Four ways to clean your pet’s teeth

Cat brushing teeth

Oral health is important for more than avoiding bad breath and stinky kisses. This can be said for both humans and pets, but we’re here to remind you that keeping your pet’s mouth clean is essential for their overall health and well-being.

There’s more than one way to go about cleaning your cat or dog’s teeth. Here are a few tips from the pros at AHS.

1. Finger polishing

Don’t be fooled, we’re not advocating for sticking your fingers into your pet’s mouth without warning — that’s a great recipe for getting bit no matter how mild mannered your pooch may be. However, gently using the tip of your finger to clean your pet’s teeth can be a good way to get your pet used to their new dental hygiene routine.

Put a small amount of pet-specific toothpaste on your finger and let your pet smell it. DO NOT use toothpaste for humans. Gently lift your pup’s lip and use circular motions to massage the paste onto their teeth and gums. Provide lots of praise and stop as soon as your pet shows signs of discomfort like pulling away or averting eye contact.

Brushing a dog's teeth

2. Traditional brushing

Once your pet is comfortable having their mouth touched, try a toothbrush. Picking a toothbrush that is an appropriate size for your four-legged friend’s mouth is important. You can purchase a pet-specific brush at your local pet store or use a baby toothbrush.

Follow the same steps as finger polishing to achieve an even cleaner set of chompers on your pet. Remember, you should always use a pet-specific toothpaste.

3. Dental treats

Some pets just aren’t havin’ it and will resist brushing of any kind. But don’t sweat it — you’re not alone! Many pets may never be totally comfortable with the close handling of their muzzles. Luckily there are plenty of other options to help sanitize their smile.

Dental treats are increasingly popular among both pet owners and their pets. When choosing a treat be sure to think about:

  • Size: Large dogs may swallow dental bones that are too small, and small dogs may not be able to properly chew a treat that’s too big.
  • Ingredients: Our vets suggest a dental treat that contains C.E.T. These enzymes work as a natural antiseptic to fight bacteria and reduce plaque.
  • Timing: Unfortunately, plaque hardens within 24-48 hours and can be difficult to remove once it does. Because of this, dental treats should be fed once a day to prevent build up.
  • Your pet’s teeth: Some dental bones may be too hard for older animals with painful, missing, or loose teeth. Always talk with your vet before starting a new dental health routine.

4. Professional dental cleaning

For some animals, a professional dental cleaning is the best option. In fact, it may be medically necessary before trying any of these other methods.

Your vet will determine the extent of your furry friend’s dental needs and may recommend descaling, polishing, and extractions of loose, cracked, or infected teeth. While dental cleanings can be expensive, they are essential for your pet’s health and comfort.

AHS provides expert dental cleaning services at a reduced cost for qualifying pet owners. For more information, check out our AHS Veterinary Centers page.

Be patient as you work with your pet to develop good dental hygiene habits. Keep cleaning sessions short and positive and you should both walk away smiling!

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