Daily Walrus - Helping People Help Animals

Brushy brushy brushy

January 18, 2008

Ryan and I brush our teeth at least two times a day for two minutes.  I can’t imagine skipping a day – yuck!  Can you imagine brushing your teeth zero times daily?  How about once every six months?  Once in five years?  Not only would your breath kick harder than Bruce Lee, but you would surely develop gingivitis and eventually need to have teeth extracted.  Unfortunately, this is what pets often have to face as they grow older. 

Many people have their pet’s teeth cleaned at the vet’s office.  Some sources recommend doing this yearly (though after talking with our vet, I got the sense that few people actually do this).  The procedure begins with dropping your pet off at the vet’s office in the morning.  When they are ready, the pet is put under with anesthesia and the doctor uses tools to scrape off the tartar and plaque.  At the end of the day, you pick up your pup or kitty and return home to play play play.

This sounds easy enough, but remember that anesthesia can be risky for any animal – particularly elderly pets or those with heart conditions.  Unfortunately, it is usually elderly pets that need the most dental care (thanks to a life of poor dental hygiene).  This makes professional teeth cleaning too risky for some to consider. 

You can avoid unnecessary anesthesia by taking care of your pet’s teeth at home.  Every pet store from the big chains to the posh boutiques sell toothbrushes and toothpaste made for especially for your cats and dogs.  It comes in different flavors (our guys prefer chicken flavor) and isn’t harmful if swallowed.  Don’t use human toothpaste – it isn’t meant to be swallowed by humans, much less pets!     

Remember that some animals may need you to ease into full on brushing.  Start by rubbing your fingers on their teeth for a few consecutive nights to get them used to the sensation of having something in their mouth.  Give them a treat afterwards as a reward.  Gradually work your way up, covering your finger with a gauze pad and rubbing their teeth in a circular motion, trying to cover all areas of the mouth.  Again, reward them afterwards.  Eventually you can upgrade to the brush.  Start off slow, gradually increasing to several times a week.  We try to brush our guys’ teeth daily.  Here is a nice article with tips on brushing.     

Your pets may never like this activity, but do not let that stop you.  Around our house, Luigi doesn’t mind having his teeth brushed at all.  Tito struggles a little but is fairly indifferent.  Wally, on the other hand, turns into a claw-weilding wiggle worm.  Despite the struggle (it takes both of us to corall Wally), the effort is worth it.  All is forgiven when he gets his post-brush treat (dry treats are better for the teeth than wet) and starts to purr.  It can be a challenge, but it’s reassuring to know that healthy teeth can add years onto an animal’s life.   

Luigi was the only one awake as we typed this blog post, so he was the lucky model:


About author

Hello - we are Jenny and Ryan, a couple living in Brooklyn, New York. We are both busy with school and work but try to take time to do something every day to make the world a better place for animals. Occasionally we may link to outside websites for additional resources, but we do not necessarily endorse all policies of these organizations. Despite the title of our blog, the focus is not only on walruses. So what's with the title? We named this blog after our cat, Wally, aka The Walrus. We are the proud parents of two cats (Wally and Tito) and one dog (Luigi).