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Brushing Your Dog or Cat's Teeth: A Step-by-Step Guide

Many pet owners don’t clean their pets’ teeth, but it’s essential to your animal’s health! Brushing their teeth may seem like an astronomical task—prying their mouth open, getting a toothbrush in, not getting bitten—but it’s quite easy and should be done regularly in addition to professional dental cleanings that ensure plaque and dental disease are kept at bay. Call us at 281-693-7387 to book your furbaby’s next dental cleaning! In the meantime, here are some ways you can keep your pets’ canines sparkling white!

Why Cleaning Your Pet’s Teeth Is Important

Just like humans, cats and dogs can really benefit from regular teeth brushing. It helps remove the buildup of plaque and may even reduce the need for professional cleanings at the vet. Over 80% of pets will get periodontal disease before the age of 3, which can result in:

  • Bad breath
  • Tooth loss
  • Pain while chewing

Poor dental health can also have an effect on the kidneys, liver, and heart, so it’s essential to your pet’s overall well-being that they have a healthy mouth.

Not sure if your cat or dog has issues with their teeth or gums? Peek inside! Tartar appears as a brown buildup, while gingivitis may be displayed by redness around the gum line.

If you spot your pet having difficulty chewing or notice missing teeth, it’s time for a trip to the vet. In cats, drooling is not normal and should be checked out.

How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

At first, brushing your dog’s teeth may be awkward for you and your dog, especially if they’re not used to it. That’s why it’s recommended to start early. But don’t worry! Even old dogs can learn new tricks, and your adult dog will be comfortable with the practice in no time.

Before brushing your dog’s teeth, gather the right materials, including:

It’s important to never use toothbrushes or toothpaste that is made for humans. Flouride is an ingredient in most human toothpaste, and it is poisonous to dogs. Dog toothbrushes are also much softer than regular toothbrushes and specially angled for dogs’ mouths. Finger brushes work well for smaller dogs, generally under 30 pounds.

We recommend our clients and their pets try the Enzadent enzymatic’s tooth-brushing kit. It includes:

  • A specialized pet toothbrush
  • A finger brush
  • Poultry-flavored toothpaste

If your dog doesn’t particularly like poultry, we also find that CET toothpaste works extremely well, and you can purchase it at our office! It’s available in poultry, vanilla mint, and beef flavors.

If you want to ty something completely homemade, a recipe of turmeric, parsley, and kelp will do the job.

Once you’ve purchased the materials, it’s time to start brushing:

Step 1

Sit down or kneel in front of your dog. Make sure they’re comfortable; if they are at all anxious, wait to brush their teeth at another time.

Step 2

Once your dog is comfortable, see how well they respond to your finger in their mouth, with just light pressure. This includes rubbing their upper gums and teeth.

If your dog appears uncomfortable, repeat this step at different times until they are okay with their mouth being touched. Then move on to Step 3.

Step 3

Ensure that your dog prefers the toothpaste. This is another step that may take a few days. If they show no interest in licking the toothpaste off your finger in a few days, purchase a different flavor.

Step 4

Once your dog is completely comfortable with the above steps, break out the toothbrush and lift your dog’s upper lip. For smaller dogs, use a finger brush.

Step 5

Angle the toothbrush to make sure it reaches your dog’s teeth, gum line, and gums. Always use light pressure with small, circular brushes.

For the first few sessions, concentrate on only a few teeth at a time. On later days, you can try more and more teeth.

            Note: If you notice light bleeding, it’s probably normal. If the bleeding is heavy or doesn’t stop, you may be brushing too hard. It could also be a sign of gum disease.

More plaque will tend to accumulate on your dog’s canines and back teeth, so it’s important to give those extra attention when brushing. Always stop if your dog appears to be uncomfortable.

It’s a great idea to end the session with a treat or chew snack that promotes dental health, such as synthetic bones designed to strengthen a dog’s mouth.

How to Brush Your Cat’s Teeth


Brushing a cat’s teeth may seem a bit more complicated than brushing a dog’s, but just like a dog, it’s important to make sure your cat is comfortable above all else. It just may take them a little more time to adjust.

The materials you will need to brush your cat’s teeth are:

  • A cat toothbrush
  • Cat toothpaste
  • A finger brush

Never use human toothpaste on a cat; it is harmful to their stomach. Cat toothbrushes tend to be smaller and softer than dog toothbrushes, but finger brushes work extremely well for cats and may be preferable. The Enzadent enzymatic’s tooth-brushing kit is also built for cats, as is CET toothpaste. Most cats like poultry flavors, but fish is another popular choice.

Don’t rush your cat. They will have to get comfortable with the process and maybe try out different toothpaste flavors before they’re comfortable with the process.

Here are some steps you can follow to make sure your cat’s dental health is taken care of:

Step 1

Let your cat get comfortable. Often, you can hold them on your lap. If your cat becomes anxious or uncomfortable at any time during brushing, stop and try again later.

Step 2

Raise your kitty’s upper lip, and begin to brush. You will want to brush downwards to remove food, plaque, and other items stuck in their teeth.

Step 3

Once your cat’s top teeth are finished, move the lower lip and brush their bottom teeth in an upward motion.

Note: Always allow your cat access to a water bowl after you have finished brushing their teeth. The toothpaste is not harmful, but they will appreciate a drink!

For cats especially, you may want to consider brushing a few teeth at every session, stopping, and resuming the next day. You should also give your kitty a dental-friendly treat afterwards.

If you notice any issues with your pets’ teeth while you’re brushing, it’s important to call a vet right away. Dental disease is painful for cats and dogs and can interfere with their eating. And, of course, if you’d like our experts to show you how to brush your pet’s teeth, we’d be happy to!

Regular, professional dental-cleaning appointments are also important for your cat or dog’s overall health. Call Cinco Ranch Vet at 281-693-7387 to make sure their smile remains pearly white!

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The Team @ Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital

Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital serves Katy, TX and the surrounding areas with a dedication and passion for our animal friends that is unmatched. Our veterinarians are highly trained, experienced, and compassionate when it comes to giving your pet the care they deserve. If your companion is in need of emergency care, a dental cleaning, grooming, or just a check-up, we would love to see them! Call 281-693-7387 to make an appointment quickly and easily.

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