Brushing your pet's teeth prevents gum disease and provides a layer of protection against bad breath. Brushing on a regular basis is best for removing tartar and plaque. Oral brushing is a common veterinary recommendation for dog and cat owners. Always consult with your veterinarian before attempting to implement a brushing regimen.
Choosing a Brush
A standard tooth brush is sufficient for most dogs and cats. Choose a brush with soft bristles if your animal has sensitive gums or a preexisting tooth and gum disease. Pet stores sell specialized brushes that are similar to human brushes, including some that fit over your finger. The finger-style brushes are effective for small pets, allowing you to control the pressure with your fingertip.
Specific pet toothpaste is available through veterinarians and most pet stores. Many of the manufactures toothpaste options are flavored to please the animal. Flavors like peanut butter and chicken are common options. Don't use human toothpaste or baking soda, as human brands are difficult on the stomach and digestive system of many animals.
Working with the Animal
Always handle the animal gently and take your time. After several brushing sessions, the animal will gain a moderate level of tolerance for the process. Stand over the back of medium and large dogs with your knees against the front shoulders. Approach small dogs and cats from the front. Pet the animals for a minute before beginning the brushing. The petting is calming and prevents the animal from feeling threatened.
Inspect the teeth by lifting the gums before beginning the physical brushing. Look for plaque and grime to determine the areas of focus. Apply toothpaste to the brush and begin with a very light brushing motion. Gradually add pressure and work over the front of the teeth. If the dog remains calm and allows the jaws to separate, attempt to brush the backside of the teeth. This will not work with every animal, but calm dogs and cats will not struggle. Brush for two or three minutes and provide a clean bowl of water when you're finished.
Zach Lazzari is a Montana based freelance outdoor writer and photographer. You can follow his work at bustedoarlock.com.