The 3 W’s (and How) of Teeth Brushing in Dogs & Cats

Teeth brushing in dogs and cats

The 3 W’s (and How) of Teeth Brushing in Dogs & Cats

At Animal Dental Care and Oral Surgery of Fort Collins, it is our goal to help pet owners improve both their bond with their pets and improve their pet’s oral health. At-home dental care is crucial for your pet in addition to their annual dental cleanings. In our post, we will explore the why, when, what, and how of teeth brushing in dogs and cats.



Imagine if you never brushed your teeth! Most people brush their teeth multiple times per day and still need regular professional dental cleanings with their dentist. Your pet is no different! Periodontal disease (infection and inflammation of the gums and bone surrounding the teeth) is one of the most common diseases in our pets. Regular teeth brushing is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to reduce plaque and tartar buildup and reduce the risk of developing severe periodontal disease. As an added bonus, regular teeth brushing will allow you to keep an eye on your pet’s mouth and notice any concerns or changes early. Always have any concerns examined by your primary veterinarian or veterinary dentist.



Studies show that it takes as little as 48 hours for the plaque on our teeth to harden into tartar, which can’t be brushed off and must be scaled off during a professional dental cleaning. The same is true of our pets! This is why it is so important to brush your dog’s teeth regularly, ideally every single day.



We recommend brushing your pet’s teeth with a soft or extra-soft bristled “human” toothbrush, available at any drug store. Child and infant-sized toothbrushes are great for small dogs and cats. Soft-bristled toothbrushes are gentler on the gums and the bristles are more pliable, making them easier to reach all the hard-to-clean areas of your pet’s teeth. The most important area on the tooth to clean is the area at and below the gumline and soft-bristled toothbrushes are able to clean this area more effectively. Finger toothbrushes are not recommended as they aren’t great at cleaning under the gumline.


Using human toothpaste on your dog or cat is never okay, as these products are not meant to be swallowed. There are a wide variety of veterinary toothpastes available, which come in many flavors that will appeal to your pet – such as chicken, beef, or cheese!



Dogs and cats who are new to toothbrushing may be resistant at first. Have patience and don’t give up! It may take several weeks for your pet to become accustomed to the routine. Start by finding a tasty veterinary toothpaste that your pet really likes. Next, have your pet lick the tasty toothpaste off of your finger. If they tolerate that, you can move on to putting some on their gums with your finger or having them lick it off of their toothbrush. Eventually, you will want to brush the pet’s teeth along the gumline on the top and bottom of both sides of their mouth, similar to how you would brush your own teeth or your child’s teeth. It may take days to weeks to reach this step but the perseverance will be worth it to keep your pet’s teeth strong and healthy. Each step of the way is progress, so give yourself and your pet lots of praise!


While it may take a bit of time for your dog or cat to feel comfortable having their teeth brushed, it will still be a great bonding experience that is essential for your pet’s oral health and overall well-being. If your pet is due for a professional dental cleaning, give our team a call to schedule an appointment!