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Dental Care for Pets

Humans are well-versed in the need for good dental hygiene in order to maintain an attractive smile and a healthy mouth. Many people are not, however, as knowledgeable about their pets’ dental needs. Pets can suffer from plaque and tartar buildup on their teeth if not properly cared for. This can cause periodontal disease, infection, and eventually tooth loss. Bacteria in the teeth and gums can also enter the bloodstream and lead to even more severe health risks, such as heart, liver, and/or kidney problems. People will want to take preventative measures to avoid any of the risks associated with a failure to provide dental hygiene for their pets. Part of this care will involve taking their pets to the veterinarian for routine dental check-ups; however, regular at-home dental care is also a crucial part of a pet’s dental needs.


Dental care for a dog is a matter of routine and doesn’t need to be difficult to carry out. Most dogs enjoy interacting with their owners and will come to see having their teeth brushed as a playful time that they may eventually look forward to. To successfully clean the teeth of one’s canine companion, the right tools are necessary. Basic tools that a pet owner will need include a pet toothbrush and toothpaste. Pet toothpaste and human toothpaste are not interchangeable, and people should never use their own toothpaste, which contains fluoride, on their dog’s teeth. Pet toothpaste can typically be found in pet supply stores and is available in flavors that are favorable to pets, such as chicken or peanut butter, for example. Pet toothbrushes come in two main designs; one that fits over the finger and one that has a handle. The handled toothbrush is similar to a human toothbrush, but it is smaller in size and softer. Pet toothbrushes may also be shaped differently than the human version. A soft child’s toothbrush is an inexpensive alternative to purchasing a toothbrush specifically for pets. Pet toothbrushes that fit over the finger are ideal for people who are new to caring for their dog’s dental hygiene. This type of toothbrush may also be easier for some types of dogs. Regardless of the type of toothbrush, one should brush their dog’s teeth daily for improved dental health. If your dog is already in good oral health, brushing every other day is also an option. While brushing their pet’s teeth, people should check for bad breath, red gums, or any other signs of gum infection or sensitivity. People can further care for their dog’s teeth by giving them toys that are designed to help keep teeth clean as dogs chew. Some toys and natural chew items such as rawhide chips or rope will also help keep dogs’ teeth clean.

  • The fluoride in human toothpaste can cause heavy metal toxicity in pets.
  • Never give dogs bones or animal hooves to chew on, as they can fracture the teeth.
  • When giving a dog a chew treat, choose one that is larger than what is needed so that it takes longer to chew.


Caring for the dental needs of a cat may seem unnecessarily difficult to some, but feline dental care is important to remove plaque and fight dental disease and tooth loss. Although dental care for cats is similar to dental care for dogs, it can be a daunting experience and one that neither pet owner nor pet may look forward to at first. For this reason, it is important to adjust cats to having their mouths opened when they are kittens, as this will help prevent undue stress on the animal. Pet toothpaste and a toothbrush are also the tools for feline teeth cleaning. Initially, one may use a finger covered with gauze to brush over the teeth and gums. This will help the cat adjust to the intrusion and can later be replaced with a toothbrush. As with dogs, human toothpaste should never be used. When brushing the teeth, keep the brush at a 45-degree angle and use small circular movements, paying special attention to where the teeth meet the gums. With cats, brush several times a week and actively look for the presence of bad breath, tartar stains, or redness around the gums, which may indicate a problem that requires the services of a veterinarian. The veterinarian may need to perform an in-depth dental cleaning that often requires the use of anesthesia and involves cleaning below the gum line to remove difficult-to-reach tartar and plaque.

  • Dry cat food is helpful in cleaning a cat’s teeth.
  • Feeding cats only canned food increases their risk of dental disease.
  • To prevent getting scratched during tooth-brushing, wrap the cat in a towel.
  • By the time a cat reaches the age of three, it has a 70 percent chance of dental problems, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society.

Other Pets

Naturally, most people think of dogs and cats when it comes to pets, especially when it comes to the oral hygiene of one’s pet. These are not, however, the only animals that people keep as pets, nor are they the only pets that have teeth that need to be taken care of. Gerbils, guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, and mice are all examples of pets that have teeth. Dental care for these types of animals is more natural and is typically accomplished by providing them with something to chew or gnaw on. Many of these types of animals have teeth that continuously grow and can quickly become overgrown and problematic. Providing small animals with fibrous roughage, wooden chew toys, and even hard vegetables to chew on can help.

  • When using giving a pet twigs from trees to chew, avoid anything that has or may have had pesticides sprayed on it.
  • Dog biscuits may be used as chew toys for certain small animals, such as guinea pigs.
  • A natural and balanced diet is important to the dental health of rabbits and other small animals.

Further Reading

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Traditional Michigan (MI) Medicaid plans not accepted:

Michigan (MI) Medicaid is accepted for patients 18 and under.

The Healthy Michigan Plans are accepted for adults.


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