Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth

Pet Dental Health from Bogue Animal Hospital

The team at Bogue Animal Hospital is very concerned with the dental health of your pet and wants to make sure that you know how to meet your pet’s dental needs! We found this excellent article about the health and well-being of your pet, and how it is affected by dental health. If you have questions about how to brush your pet’s teeth properly, we encourage you to contact us today!

Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth

Equally important to annual dental exams at your veterinarian’s practice is home dental care, including brushing your pet’s teeth every day if possible. AAHA recommends a technique for both younger and older animals, although it’s easier to start brushing when your pet is young.
To introduce a fearful cat or dog to the idea of dental care, start slowly and gradually. Dip a finger into beef bouillon (for dogs) or tuna water (for cats) and gently rub along your pet’s gums and teeth. The most important area to focus on is the gum line (the crevice where the gums meet the teeth), where bacteria and food mix to form plaque. Focusing on the gum line, start at the front of the mouth, then move to the back upper and lower teeth and gum areas. Once your pet is okay with a little bit of touching, gradually introduce gauze over your finger and rub the teeth and gums in a circular fashion.
When your four-legged friend can handle the gauze, try brushing with a toothbrush specially designed for pets or a very soft, ultra-sensitive toothbrush designed for people. The bristles should be held at a 45-degree angle to the tooth surface and be moved in an oval motion. Scrub in the gum line, as this is where odor and infection begin. Gradually add special dog/cat toothpaste (flavored with meat or fish), but never use people toothpaste or baking soda, as both will upset your pet’s stomach.
Use the following process to clean the inside surfaces of your pet’s teeth:
  1. Place your hand over your pet’s muzzle from the top
  2. Gently squeeze and push his lips on one side between the back teeth (to keep his mouth open)
  3. Pull his head back gently so his mouth opens
  4. Brush his teeth on the opposite side
  5. Repeat this process for the other side
The entire process should only take a minute or two. If your dog or cat continues to resist, try gently wrapping him in a large bath towel with only his head sticking out. Above all, avoid overstraining and keep sessions short and positive. With plenty of praise and reassurance, your dental sessions can bring the two of you closer—a closeness that won’t be marred by the perils of dog breath.
Home care can be improved by feeding your pet an unmoistened dry pet food and offering him hard biscuits after each meal. Both dry food and hard biscuits produce abrasion to help keep plaque to a minimum on the crown of each tooth. 
Dental care of dogs and cats is one of the most commonly overlooked areas of pet health care; however, it is necessary to provide optimum health and quality of life. Diseases of the oral cavity, if left untreated, are often painful and can lead to more serious health problems including heart, lung and kidney disease.
AAHA encourages pet owners to regularly examine their pet’s teeth for signs of periodontal disease, such as brownish colored teeth; swollen, red, or bleeding gums; persistent bad breath; loose teeth or loss of teeth; pus between the gums and teeth; broken teeth and any unusual growth in the mouth. Reluctance to eat, play with chew toys, or drink cold water are warning signs of periodontal or gum disease. Consult your veterinarian if you notice any of these signs in your pet to schedule a dental exam.
There are two critical components of your pet’s veterinary dental care: oral examinations and dental cleanings. Veterinary dental care begins at the puppy and kitten life stage. As your pet ages, your veterinarian will look for developmental anomalies, the accumulation of plaque and tartar, periodontal disease and oral tumors. Veterinarians can perform a basic oral examination on patients that are awake. However, when a cleaning is required, your pet will need to be induced under general anesthesia wherein a thorough examination will be done prior to the cleaning. Dental cleanings performed while your pet is awake is not only dangerous for the team member performing the cleaning but dangerous to your pet as well.
Since there is an element of risk associated with any medical procedure, it is important that safety precautions are used. Among the many standards in the dentistry section, AAHA accreditation requires that veterinarians perform thorough examinations of the teeth and structures of the oral cavity in patients presented for dental procedures and only properly trained practice team members perform dental procedures. Additionally, AAHA Standards recommend that dental procedures are accompanied by pain assessment and appropriate pain treatment.
For more information on pet dental care, read our AAHA Dental Care Guidelines article.
Click here for an instructive video by the Cornell Feline Health Center on brushing your cat’s teeth.
Originally published on Healthy Pet.

Brushed Your Pet’s Teeth Lately?

Can you imagine what your teeth would be like if you didn’t brush them for a year? Talk about bad breath! Considering your pet can’t brush his own teeth, this is kind of what he experiences. February is National Pet Dental Health Month and a great reminder that dental health is more than just teeth; your pet’s oral hygiene affects his overall health. Diseases of the mouth can often be painful and can contribute to additional problems. Having regular dental checkups and having your pet’s teeth cleaned are important to ensuring a positive quality of life.

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age three, often indicated by bad breath, a change in eating or chewing habits, pawing at the face and mouth, bleeding gums, and depression. “In the vast majority of cases, however, there are little to no outward clinical signs of the disease process, and therefore, therapy often comes very late in the disease course,” explains Brook A. Neimeic, DVM, DAVDC, FAVD and chief of staff at Southern California Veterinary Dentistry Specialties. “Consequently, periodontal disease is also the most under-treated animal health problem.”

Pet Dental Health Campaign spokesperson Dr. Linda J. DeBowes, veterinarian at Shoreline Veterinary Dental Clinic in Seattle, warns pet owners trying to save money not to skimp on regular veterinary care for their pets. “The expenses associated with professional dental treatment may be significant; however, if this preventative care is not done, the cost to the owner may well be much higher in diagnostics and management of dental disease,” DeBowes said.

“I tell clients that dental care for their pets is like changing the oil in their car,” says Neimeic. “It is an expense, and it’s time-consuming, but it is cheaper than replacing the engine. At least once a week, I am forced to extract half, if not more, of a pet’s teeth due to severe periodontal disease. My record is 38 at one sitting. This can cost up to $6,000, which is less than annual cleanings every year for the life of the dog!”

Your veterinary team is highly trained and a great resource for helping you provide preventative dental care for your pet. Regular dental checkups are a good start to preventative care for your pet. AAHA recommends that you talk to your veterinarian about how often “regular” refers to and develop a dental plan specific to your pet, based on her unique life stage circumstances. 
During one of these preventative dental exams, your AAHA-accredited veterinary team will take a thorough history, assess pain, chart any irregularities and determine an overall treatment plan for your pet. They may recommend diagnostic testing, which could include:
  • Blood work to determine your pet’s overall health status and ability to metabolize anesthesia
  • Radiographs (X-rays), especially if they determine your pet may need extractions
  • Recommendations for a dry food diet, special foods, treats, rinses and chew toys
  • Prescription for antibiotics and/or pain medications
In addition to professional dental care, DeBowes advises pet owners to make oral home care part of their pet’s routine as a way to prevent tooth decay.
You can help by taking an active role in your pet’s dental health care:
  • Learn to brush your pet’s teeth. Ask your veterinarian to teach you the best and safest way to brush your pet’s teeth to avoid being bitten. Although daily tooth brushing is advised for both dogs and cats, only 2% of dog owners follow through. It’s best to start at an early age, but adult dogs and cats can learn to tolerate brushing. Use a specially-formulated toothpaste, because the kind for humans may upset your pet’s stomach.
  • Feed your pet a high-quality diet. Ask your veterinarian about foods and treats with proven benefits in plaque and tartar removal.
  • Provide chew toys that stimulate gums and help clean teeth.
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) created the AAHA Dental Care Guidelines to help veterinarians and their teams provide excellent dental care for dogs and cats and to educate pet owners about the importance of proper dental care throughout their pets’ lives. Check out this article on for more information on dental care for your pet and the AAHA Dental Care Guidelines. 

This article originally appeared in PetsMatter January/February 2011, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2011 AAHA. It also can be found on Healthy Pet.