Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth

Tooth brushing is the best method for maintaining your pet(s)’s Dental Health, and the most effective means of removing plaque. Brushing your pet(s)’s teeth on a daily basis should reduce the frequency professional cleanings are needed, as mechanical brushing action and the properties of toothpaste help break down plaque. It is important to continue a regular, daily brushing schedule, as brushing less frequently has not been shown to maintain healthy teeth and gums.12

Only use veterinary-formulated toothpaste for your pet(s). Although human and veterinary-formulated toothpastes may share similar ingredients as abrasives (to help remove plaque) and for tartar control; human toothpastes contain a surfactant (detergent) and/or other potentially irritating ingredients, and therefore should not be ingested; where such ingredients are not present in veterinary-formulated toothpastes.

Veterinary-formulated toothpastes come in a variety of flavors, including malt, mint, and poultry. We find poultry-flavored toothpaste to be the flavor most accepted by pets. In most cases, you will find your pet(s) enjoy(s) the flavor of the toothpaste enough to look forward to brushing. Additionally, a treat or other reward should be offered at the end of a brushing procedure; or, if your pet is particularly fond of the toothpaste, offer a small portion in place of a conventional treat.

We have oral hygiene kits available which contain a finger-brush, a two-sided (small- and large-tipped) pet toothbrush (angled specifically to reach a pet’s teeth), and a tube of poultry-flavored toothpaste, sufficient to sequentially acclimatize your pet to brushing. Toothpaste is also available separately.

Acclimatizing Your Pet to Brushing

Watch Dr. Milos discuss the importance of daily brushing with Mi Sun’s owner.

Using Your Finger

At any age, start acclimatizing your pet to brushing by using your finger with toothpaste. Starting early facilitates training your pet and preventing periodontal disease. Furthermore, including brushing in your pet(s)’s daily routine (e.g., after an evening meal, walk, or grooming) increases the likelihood it will be accepted.

You need not open your pet’s mouth for brushing, as chiefly the buccal (outer) surfaces of the teeth and particularly gingival sulcus (the gum margin), where periodontal disease generally originates,3 require attention. Keep your pet’s mouth shut with your thumb under the chin and your index-finger over the ridge of your pet’s nose while sliding your finger between the cheek and gum. Keeping your pet’s mouth shut while brushing should help prevent your pet from chewing on your finger, and then the finger-brush and toothbrush after transitioning from one to the other. Move your finger in short circular motions over the teeth, but at this stage concentrate on introducing the routine to your pet and increasing their comfort with oral contact.

Using a Finger-Brush

After 18 to 20 weeks of continuous brushing using your finger, substitute a finger-brush (or gauze pad if you do not have a finger-brush). Continue in the same manner as you had with your finger alone.

Using a Toothbrush

Transitioning to a toothbrush with toothpaste should not occur until your pet is at least six (6) months old, when deciduous (temporary) have been fully replaced by permanent teeth. Just as with your own teeth, a pet’s teeth should be brushed in a circular motion, with the brush angled 45 degrees so the bristles can enter the spaces between the gums and teeth.


  1. ^ Tromp JA, van Rign LJ, Jansen J. Experimental gingivitis and frequency of tooth-brushing in the beagle dog model. Clinical findings. J Clin Periodontol. 1986; 13: 190-194.
  2. ^ Gorrel C, Rawlings JM. The role of tooth-brushing and diet in the maintenance of periodontal health in dogs. J Vet Dent. 1996; 13(3): 139-143.
  3. ^ Bojrab MJ, Tholen M. Small Animal Oral Medicine and Surgery. Lea & Febiger: Philadelphia, PA; 1990: 156.