General Pet AdvicePet Dentistry

How to clean your pet’s teeth


(A step-by-step guide for the reluctant pet… or owner!)

Wouldn’t it be great if your pet had opposable thumbs and cleaned their own teeth? You’d save so much in vet bills, their breath wouldn’t stink, they’d make less mess eating, and be less fussy with their food.
Life would be bliss!

Firstly, lets get the bad news out of the way. Not all pets, no matter how hard you try, will let you clean their teeth. And that does not make you a bad owner, nor does it mean you have a bad pet. There are a few tricks you can try to gradually introduce teeth cleaning but in the end, every pet is unique. We get it. If this page is not going to help, you may find these alternative ideas helpful.

Even worse, some pets have such bad jaw alignment or overcrowding issues that even if you do clean their teeth regularly, they can still end up with teeth problems. We understand.

But despite this, it IS actually worth trying to clean your pet’s teeth for them. Here are a few tricks we have learned over the years to help

1) Don’t open your pet’s mouth.

This may seem counter intuitive but most pets hate having their mouth opened (we think they are anticipating a pill!) Instead, lift their lip at the side and make them ‘smile’ a little. Technically we mean don’t open their jaw, but DO open their lips. This picture demonstrates the idea brilliantly.

2) Start with a wet rag, wash cloth or paper towel, the wetter the better!

Many animals love being smooched around the mouth/cheeks. And it is surprising how many don’t mind their teeth being rubbed. Rub the outside of their back molars to begin with. Your aim is to rub away the stuff that causes the “furry feeling” in our human mouths.

3) Reward them!

Lots of pats!

4) Aim to do this 1-2 times weekly.

At least until you have a reasonable routine that your pet doesn’t seem to mind too much This may take a few months. If you have kept this up, remember to reward yourself too! Owning a pet can be hard work sometimes, and you are doing great!

5) Work up to cleaning all around all of the teeth.

That means the insides, outsides, tops or the bottoms of the back molars, but also remember to clean both sides of the front teeth! All of this is still just with a wet rag.

6) Introduce pet-flavoured toothpaste.

Liver; pate; chicken; cheese; beef – there are a lot of options! Just don’t use human toothpaste. Our pets don’t spit the toothpaste out, and there is too much fluoride in human toothpaste for them. Additionally, our artificial sweeteners can be toxic to our pets.

7) Introduce a toothbrush.

Once they are enjoying the toothpaste, and the rewards afterwards, NOW is the time to introduce a toothbrush. It can take months or even years to get to this point, but be assured, even wiping your pet’s teeth with a wet rag for a year is better than nothing when it comes to teeth cleaning. Again, with the toothbrush, go right back to the very beginning – you don’t need to open their mouth, just lift their lip. And start with a small toothbrush. A finger brush is ideal. Use the toothpaste flavour that they liked the most, and plenty of water.

8) Brush with a toothbrush the whole of their mouth.

By this stage they should be well adjusted to you handling their mouth, and the taste of their toothpaste. 

9) Aim for 1-2 times a week.

These are lofty goals. If you can manage to clean your pet’s teeth daily, go for daily. If your lifestyle means you only get around to it once a month, do it once a month. Anything is better than nothing when it comes to cleaning your pet’s teeth.

10) Reward both yourself and your pet if you have gotten to this point!

We recommend a trip to the beach, or a large open area. Or maybe your cat’s favourite tuna and a night of jazz for you both. To each their own, but you both deserve it. Well done!