A few months ago, after watching a video by Jackson Galaxy on the subject, we started brushing Simba and Shasta’s teeth, which was quite a challenge in the first few weeks. They are still not embracing it, but are enduring the procedure quite patiently now and accepting it as part of their grooming routine.
It is interesting, however, how many pet parents are surprised to hear that we are regularly brushing our cats’ teeth, and it would appear that many people are still not aware of the importance of teeth hygiene for their pets. So, this post is dedicated to all pet owners who are still unsure if they should brush their pet’s teeth.
Why Brush Your Pet’s Teeth?
Your pet’s teeth are pretty much the same as human teeth, as plaque builds up on canine and feline teeth just like it does on human teeth. Imagine not brushing your teeth for a few years, and what it would do to your health and wellbeing.
It is estimated that over 60% of dogs and cats over the age of three have periodontal disease, a painful inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth. Periodontitis can cause destruction to the connective tissues surrounding the tooth and can also damage the bone. Left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to painful tooth loss. Most concerning, however, is the detrimental effects periodontitis can have on your cat’s or dog’s heart, kidneys, and liver.
Your pet will be in a lot of pain, and some pets with teeth and gum issues even refuse to eat because it is painful for them, and get depressed, losing their joy in life. It is really heartbreaking to see cats and dogs withdrawing themselves and changing their personality because of the issues that could be easily avoided.
Not to mention how much it will cost you to get the issue treated if left unattended. Dental cleanings at the vet cost between $300 and $1,200, while tooth extractions cost from $500 to $1,300. Both procedures require anaesthesia, which is also harmful to your pet’s health. And these are the simplest and least cost-intensive procedures your pet may need of they suffer from periodontitis.
Half-Way Substitute Alternatives
For some cats and dogs, brushing their teeth is just not feasible. It is often the case with adult rescue pets who have different related phobias, and with pets with special needs. While they are not a substitute for brushing and regular cleanings, chew toys can help keep your cat or dog’s teeth clean. Please avoid extra hard toys, like bones or antlers, as these can lead to dental fractures.
Also, look into trying out different chewy dental treats, dental water additives, and additional preventative measures. Introducing dry food to supplement their wet food diet is also a great help because your pet’s teeth get cleaned when they eat their food, and there are even some pet food brands that incorporate ingredients related to good dental hygiene in their dry food.
Get Your Pet to Love Their Toothbrush
Ideally, you would brush your pet’s teeth every day for 1-2 minutes and have a professional dental cleaning once a year at your veterinarian. Brushing three times a week for about 30-60 seconds is the minimum recommendation to help remove plaque and prevent tartar accumulation, and this is probably the more realistic option for most pet parents.
It is important to you don’t use your own toothpaste, or even worse, baking soda, on your pet please. Human toothpastes contain ingredients that are harmful to pets and should not be swallowed. Some human toothpastes contain high levels of sodium, which may even make your pet very ill, while others may contain xylitol which is toxic for cats and dogs. Pet toothpaste is available in a number of different flavors that are appetizing to pets, including poultry, beef, and malt.
Simba and Shasta seem to like their malt flavor toothpaste by Sentry Petrodex, for example – we buy it from amazon, it’s only $5.99 and lasts for about 2 months for 2 cats (we brush their teeth about three times a week, and no we are not associated with Sentry or other brands in any way). While the beginning was a bit of a challenge – it is clearly much easier to train a puppy or a kitten to enjoy the teeth brushing routine than two strong-minded adult rescue cats – we didn’t give up, and now they are ok with it.
If you decided to give it a go (and we really hope that you do), here are some helpful resources to get you started:
Resources for Dog Parents:
Resources for Cat Parents:
We wish you the best of luck, and look forward to hearing your fun pet toothbrush training stories!