February 20, 2017


Pet Dental Care – 4 things you can do for your pet’s pearly whites

by Aili V. Heintz, DVM

Pet dental care can be overwhelming for pet owners.  You want to help your pet but figuring out how to do that can be difficult.  At our veterinary office, we often hear the following questions:

  • How can I get rid of my dog’s smelly breath?
  • Can you brush an animal’s teeth?
  • My pet doesn’t like having his teeth brushed.  What else can I do?

With everything out there on the shelf labeled “for dental health” or “great for teeth” it’s hard to know what’s best for your pet. Today, we will help you sort through the world of at-home pet dental care options.  You can find a dental care routine that works for best you and your pet.

1. Brushing your pet’s teeth

Brushing your pet’s teeth is the best way to remove plaque and tartar.  Tartar starts forming in a little over 24 hours, so ideally, you should brush your pet’s teeth every day.

Now, I know what you are thinking…it’s hard enough to get your human children to brush their teeth.  How on Earth can you brush the teeth of your four-legged family members? Well, believe it or not, some pets grow to enjoy the teeth brushing experience!  One of our clients has her dogs so well trained that when she brushes her teeth, her dogs come running to have their teeth brushed!toothbrushing

Start slowly.  Play with your pet’s mouth for several days.  Then, let your pet lick the toothpaste off your finger a few days in a row. After that, let your pet lick the toothpaste off the toothbrush for a while.  Work your way up to brushing just a tooth or two.  Eventually, you will be able to brush your pet’s teeth without resistance.

You can use a regular toothbrush, a pet-specific toothbrush, or a “finger brush” that easily slips onto your finger.  Make sure to use a pet toothpaste, as human toothpaste can make animals sick.  Animal toothpaste comes in flavors like poultry, beef, and vanilla mint!

2. Offering dental treats

There are many different types of dental treats or chews available. Some treats are considered mechanical chews because the simple act of chewing helps scrape the tartar off the teeth. Others treats have enzymes baked into them that help to clean off the tartar, and these are considered enzymatic chews. Some treats are both mechanical and enzymatic!  To avoid choking, be sure to choose a treat that is the appropriate size for your pet.

3. Providing quality nutrition

Just like for people, lifestyle and diet can influence pets’ dental health! Often times low-quality diets are filled with carbohydrate fillers and sugars to enhance the flavor.  These added ingredients can cause dental problems. A higher quality diet or a raw diet can give your pet a healthier body and healthier teeth.

4. Using water or food additives

Some pets may not enjoy the brushing or the dental treats, but don’t lose hope!  There are other options. Food or water additives are flavorless and tasteless and can be easily added to your pet’s food or water bowls. These additives help maintain proper gum health and prevent tartar formation. Adding something to your pet’s food or water may be the easiest way to start caring for your pet’s teeth.

Of course, you don’t have to pick just one option.  Offering nutritional food and using a food/water additive are great first steps.  Try a dental chew.  Take some early steps to get your
pet used to brushing. By trying all of the available options, you will find something that fits your lifestyle.

Before starting on a new at-home dental care program, please check with your veterinarian.  Your vet can ensure that the products you are using are pet-friendly and will not interfere with other existing health issues. Remember there is no one way to help keep your pet’s teeth clean and shiny. Anything you can do is a step in the right direction!