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Brushing Your Pet's Teeth

Brushing your pet's teeth should not be a chore for you or your pet. Instead it should be an enjoyable time for both of you. If you take things slowly at the beginning and give lots of praise, you and your pet will start looking forward to your brushing sessions. But first, we need to gather together what we'll need.

Toothpastes and rinses
There are many pet toothpastes on the market today. Make sure you use a pet toothpaste. Toothpastes designed for people can upset your pet's stomach. Pet toothpastes may contain several different active ingredients. Various veterinary dentists have recommended those toothpastes that contain chlorhexidine or hexametaphospate. The best pet toothpaste would contain both.

In addition to toothpastes, there are various gels and rinses available. Again, those that contain chlorhexidine are recommended.

Toothbrushes, sponges and pads
Various brushes, sponges and pads are available. The choice of what to use depends on the health of your pet’s gums, the size of your pet’s mouth, and your ability to clean the teeth.

Use toothbrushes designed specifically for pets – they are smaller, ultra-soft and have a somewhat different shape. Pet toothbrushes are available through our catalog, your veterinarian or some pet stores. For some pets, though, even the smallest toothbrush is too big. In these cases, dental sponges may be helpful since they are more pliable. Dental sponges have a small sponge at the end of a handle, and are disposable. They are softer than brushes.

Dental cleaning pads are good for animals with sensitive gums, and for owners with arthritis or other conditions which make holding a brush difficult. The Drs. Foster and Smith Dental Clens Pads contain cholorhexidine and can be used straight from the jar.

Where to begin
Number one, this should be fun for you and your pet. Be upbeat and take things slowly. Don't overly restrain your pet. Keep sessions short and positive. Be sure to praise your pet throughout the process. Give yourself a pat on the back, too! You're doing a great thing for your pet!

1. First, have your pet get used to you putting things in her mouth. Dip your finger in beef bouillon for dogs or tuna water for cats. Call your pet with a voice that means "treat" and let your pet lick the liquid off your finger. Then rub your soaked finger gently over your pet's mouth and teeth. After a few sessions, your pet should actually look forward to this and you can move on.

2. Now, place a gauze around your finger. (You can again dip it in the bouillon or tuna water.) Gently rub the teeth in a circular motion with your gauzed finger. Repeat this for the number of sessions it takes your pet to feel comfortable with this procedure. Remember to praise her and keep an upbeat attitude.

3. After your pet is used to having the flavored gauze in her mouth, you're ready to start with a toothbrush, dental sponge or pad. We need to get your pet used to the consistency of these items, especially the bristles on a brush. So, let your pet lick something tasty off of the brush or pad so she gets used to the texture.

4. Once your pet is used to the cleaning item you are going to use, we can add the toothpaste (or rinse). Pet toothpastes either have a poultry, malt or sweet flavor so your pet will like the taste. Get your pet used to the flavor and consistency of the toothpaste. Let your pet lick some off your finger and then apply some to your pet's gumline with your finger. Praise your pet.

5. Now your pet is used to the toothbrush and toothpaste and your're ready to start brushing. Talk to your pet in a happy voice during the process and praise your pet at the end. At first you may just want to brush one or both upper canine teeth (the large ones in the front of the mouth). These are the easiest teeth for you to get at and will give you some easier practice. As before, when your pet accepts having several teeth brushed, slowly increase the number of teeth you’re brushing. Again, by making it appear to be a game, you both will have fun doing it.

How often?
Certainly, the more often you brush the better. Always aim for daily dental care for your pet, just as you aim for daily dental care for yourself. The hardest thing about home dental care for pets is just getting started. Once you’ve done it for a while, it just becomes part of your daily routine. If you can not brush daily, brushing every other day will remove the plaque before it has time to mineralize. This will still have a positive effect on your pet's oral health.

I have developed a habit of brushing my pet’s teeth after I’m done brushing mine. I talk to my dog, through the procedure, praise her when we’re done, and then give her a treat to chew on. Now when she hears me brushing my teeth, she comes into the bathroom wagging, and waits for her turn.

Other dental care items
A water-pik type dental system has been developed for dogs. It works on the same principle as similar devices for people. Chlorhexidine is added to the water to kill the bacteria in the mouth, and the water stream removes the plaque. This may be especially useful for some pets with gum disease, who bleed from the gums if a brush is used.

Food: Studies show that hard kibbles are slightly better at keeping plaque from accumulating on the teeth. There is a veterinary dentist-approved food on the market called t/d made by Hill’s, the Science Diet people. Research studies have shown that pets eating this food have less plaque and calculus build-up. This food is available through your veterinarian

Avoid feeding pets table scraps because they can increase the build up of plaque and tartar, and can lead to other health problems.

Toys: Mechanical removal of plaque can be accomplished by using toys such as Plaque Attacker dental toys, rope toys or rawhide chips. Do not use toys that are abrasive and can wear down the teeth. If your dog is a very aggressive chewer, choose toys that are not so hard that he could possible break a tooth on them. You may need to look for toys he can’t get his mouth around. Rawhide or other chews that soften as the dog chews are another option.

The information on this page was obtained from the site www.peteducation.com