dogs and cats, that are purpose made for each pet that also includes edible toothpaste.
In the beginning, we will use our fingers as a brush and we will cover the teeth and gums with toothpaste, always carefully and reinforcing it positively so that your pet ends up associating tooth hygiene with something good. When your dog or cat starts getting more accustomed to this routine, we can start using a brush. Remember that the ideal is to brush their teeth on a daily basis, although you can space it out in the beginning to around three times a week.
There are some other options available, one is called Bristly and is a dental hygiene toy designed to clean your dog’s teeth and even has a cavity where we can add meat-flavored toothpaste. Other passive options include teeth cleaning snacks and bones.
HOW TO BEST TAKE CARE OF YOUR DOG’S TEETH
Keep the following recommendations in mind when it comes to your dog’s teeth:
- Always use a soft bristle brush made specifically for dogs. Remember to change it when necessary.
- Never use human toothpaste, the high fluoride content is toxic for your dog. Get a specially formulated option at your local pet store or with your trusted vet.
- Brush your dog’s teeth at least once a week, always after he/she has played or finished eating.
- Add apples and raw carrots to their diet, it will help keep their teeth clean.
- Cleaning toys should be made with a natural rubber; make sure they are not too hard if your dog is still a puppy.
- Don’t let your dog bite shoes or other household items, they will end up damaging your pet’s teeth.
- Once a week, check your dog’s mouth for tartar, tooth decay, wounds or any other abnormal signs.
THINGS YOU CAN DO TO IMPROVE YOUR DOG’S DENTAL HYGIENE
There are many different options that you have at your disposal to take better care of your dog’s teeth, you’ll need to use more than one to keep them healthy:
- Quality food: Top-quality dry food is one of your best options when it comes to taking care of your dog’s teeth, they are crunchy and the right size so they don’t get stuck between the teeth or stick to the gums. Furthermore, the ingredients help strengthen the teeth.
- A healthy diet: Avoid feeding them too many carbohydrates and don’t give your pet human treats, not only can they make him/her sick, but they can also get trapped in their teeth.
- Bones: Give your dog uncooked cow bones and cartilage, they should be bigger than your dog’s head to avoid suffocation, this will strengthen their teeth and clean their gums too.
- Brushing: Use brushes and toothpaste specifically for dogs as part of their daily cleaning routine.
- Toys: Some dog toys are designed to work as toothbrushes helping remove anything trapped in the teeth.
- Regular visits to the vet: Once or twice a year get an appointment with your veterinarian to check and clean your dog’s teeth, plaque and tartar removal can normally only be removed by vets with special equipment and under anesthesia to get plaque than forms under the gums.
WHY IS HUMAN TOOTHPASTE BAD FOR MY DOG/CAT?
It’s important to take into account that you can’t use human toothpaste on your cat or dog’s teeth. This product is toxic for them, you shouldn’t opt either for homemade options like sodium bicarbonate, it tastes awful. You will only make toothbrushing a high-stress activity for your pet if you do this.
You’ll need to go to a specialized pet store or veterinarian and buy a cat or dog-specific toothpaste, some taste like meat and that’ll help a lot, nowadays you can even find some products that do not require brushing or rinsing.