Dental Care for Cats and Dogs

Around 70% of cats and 80% of dogs over 3 years’ old have a form of dental disease, so it is so important we look after our pets' oral health.

Created: 16/05/2019 Updated: 27/08/2021 - Shelley Audis-Riddell

cats, dental, dogs, grooming, health, Health & Wellbeing, kitten, puppy

Around 70% of cats and 80% of dogs over 3 years old have a form of dental disease, so it is so important we look after our pets' oral health. There are many things we can do to look after our pets' teeth but the most effective and gold standard way of reducing plaque is through regular brushing.

Did you know

  • Cats have 30 permanent teeth

  • Dogs have 42 permanent teeth

Black cat lying on a white rug

How to brush teeth

It is possible to brush your cats and dogs teeth - especially if you can train them from a young age. If your pet already has dental issues, ask for veterinary advice before you start brushing as it could be painful for them. Also, consider any behaviour issues in case your pet is uncomfortable with having their mouth handled.

  • Ask your veterinary practice for advice on how to brush teeth and the best products to use.

  • Never use human toothpaste. This can be poisonous to cats and dogs when swallowed and could result in excess fluoride intake and xylitol poisoning. Always use a dog or cat toothpaste.

  • Let the cat or dog smell the toothpaste and allow them to lick a small amount from your finger. After a few days allow them to lick the paste off a toothbrush.

  • Once comfortable with brush and paste hold their head and lift their lips whilst they lick the brush and praise them for allowing you to do this. Be very careful not to get bitten – take your time, and ensure your pet is comfortable with this handling.

  • After a few more days begin touching the teeth with the brush for a very short period of time, and again, reward if they allow you to do this. Do this every day and build up the amount of time you spend touching the teeth at this stage.

Border Collie smiling at the camera.
  • As they gain more confidence you can begin the brushing technique. Begin with a short amount of brushing and gradually increase. Remember to reward with lots of praise. Start with the side teeth first (pre-molars), then the back teeth (molars) and finally the front teeth (incisors and canines) as your pet allows. Clean the outside (cheek-facing) surfaces: most pets will not allow you to brush the surface inside.

  • Try to brush the teeth daily and get into a recognised routine each day. Always end on a positive with lots of reward and praise for your pet. If your cat and dog become used to having their mouth looked at, this can allow you to spot any dental problems early.

  • With kittens and puppies, take great care with delicate “milk teeth”. At this stage it is more about allowing the kitten or puppy to get used to their mouth and gums being handled and gently touched; then, once their “adult “teeth” have erupted, then the teeth can be properly brushed.

  • The very best way to help prevent periodontal disease is to brush your dog or cat’s teeth regularly. Just as it does in people, toothbrushing helps to remove plaque as it forms: reducing the damage and inflammation it can cause in the mouth.

Other oral care hygiene tips

If you are unable to brush your pet's teeth there are other alternatives available for you to try such as:

If you need any more dental care advice you can try...

Do you need further advice?

If you need any further advice, please contact the OSCAR Helpline Team on our freephone number 0800 195 8000 or email helpline@oscars.co.uk.