One of the most important things we pet parents can do for our cats and dogs is clean their teeth regularly—make that daily, if possible. If we don’t, our pets may end up suffering from dental problems such as abscessed teeth and even fractured jaws. And that’s not the only bad news. Bacteria in mouths can travel to other parts of the body, causing liver, heart and kidney problems. So it’s vital we keep our pet’s mouths clean and healthy. But as anyone who has tried to clean their pet’s teeth knows, it’s not easy! Which is why many pet parents give up after a few tries. Since February is National Pet Dental Health Month, we thought it the perfect time to get some expert teeth-cleaning help from our vets, Dr. Laura Wiles and Dr. Sasha Naugler:

Start Them Young, If Possible

It’s easier to train puppies and kittens. Getting older pets used to having their teeth cleaned is harder. But don’t let their age stop you. Routine oral care to remove plaque and tartar is vital for your pet’s overall health.

Get The Right Dental Kit

Dog with Vet's Best Dental Gel and a toothbrushYou’ll need a toothbrush or a finger brush and a flavored toothpaste or gel, such as Vet’s Best Dental Care Gel that is made with natural ingredients. This dental gel is made with the right combination of Neem Oil and Papain enzymes to support good oral health and hygiene. Neem Oil has been known to have antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities. Don’t use toothpaste made for humans, as it contains fluoride, which is poisonous to dogs.

Take It Slowly

To get your dog or cat used to having their teeth cleaned, start off by petting their nose with the toothbrush or finger brush so they can smell it. Give them lots of love so your pet knows this is a happy time. Put some toothpaste or gel on the brush and let them lick it. Then gently rub it on their gums. Finally, brush their teeth, also very gently. Repeat these things until your dog or cat is used to them. Do not force your pet to do any of this – get them to where they come to you to get their teeth brushed. For more tips on brushing your pet’s teeth, check out this video from the American Veterinary Medical Association:

Try Additional Dental Cleaning Aids

There are drinking water additives that help kill oral bacteria (no toothbrush required!) and CET oral hygiene chews that contain an antiseptic. To aid in gum health, give them chews, such as rawhides, Greenies and Nylabones, as these will help remove small amounts of plaque and debris. Our vets do not recommend you give your dog either cow hooves or antlers to chew as these can fracture their teeth.

Get Regular Dental Check-Ups

The veterinarian checks teeth of a small kittenIf you have a young cat or dog, take them to your vet annually for a health and dental checkup. As your pet hits middle-age—somewhere around 6-10 years—increase these checkups to twice a year. At some point, your pet will probably need to have their teeth cleaned to remove plaque and tartar.

Watch For Signs Your pet Might Have Dental Problems

Halitosis (bad breath), gingivitis (red gums), tartar (plaque build-up), dropping food or chewing on one side only, salivating excessively when eating, pain in and around the mouth—these are just a few of the symptoms your pet may exhibit if they have periodontal disease. If you notice any of them, please make an appointment to see your vet right away. Brushing your pet’s teeth regularly to help prevent periodontal disease will help them feel better, live longer and lead healthier and happier lives. Which is what all good pet parents want for their furry kids.