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How To Brush Your Pet’s Teeth

Pets are an important part of our lives for many years.  As such, dental care is important to extend your pet’s good health and quality years with you.  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 with dental problems.  Periodontal disease is what causes bad breath, eventual tooth loss and can contribute to premature heart, kidney and liver disease.

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 (8-12 weeks) during puppy or kittenhood, but it is never too late.  Visible tartar should be removed ultrasonically in a process known and scaling and polishing, just like when people go to the dentist.  This makes your home care efforts easier and more effective.  Always remember to make it fun!

Gathering Supplies:

  • Washcloth or toothbrush
  • Veterinary toothpaste (CET Paste available at Valley Animal Hospital)

Week 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.  This should begin for just 30 seconds on day one and progressing to a couple of minutes by the end of the week.  Reward your pet with a small treat at the end of each session (no “people food” please).

Week 2 – Introducing Toothbrush or Washcloth (Without Toothpaste)

This week, use either a wet washcloth wrapped around your index finger or wet toothbrush on the teeth.  Lift lips.  Massage the outer surfaces only of upper and lower teeth using a back-and-forth motion.  Do this for 30 seconds on day one, progressing up to three minutes by the end of the week.

Week 3 – Add Toothpaste, Extend Brushing Time

This week use your dental cleaning instrument and add ¾ inch of veterinary toothpaste to brush the outer surfaces only of upper and lower teeth in a back-and-forth motion.


  • Do not rush the process or else the pet may become resistant.
  • If your pet shows any indication of aggression (growling, bearing teeth, biting, scratching, etc.) stop immediately.  Call the hospital for further professional advice.
  • NEVER use human toothpaste.  Gagging and vomiting are common if this is done.
  • Cleaning at home will reduce the frequency of professional care needed.
  • Milkbones will only help slightly.  A much better alternative is Hill’s brand t/d tartar removal dog food as treats.  See any Valley Animal Hospital receptionist for a free trial sample.  It really works!

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