Tooth Brushing Guide for Small Animals
Brushing is by far the best method for keeping your pet’s teeth clean and is more successful if taken in stages. Ideally, it would help if you brushed your dog’s teeth at least once daily to help remove plaque and prevent tartar build-up.
STAGE 1: Build confidence
- Smaller pets can be placed at a comfortable height where they feel secure, such as on a chair, table, or lap covered with a towel to prevent slipping.
- For cats, it can be easier if there are two people. For larger pets, it may be best to leave them on the floor.
- Gently rub the face and muzzle with fingers and hands only. Work up to being able to gently hold the mouth closed for a short period. This can be done by placing fingers on top of the nose, or muzzle, with the thumb under the chin.
- Do this for approximately 30 seconds and then reward with some fuss, play, a treat, or all the above.
- Repeat daily for at least five days or until your pet is relaxed and comfortable with this.
STAGE 2: Finger brushing
- Place your pet in the same position you used when building their confidence (Stage 1).
- Gently close the mouth as practiced. The lips will be relaxed, so there is no need to try and hold the mouth open.
- Apply a small amount of pet-specific toothpaste to a fingertip or finger toothbrush and slide under the lip to rub the paste onto the teeth.
- Start from the canine (fang teeth) and work backward.
- Many pets find the incisors (small teeth at the front of the mouth) very sensitive, so only brush these once your pet has become used to the other teeth being brushed.
STAGE 3: Moving on to a toothbrush
- Once your pet is happy with the finger brushing, you can progress on to a toothbrush. Brushes specifically designed for both dogs and cats are best.
- Place the pet-specific toothpaste onto the brush, slide under the gum, and gently brush the teeth.
- We recommend working hard at ensuring that both sides of the mouth are equally brushed. This may mean starting on the side that you feel least comfortable brushing.
- When you start brushing, you may notice a small amount of blood on the toothbrush. As you continue to brush this will stop appearing as you will be tackling the gum disease responsible for the bleeding. If it does not stop, please contact us so we can advise on the next steps.
Consider the gums
If you find the brushing easy and your pet is very tolerant, you may also be able to brush their gums. To do this, you will need to look carefully at which teeth you are brushing. Angle the toothbrush so that the bristles gently clean the gum around the base of each tooth. This is advanced level brushing and only to be attempted if you and your pet are comfortable and confident to do so.
In addition to brushing, the following can also help keep teeth and gums healthy…
Gel products are beneficial for pets that suffer from or are likely to develop gum disease. Gels can also be helpful for cats where brushing is not tolerated as they can be applied with a cotton bud initially, and may allow for progression to a toothbrush.
Oral rinses are useful if gums are too sore to brush, especially immediately after dental treatment. Like gels, oral rinses are to be used daily.
Some brands of pet food offer a range specifically designed to be kind to your pet’s teeth and to be used in conjunction with brushing. The biscuit size, shape, and texture is formulated to provide an increased abrasive action. Please speak to us to find out which diet would be the most suitable for your pet.
Dental chews may help to reduce plaque accumulation and tartar formation on teeth, and pets love the taste. However, it is important to not solely rely on them as evidence indicates that chews alone are not capable of maintaining long term oral health.
For more information or advice, please contact us.