During a new puppy exam, one of the things I like to discuss is home dental care. Home dental care involves brushing your pet’s teeth to slow down the accumulation of plaque that leads to tartar and gum disease.
Puppy or kitten hood is the best time to positively introduce your pet to new things. A dog or cat who is not accustomed to having their face and mouth handled will likely put up a fuss when someone tries to stick a toothbrush in their mouth for the first time. However if you start gently and with a lot of positive reinforcement, your pet will learn that this is part of his daily routine like walking with a leash or having his coat brushed.
The steps to brushing your pet’s teeth are as follows:
1. Start with just introducing them to the toothpaste by putting a small amount on your finger and rubbing it on their gums.Ensure you use toothpaste designed for your pet that does not contain fluoride, does not foam and can be safely swallowed.I recommend CET enzymatic toothpaste.
2. Once your pet has become accustomed to the toothpaste and a finger in their mouth, wrap a moist gauze around your finger and apply toothpaste on that. Then brush your pet’s teeth with your gauze wrapped finger.
3. Finally graduate to a toothbrush that is appropriately sized for your pet’s mouth. There are various styles that are found at veterinary hospitals. For most dogs, a toddler sized toothbrush from the pharmacy will work well.
Points to remember:
– Daily brushing is the goal but anything is better than nothing.
– You will likely only be able to brush the outside surface of the teeth, not the tongue side. Luckily tartar builds up more slowly on the tongue side in most pets.
– Don’t forget the front teeth and the back molars.
– Always reward your pet with praise and a treat after each brush.
Before you dismiss the above recommendation as an impossible feat to do with your pet, I want to introduce you to Toby and Carol.
Carol has been a client with Amherst for over 27 years. Toby is a wonderful Sheltie, who we met for his first puppy exam when he was 10 weeks old. Carol, who has owned other dogs in the past, wanted to start off right and do what she could to prevent dental problems in Toby.
Toby is now 4 years old and has absolutely pristine teeth and gums. Not only did Carol take the advice of brushing his teeth daily, she has gotten it into such a routine that Toby jumps up on the chair voluntarily for his daily brushing. Not only does Carol brush Toby’s teeth, she does it with an ELECTRIC toothbrush! The following is a video of Toby having his teeth brushed:
Toby is my poster boy for healthy teeth and gums and Carol deserves a blue ribbon for establishing such a fantastic home dental routine with Toby. An electric toothbrush certainly raises the bar for what you can do at home!
Next week I want to discuss what happens when plaque and tartar have built up on your pet’s teeth, how it can lead to periodontal disease and other health problems and how a veterinary dental cleaning will address those issues.
Dr. Loretta Yuen
All of these beautiful photos of Toby were taken by Toby’s owner and professional photographer Don, of MacGregor Studios. You can visit his website to view more amazing photos.