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How to Brush Your Pet’s Teeth

Dental disease is the most common problem seen in our pet population today. More than 85% of all dogs and cats presented to veterinarians are affected by dental problems. Periodontal disease is what causes bad breath as well as eventual tooth loss.

We recommend daily dental care at home for your pets just like the rest of the family. It is best to begin home care at an early age during puppy or kittenhood, but it never too late to begin.

Supplies Needed:

  • Washcloth, toothbrush, gauze
  • Pet toothpaste


  1. Slowly Acquainting Your Pet with Mouth Care: Using your hand, gently open the pet’s mouth and run your finger around his or her lips, lifting the lips, etc. Do this in very short sessions, end each session on a good note and gradually increase the amount of time. Offer high value rewards during the entire session.
  2. Introducing the Toothbrush, Washcloth or Gauze: Use either a wet washcloth or gauze wrapped around your index finger or a wet toothbrush on the teeth. Lift the lips. Massage the outer surfaces only of the upper and lower teeth using a back and forth motion. Gradually increase the amount of time based on how your pet responds. Continue to praise and offer high value rewards.
  3. Add Toothpaste and Extend Brushing Time: Use your dental cleaning instrument and add 3/4 inch of toothpaste to brush the outer surfaces only of the upper and lower teeth in a back and forth motion.

A Few Pointers:

  • Do not rush the process or the pet may become resistant.
  • From the start, consistently associate this activity with positive rewards (food, toys, praise) and over time you may be able to provide these on an intermittent basis.
  • If your pet shows any indication of aggression (growling, bearing teeth, biting, scratching, etc.) stop immediately! Call the clinic for further professional advice.
  • NEVER use a human toothpaste. It is not a safe product for dogs and cats.
  • Brushing at home will ideally reduce the frequency of professional care needed.