pet care dental disease dog toothbrush teeth

Do You Brush Your Dog’s Teeth? This Vet Says You Should

Do you brush your dog’s teeth? Does your cat own a toothbrush?

If you’re like most people, the answer is a resounding “no.” But veterinarian Dr. Evan Antin says that pet owners should look after their pets’ teeth just as they look after their own.

People Magazine reported that 80 percent of domestic pets will develop some kind of dental disease by the time they are 2-years-old.

Luckily, dental care for pets doesn’t have to come down to a traditional toothbrush and toothpaste (although, Dr. Antin says that these have their place, too). Instead, certain pet toys and treats can go a long way towards reaching and maintaining a healthy set of teeth and gums for your pet.

As it turns out, when dogs chew on toys and treats, the chewing action itself “breaks off the tartar and the accumulation of food on the teeth.”

However, not every pet toy is a suitable treatment for dental disease. Dr. Antin says that “harder, firmer plastic” dog toys raise the risk of a dog fracturing their teeth, which ultimately defeats the purpose.

The “kneecap rule” is a simple way for pet owners to determine if a pet toy is a suitable teeth-cleaning item. If you bang the toy on your knee and it hurts, then you can safely assume that it will be too hard for your dog’s teeth.

Brushing your pet's teeth is not going to be easy, but it's important for their overall health.
Brushing your pet’s teeth is not going to be easy, but it’s important for their overall health. [Image by Dalaifood/Shutterstock]

While toys can play a part in maintaining your pet’s dental hygiene, apparently it all comes down to teeth brushing. But it’s not easy.

Veterinarian Dr. Drew Snider says that brushing your dog’s teeth does more than prevent dental disease: it can actually ward off kidney disease and heart disease as well, according to Click on Detroit.

Dr. Antin suggests taking the process very slowly, and introducing the concept to your pet one day at a time. For the first few days, simply show your dog the toothpaste and let them smell and lick it. The next day, put a small amount of toothpaste on your finger and put it in your pet’s mouth, and the next day you can “graduate” to a “finger brush” — a kind of rubber thimble.

After a few more days, you can move onto a toothbrush but go back to simply feeding your pet toothpaste directly from the toothbrush. When taken slowly, the process will eventually lead to you being able to brush every surface of your dog’s teeth, just as you do with your own.

If you’re wondering if your pet may have dental disease, there are some signs to look for. The first sign is bad breath, and the second is an accumulation of brown and yellow on the teeth. A sign of more advantaged dental disease is the gums being a shade of red rather than a healthy pink.

Good dental care for dogs, cats, and other pets can ward of dental disease and even heart disease.
Good dental care for dogs, cats, and other pets can ward of dental disease and even heart disease. [Image by Kachalkina Veronika/Shutterstock]

If your pet is sensitive to eating and eats slowly, Dr. Antin says this is a clear sign of advantaged dental disease, and you should take your pet to a specialist as soon as possible.

“If you can get away with brushing your dog’s teeth on a nearly daily basis, great. I would do it. It’s really going to slow down the progression of dental disease.”

[Featured Image by Milante/Shutterstock]

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