How to Keep your Dog’s Teeth Healthy

Recently, while I was in the dentist’s chair undergoing a root canal I vowed to make sure my daughter would never be in a similar predicament. And then I started thinking about my dog and cats. What about the health of their teeth?

I’ve heard bad breath in pets is a sign of possible tooth decay. And I know of a few people who actually brush their dogs’ teeth every day but doubted a cat would tolerate such a thing. So I asked a local veterinarian to weigh in on the matter.

To Brush or Not To Brush

“I brush my dog’s teeth twice a day,” said Dr. Lisa Dietrich, a veterinarian at Nassau Veterinary Clinic, at 3930 US Highway 20, in Nassau, N.Y. “At this practice we like to start kittens and puppies on dental treats (approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council).

VOHC approved treats (found at help reduce the build up of plaque and tartar which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. And with practice and patience, it’s possible to brush a dog’s and even a cat’s teeth, but you should never use human toothpaste. Only use pet toothpaste, according to Dietrich.

Lack of Vigilance can Lead to Serious Health Issues

Dental health in our pets is just as important as our own dental health because if overlooked can lead to pain and serious disease.

But for many pet parents dental issues are the most ignored part of veterinary medicine, she said.

“Dental issues in pets often go undetected by owners until they become very painful and affect a pet’s ability to eat, for example,” Dietrich said. 

If dental problems go untreated for too long, pets can develop stress-related illnesses, diabetes and even kidney and heart disease.

How often Should Pets get Dental Exams?

Dogs and cats should start having annual dental exams beginning at age three but no later than age five, according to Dietrich.

Nassau Veterinary Clinic takes pet dental health to the next level by reportedly offering expertise unrivaled by any other practice in Rensselaer County. Dr. Thomas Phillips, a fellow in the Academy of Veterinary Dentistry and Certified Dental Technician Tina Patton are on staff and regularly see four-legged patients. And the practice offers digital dental X-Rays, which can detect lesions beneath the gum, accesses and fractures. 

4 Steps to Brushing Your Pets Teeth

Step 1 — Practice lifting your pet’s lip to see their teeth and reward them with praise. Try to stay positive and patient and realize the training process may take several attempts.

Step 2 — Try Pet Toothpaste after practicing without it by wrapping your finger in gauze or by using a finger toothbrush. After your pet gets comfortable, lift their lip and gently rub the pet toothpaste over their teeth and gums.

Step 3 — Toothbrush Time. Introduce the toothbrush provided by your veterinarian. If desired, place a small amount of pet toothpaste on the brush and gently start brushing.

Step 4 — Brushing Success. Brush teeth and guns gently and finish with the bottom front teeth. Focus on the outside of the teeth; the surface facing the cheek is most prone to plaque and tartar buildup. Be sure to offer praise and lots of love to let your pet know how well they did.

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