How to Brush Your Pet’s Teeth

In-home dental care should include daily brushing using a proper pet toothpaste and toothbrush. Brushing helps to remove accumulation of bacteria and plaque from the teeth.

    For large dogs use a toothbrush with a long handle, an angled head to better fit the mouth and soft bristles. A finger toothbrush that fits over the tip of your finger works well for smaller dogs and cats.
    The best pet toothpastes contain enzymes that help control plaque. We cannot use fluorinated toothpastes for humans in our pets. These contain enough fluoride to be toxic if swallowed daily. Additionally, some brands of human toothpaste contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is harmless to humans but toxic to dogs. Finally, a yummy poultry or beef flavored pet toothpaste may make it easier to get into their mouths.
    Place the toothbrush with toothpaste into your pet’s mouth to get all the teeth brushed. Most pets accept brushing if they are approached in a gentle manner. If you can start when they are young, it’s quite easy, but even older pets will accept the process. Praise your pet after the process with dental chews or treats.

    Gently pull the upper lip upwards to expose the teeth. Place the toothbrush bristles at a 45-degree angle at the gum margin where the teeth and gums meet. (Place attached picture here)

    In a back and forth motion, press the brush to the outward surfaces of the upper teeth and gum line.

    Move to the outward surfaces of the lower teeth and brush in the same back and forth motion. Don’t forget to brush all the teeth!

    If you can’t brush your pet’s teeth daily then several times a week is better than nothing. Dental chews, dental diets, dental water additives and dental wipes are also available for those who are unable to brush.


  1. Periodontal disease in your pet. American Veterinary Dental Society; AVDS (; accessed Dec 2014.
  2. Association of periodontal disease and histologic lesions in multiple organs from 45 dogs. Debowes LJ, Mosier D, Logan E, et al. J Vet Dent 13:57-60, 1996.
  3. Harvey, C., and and Emily, P. (1993). Small Animal Dentistry (pp.122). St. Louis: Mosby. p. 122.
  4. Robinson, John G.A. (1995). Chlorhexidine Gluconate – The solution for dental problems. Journal of Veterinary Dentistry, 12 (No.1), pp. 29-31.