Dental Care For Cats And Dogs

Much like in people, it is impossible to completely prevent dental disease, and all dogs and cats will naturally develop some tartar with age. Some dog breeds are much more likely to suffer with bad mouths, especially toy breeds, sighthounds and terriers.  

There are several things we can do at home to help prevent or slow down development of gum disease (gingivitis and periodontal disease): 


Just like our own mouths, regular brushing is the best way to keep teeth healthy. The abrasive action of a toothbrush is the most effective way to remove plaque from the teeth. Most pets can be taught to accept tooth brushing, but younger pets tend to learn faster than older animals. See our helpful tips on starting to brush. 

Rinses and gels

Various oral rinses and gels are available, most containing chlorhexidine to reduce bacteria and plaque. Many are effective however there are also many useless products available online; look for products with the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal or the list on their website


Dogs and cats fed dry biscuit diets tend to have less tartar than those fed only on wet food. This is because the action of crunching biscuits causes abrasion against the teeth, helping reduce plaque build-up. It does however rely on pets chewing the biscuits and not just swallowing them whole! Prescription dental care diets are available that can further reduce tartar formation; look for one that is proven to work or ask your practice for a recommendation. 

Chews and toys

Dental chews and toys create abrasive action on the teeth to reduce plaque and tartar build-up. Chews should be factored into daily feeding to prevent weight gain. Some dogs will enjoy very firm chews such as antler. These are safe if not swallowed, but always monitor your dog during use as they can occasionally cause teeth to fracture. 

How to brush your pets' teeth

Having your teeth brushed is a strange experience, and many dogs and cats will panic if it is not introduced slowly and gently. It may take a month or two to reach a point of “proper brushing”! You can use a regular or finger brush, but always make sure to use pet toothpaste as it tastes better and doesn’t contain fluoride, which is toxic to pets. 

  • Initially, simply introduce your pet to the toothpaste, offering it on your finger to be licked 
  • Once your pet accepts it, try running your finger over the outside of their teeth, still with plenty of toothpaste and praise 
  • After a few days of this, they should be ok with the idea of something in their mouth. Now is a good time to introduce your brush. Initially use plenty of toothpaste and go slow, just accepting the brush in their mouth is enough.  
  • Over the next few weeks practice regularly. Once the brush in their mouth isn’t scary, start moving it along the teeth. Eventually build up to gentle brushing in circular motions. 

The younger your pet is when you start brushing, the more likely they will be to accept the idea – this includes cats! Ideally, aim for daily brushing for the most effective dental care, however anything is better than nothing. If you are unsure about brushing and would like some help, your practice will be happy to arrange an appointment with one of our veterinary nurses. 

The Healthy Pet Club members benefit from a fixed price dental – speak to your practice for more information.


Please note that the content made available on this webpage is for general information purposes only. Whilst we try to ensure that at the time of writing all material is up to date and reflects industry standards, we make no representation, warranties or guarantees that the information made available is up to date, accurate or complete. Any reliance placed by yourselves is done so at your own risk.

Find practices that offer this service