Oral Hygiene

Regularly brushing your pet’s teeth is the single most effective way to maintain oral health. Brushing prevents plaque (a bacterial film) from building up on the tooth surface.

It may take a while for your pet to get used to having his teeth brushed but be persistent. You're doing your pet a favour — and you may even end up having a closer relationship!

As a starting point, ask your veterinarian about arranging for your pet's teeth to be cleaned (oral hygiene procedure). During this process, the veterinarian will remove any built-up calculus (tartar) that can't be removed by brushing.

Here are some additional dental care tips:

  • Almost all dogs will eventually accept brushing. The key to success: be patient and gradual in your approach. Mainly brush the exterior of the “cheek teeth” located under the upper lip.
  • Brushing is important for cats, too! Most cats will allow their teeth to be brushed if you take a gradual and gentle approach. 

  • Pet-specific toothpaste comes in tempting flavours. Avoid human toothpastes since they contain abrasives and high-foaming detergents. Soft-bristle human brushes work well for dogs while the smaller proxabrushes are ideal for cats.

Questions? Please contact the WCVM Small Animal Clinic at 306-966-7126.

How to brush your pet's teeth

Here are the materials that you will need to brush your pet's teeth:

  • Finger toothbrush or a soft brush that will fit in your pet's mouth (children's toothbrushes work fine.)
  • Toothpaste designed for animals. Do not use human toothpaste: it can cause your pet to have an upset stomach because it's not designed to be swallowed.

Here's the procedure:

  • To help your pet grow accustomed to teeth brushing, simply hold up his jowls for 10 to 15 seconds for the first few days.
  • Once he has accepted this, begin running your index finger along the gums in a brush-like motion.
  • Later on, try using a finger toothbrush or gauze on your finger with toothpaste. You may then move on to a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • When brushing, concentrate on the outside of the teeth (toward the cheek). The tongue does a good job on cleaning the insides of the teeth. The location of your pet's salivary glands makes the outside of the teeth a problem area.
  • Try to make teeth brushing fun for your pet, and make sure he receives lots of love and a reward.

If you have multiple pets, each animal should have his own toothbrush kept only for his use. By sharing a toothbrush, bacteria can be transferred from one mouth to the next. Toothbrushes should be replaced monthly (weekly in severely diseased mouths) to prevent infection.

Other dental cleaning methods

What else can you do to help keep your pet's mouth clean? Here are some suggestions:

  • Oral rinses and oral gels as well as chlorohexidine (CHX) rinses, solutions and gels help kill bacteria that can cause infection.
  • Adhesive discs such as Stomadhex® dissolve in the mouth and help prevent plaque.
  • Chew toys such as Gumabones® and rubber toys help to chip off plaque and prevent tartar build up.
  • Biscuits and treats such as Hill's® t/d, DenTreats™, rawhides and pigs' ears help to chip off plaque and prevent tartar build up.
  • Avoid bones, pigs' feet and cows' hooves: these items can chip and fracture your pet's teeth.