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Getting in the habit of brushing your pet’s teeth

By February 9, 2012No Comments

Brush your pet’s teeth when she’s calm and relaxed. Set a routine. Working up to brushing daily is ideal. But if her mouth is healthy, even three days a week can make a difference. Without brushing, plaque can build up, putting your pet at risk for bad breath, gum disease, and tooth decay. It can also cause painful infection. Severe infection can spread, causing life-threatening conditions.

The best preventive step for pets is the same as it is for people: brush regularly. In their case, of course, they need some help.

Gather your tools

Before you begin your brushing routine, you’ll need the right stuff on hand: a special pet toothbrush and special pet toothpaste. Don’t use human toothpaste; they’ll swallow it and get an upset stomach. They’ll like their own paste, however; it comes in flavors like chicken and tuna. As with any training, the trick is to start early, proceed slowly, and keep sessions short and positive.

Gauge your pet’s anxiety level. If she seems upset, stop, and try again later. You may need to work on mastering each of the following steps over time.

First, dip a finger into beef bouillon for dogs or tuna water for cats. Rub the soaked finger gently over the pet’s mouth and teeth. Gradually offer toothpaste on your finger so they get used to the consistency. Gently rub their teeth in a circular motion. Next, let them lick it off the brush. When your pet accepts this activity, she’s ready for the real thing. Praise and reassure your pet throughout the process.

Brush the outsides of the teeth only; cats and dogs can lick tartar off the insides on their own. Placing the bristles where the teeth and gums meet, and at a 45-degree angle, brush in an oval pattern, getting into the area around the base of each tooth as well as between the teeth. Cover three to four teeth at a time and use ten short back-and-forth motions before moving along. While you’re brushing, watch for any signs of reddened gums or tooth fractures, each of which could be a prelude to a more serious problem.

When you’re finished brushing your pet’s teeth, reward her with her favorite treat or extra attention. Always stop when everyone’s still having fun. Also remember that good dental care doesn’t end with brushing. Certain chews and treats can also help you fight plaque buildup. And don’t forget to schedule regular professional dental cleanings. Talk with your vet about how often is right for your pet.

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