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Brushing your pet's teeth – what to remember

Brushing your pet's teeth – what to remember

Good dental health contributes to the long-term wellbeing of your dog, cat or rabbit. Vet Alison Logan explains what to bear in mind when brushing your pet's teeth.

Since it’s not natural for a cat or dog to have their teeth brushed, it’s wise to introduce dental care from an early age and make it part of your pet’s daily routine. Choose a quiet time when your dog or cat is neither hungry nor tired (and the same goes for you).

Make sure you pick a sensible time of the day. A puppy who is excited about going out for a walk will not take kindly to being asked to sit still for a tooth-brushing session.

First, get your cat or dog accustomed to the taste of toothpaste. Don’t use human toothpaste. Poultry- or malt-flavoured toothpastes are safe for animals to swallow. Your pet should readily lick the toothpaste off your finger at first.

A soft-finger brush is ideal for cats and small dogs. Alternatively, a small brush with a tuft of soft nylon bristles at its end can be used. For a larger dog, use a specially designed brush that has a tapered head sitting at an angle to the handle, so that your dog’s cheek teeth can be reached.

Once your cat or dog is used to the taste of the toothpaste, introduce the brush by allowing him or her to lick the toothpaste from that.

Gently holding your pet’s head steady, start to brush the outer surfaces of the teeth in a gentle circular action, with the bristles directed at an angle of 45 degrees towards the gum line to clean under the gum where the teeth meet it. 

You may find it easier to start with the side teeth towards the front rather than the incisors at the very front. Always stop as soon as your pet resists. 

At subsequent sessions, brush more teeth at a time as you work towards the back of the mouth. Develop your own routine. There is no need to brush the inner surfaces of the teeth because your pet’s tongue will do that naturally. Talk to your pet while brushing and reward with a treat afterwards. 

What about your rabbit’s teeth? Well, it’s not physically possible to brush them. The best way to look after your bunny’s teeth is to provide the correct diet – hay and fresh foods – with a pelleted diet as a supplement.

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