How to Make Pet Dental Care Easier

Last updated 23 JULY 2021

This article is written by our in-house veterinarian, Dr Carla Paszkowski BVSc.

We all know that dental care for your pet is important. In fact, dental care is just as important for your pet as it is for yourself. Just like us, your pet's dental health can impact their entire body.

However, dental care just seems to be one of those things that many pet owners tend to ignore. Dental disase is often difficult to spot, so it can seem like less of a priority, or sometimes dental care is simply deemed too difficult. Most veterinarians recommend tooth brushing as the #1 dental care method, however some pets don't tolerate this well (particularly cats!). And even if your pet tolerates it, tooth brushing can be messy, wriggly, and altogether quite a chore.

To address this, we've put together some handy tips to help make pet dental care easier (and more fun!) for both the pet and the pet owner!

Pet Circle veterinarian Dr Kim takes us through her top tips for dental care. View more videos like this on Pet Circle's Youtube Channel.

1. Save time with methods that actually work

While there are plenty of different products and ways to promote pet dental health, unfortunately not all of them are as effective as marketing would have you believe. To make dental care enjoyable, and to save yourself some time and money, try to focus on methods that actually work.

Many products only work if your pet uses them correctly. Because different pets chew differently or consume treats at a different pace, certain products may not actually do anything for your pet's teeth. For example, if your dog tends to inhale their dental chews in a few seconds, you can almost guarantee that their teeth haven't received any cleaning. Likewise, if your pet has a sore tooth and is only chewing on one side, half their mouth is going untouched.

So what is best? The absolute best regime for dental care depends on the individual pet. Some dogs who are particularly 'gnaw keen' can maintain their teeth with bones alone. However for the majority of pet owners, particularly if you own a small breed dog or a cat, a more varied regime is required.

Most vets recommend a scale and polish at your local vet clinic once per year, and tooth brushing as the mainstay dental management procedure at home, with dental chews or a dental food only recommended as optional supplements to this.

Top Dental Products

2. Tips to make tooth brushing easier

Brushing your pet's teeth will always be the gold standard of dental care. There are so many ways to make this easier for you and your pet. Instead of ruling it out completely because your pet doesn't like it, try to adapt the way you go about it to make it more enjoyable.

a. Get them used to it while they're young. Obviously tooth brushing will be easier to if you can get them used to it while they're still young and easily trained. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that tooth brushing isn't needed on healthy, young teeth or that you should wait until the teeth go yellow. Proper dental care isn't just about treating existing plaque and tartar; but rather prevention is key with dental health.

b. Try a sleek design brush. Have you tried brushing your dog's teeth with a rubber finger brush? Typically these type of tooth brushes are designed to slip over your finger and have soft rubber bristles. A rubber body allows them to be flexible, non-painful and easy to maneuver, and they are very gentle on the gums. There is even a handy finger cloth if your pet is especially sensitive - however it doens't offer your finger the same level of protection! Check out these handy dental wipes if this works better for you.

c. Try a new flavour of toothpaste. There are so many different flavours of toothpaste available, including vanilla, chicken, beef, and even minty tooth-cleaning gel. Plus, you can even try making your own toothpaste with ingredients like coconut oil, parsley, cinnamon, and baking soda, if you think your pet would prefer this! (Just make sure you check with your vet before using your own mixture!)

d. Incorporate rewards. It may seem strange to give treats while brushing teeth, but some positive reinforcement can go a long way! If your pet can't be swayed by the taste of the toothpaste alone, try giving small treats along the way.

e. Try to clean the teeth when they're sleepy. If your pet is extra wriggly when having their teeth brushed, it can help to brush their teeth when they are all tuckered out after a long walk. For cats, you might like to try tooth brushing at a 'sleep' time of day (such as lunchtime) as they'll have less energy.

3. Supplement with effective dental chews

Healthy dental chews are great in moderation. However, it's important to pick the right chew. Most veterinarians recommend avoiding cheap high-calorie dental chews, as they can lead to weight gain. Over indulging pets with treats like 'dental sticks' actually contributes significantly to pet obesity in Australia.

Instead, you might like to go for a natural treat that your pet won't be able to consume as quickly such as a goat horn, or deer antler. Due to the firm nature of these treats, always supervise while treating.

For a particularly low fat dental treat, there plenty of options. If your pet is sensitive to fat in their diet, you might like to try a treat from the Whimzees or Greenies ranges. Always check with your vet if your dog has pre-existing medical issues.

Top Dental Chews

3. Keep your vet visits regular

Of course every animal should have regular vet visits, but this is particularly important if your dental care at home is lacking. For some pet owners, particularly cat owners, it's perfectly acceptable to get a scale and polish procedure done at the vet every 6-12 months. Some pets even require a scale and polish regularly despite receiving regular tooth brushing.

A dental scale and polish procedure at the vet is the same as the cleaning you receive from your dentist - except obviously, your pet will need to be anaesthetised for the procedure. Your vet will also be able to get a good look in your pet's mouth, and remove any loose or rotting teeth.

By letting your vet do the hard work once or twice a year, you can avoid having to rely on doing it at home. This of course leaves more time for bonding with your pet and enjoying the funner parts of life!

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to make dental care more fun for your pet. Hopefully with our helpful tips, your pet will be enjoying those sparkly whites for years to come!

Further Reading

Want to read more? Check out our other articles:

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Complete New Puppy Guide

Stop the Scratching: Cures for Skin Allergies in Dogs

Dental Care for Cats

Dental Care for Dogs