Good oral health in pets is very important yet it is often overlooked by pet owners and veterinarians alike. An important part of maintaining good oral health in pets is home dental care and the gold standard for home dental care is daily brushing.
There is a wide variety of home dental care products on the market including many types of veterinary toothpastes. Avoid human toothpastes because fluoride and detergents can be harmful if swallowed. Veterinary products are designed to be swallowed. Pleasant, pet-oriented flavorings will help with acceptance.
It is important to start brushing a pet’s teeth early, at around 8 – 12 weeks of age. This way your pet will become familiar with the routine when their adult teeth erupt. You may need to suspend daily brushings when baby teeth are being lost to avoid hurting your pet’s mouth.
Start by simply working with your pet’s mouth. Make it fun by using rewards and praise. Handle your pet’s muzzle and gradually get him used to having his teeth and gums rubbed by your fingers. Sometimes putting a few drops of a pleasantly flavored liquid, such as tuna juice or chicken broth, will help the pet accept these sessions.
Next, try using a washcloth or piece of gauze flavored with the tuna juice or chicken broth wrapped around your finger to gently rub the teeth and gums. Then finally, use a finger brush or a soft veterinary toothbrush (or human toothbrush) flavored with the tuna juice or chicken broth.
Later, try transitioning to one of the flavored veterinary toothpastes, gels, or rinses on the brush. Make sure you reward your pet for allowing you to brush his teeth. This way, your pet will actually look forward to daily brushings.