Dental Tips at Home
How to Keep your Pet’s Teeth Clean at Home
Daily brushing and the right choice of diet are the two most important things you can do to keep your pet’s teeth healthy.
60% of dogs and cats over three years of age already have gingivitis and plaque.
Daily Teeth Brushing
This is the most effective way to remove plaque from the visible surface of your pet’s teeth. Plaque begins as soft slimy material that can be wiped or brushed away (remember what your teeth feel like after not brushing for a few days!). Plaque hardens over time and it attaches to the tooth surface as tartar.
Over 95% of plaque buildup occurs on the outer surface of the upper teeth. These are the teeth that are easily reached by your finger while your pet’s mouth remains closed. Done properly, this takes less than two minutes a day. Your pet may be hesitant at first, but overtime, this can be done with even the most reluctant pets.
How to Brush your Pet’s Teeth
Try to clean your pet’s teeth at the same time every day. We advise just before the evening feeding because your dog or cat will begin to link brushing with the reward of a nice dinner after the brushing.
To start, brush for only a short time, never forcing or scolding your pet. Use only your finger (with or without toothpaste) in their mouth. Hold the upper and lower jaws closed with one hand, slip a finger from your other hand underneath their lip and rub horizontally (back and forth) over the outside surface of the upper teeth (the ones you can feel).
Start in the front and work back until your finger reaches inside where the lips meet and slide back to the rear teeth. After a week or two, when your pet accepts your finger alone, wrap a paper towel, gauze sponge, or small cloth around your finger and rub the same way you did before. The cloth picks up lots of soft plaque from the teeth and stimulates the gums. We also carry Dentacetic Dental Wipes that can be used to wrap around your finger.
The next step involves adding toothpaste.
NEVER use human toothpaste because this is NOT meant to be swallowed.
Pet toothpaste comes in a variety of flavors. Some use enzymes, others use antiseptics. Your pet will be keen to lick the paste, but with the jaw held shut, they’ll wait until your fingers are safely out of reach before licking.
At GAH we offer Veterinary dentist preferred Bright Bark and Meow tooth gel which combines vanilla and mint flavorings with an antimicrobial agent chlorhexidine to kill oral bacteria. We also carry CET enzymatic toothpaste in poultry flavor. Most pets love the taste of both, but you should choose the one your pet enjoys the most.
A good technique is to rub the toothpaste over the teeth surface with your finger first, followed a few minutes later by a finger wrapped in the abrasive gauze or cloth, to effectively remove the plaque. Many weeks to months later, you can try finger brushes or a toothbrush, but only after your pet is totally comfortable with your finger. Finger brushes and toothbrushes are more effective at cleaning teeth but take more time for a pet to get used to. There are lots of models of pet toothbrushes, but a regular inexpensive children’s toothbrush is as effective as the more expensive pet choices.
Be patient and don’t worry, just a finger covered in cloth is significantly better than doing nothing.
You can teach an old pet this new trick, but naturally, it is much easier if you start this process when they are puppies and kittens.
Remember, in the beginning go slow and keep the brushing short, don’t hurt your pet, this should never be painful for either one of you. Make it fun and follow it with a meal as a reward. Soon they will look forward to the process because they have your undivided attention and the paste tastes great.
Your pet will have a healthier life and you’ll save money by avoiding most major dental bills.
Other Factors to Consider for Good Dental Health
Diet: What you feed your pet and how often you feed them makes a big difference in dental hygiene.
1. Frequency – Each time food is in your pet’s mouth, a PH change promotes bacterial growth. Lots of feedings equals faster potential for oral disease. Less frequency (snacks included) is better.
2. Consistency – Hills diet T/D (tartar diet) is the best for reducing tartar buildup in both dogs and cats. It’s a dry food prepared to be abrasive while chewed, effectively brushing the teeth at the same time. T/D can be fed as a sole diet, part of a diet, or given as a snack. T/D comes in a variety of sizes for both dogs and cats. It’s the only diet scientifically proven to reduce tartar. Many other brands have their own versions of a tartar reducing dry food, but we believe that Hills and Royal Canin are well ahead of the other brands. We also carry Royal Canin dental diets, but T/D is less expensive and works equally well.
3. Brand – Many brands, like Royal Canin and Hills, long ago began altering their ingredients and production methods to help promote less plaque buildup. Other brands produce dry food high in bacteria feeding sugars and simple carbohydrates, inadvertently promoting bad oral health while trying to save you money. With any brand you use, watch how much tartar accumulates after a few months and switch brands if you see a buildup. Try a bag of Hills T/D and notice the better breath and slower tartar buildup.
Dental Treats and Toys
There’s an array of treats and toys for dogs and cats that promise better oral health. Most are more hype than reality; many have little research to support their claims. We carry CET enzymatic oral hygiene chews which contain the same ingredients as the CET enzymatic toothpaste which has been clinical proven to reduce dental problems.
Some of the Nylabones, Greenies, Kong toys, and other dog-bone brands are effective in cleaning teeth, the rope toys are also good, but they must be hard enough to be chewed by your dog for a period of time, but not so hard as to fracture the enamel off of their teeth. You’d be surprised at how many bones do more harm than good!
Caution: Some dogs tear off and swallow large chunks of these dental chews and end up with a variety of stomach and intestinal problems. If your dog bites chunks off of these types of bones, we recommend NOT buying them for your pet.
In the old days the butcher gave the raw “Knuckle bone” to families for their dogs to gnaw. It was considered a healthy, natural treat, but these often fractured a dog’s teeth and these bones can be broken into chunks and swallowed, creating all sorts of problems for your pet’s digestive system. These are a recipe for disaster for certain dogs.
Other Food Products That Promote Good Pet Dental Hygiene
New products are coming on the market all the time. Some are meant to be sprayed on the teeth, some are added to drinking water; gels can act like toothpaste. There’s not a lot of research to back the companies claims, but some of these may prove to be valuable over time. If you have any questions about a food product, we would be happy to help you evaluate their efficacy. We also recommend that you visit the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s website. This independent organization certifies the claims made by companies regarding plaque removal. The website also lists approved and proven products and diets.