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Ask a vet: How often should I brush my pet's teeth?

Have a nonemergency question about your pet's health? Dr. Heather Oxford of L.A. veterinary hospital California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE) is here to help! In this installment of Ask a Vet, Dr. Oxford has some tips for reader Cheryl about proper dental hygiene practices for pets.

Cheryl's question: How often do dogs and cats need to have their teeth brushed? In reality, this hardly ever happens for my pets. What is a minimum frequency you recommend?

Heather Oxford, DVM: Great question, Cheryl. Veterinary dentists recommend brushing pets' teeth every other day for optimal dental health. Pet toothbrushes come in different sizes, depending on the size of the mouth, and they even have finger brushes that resemble thimbles with bristles for cats.

It is imperative that you use veterinary toothpaste since pets will swallow the toothpaste, and regular paste for people can cause severe stomach upset. Besides, they make salmon, beef, chicken and malt flavor, which could actually help to make teeth brushing a more pleasant experience for everyone.

To submit your question for Dr. Oxford, just leave a comment on this post or send us a Tweet @LATunleashed and look for her answer in an upcoming installment of Ask a Vet!

About our vet: Dr. Oxford received her bachelor of science degree at Bowling Green State University, Ohio.  She also received a master's of public health degree in epidemiology from Emory University and went on to work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. She then went to the University of Tennessee, College of Veterinary Medicine, where she received her doctor of veterinary medicine degree.  She practices at California Animal Rehabilitation and also is certified in veterinary rehabilitation and acupuncture. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Wade, and German shepherd, Tess.

Video: Sophie the pug practices brushing her teeth, albeit not using a veterinarian-recommended technique. (We think Sophie's pretty cute, anyway.) Credit: Linda Nixon via YouTube

Comments () | Archives (9)

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I brush my dogs teeth every night

Hi, Dr. Oxford,
Is it save to feed dogs fruits and nuts? and how can you tell whether their digestion system is healthy or not by looking at their poops? Thank you.

You can also use Dentastix. They work great!

"Every other day" is a ridiculous answer. The questioner has the right idea when she suggests that "rarely" was realistic.

Next what. Condoms for the dogs and cats.

No animal brushes their teeth. Nature evolved and that's the way it should be.

More money making gimmicks and the fools that fall for them.

My 5 year old spayed cat is indoor only due to severe environmental allergies. Since she was about 1 year old, she has been given steroid shots every few months to control the severe itching. She has also been on Amytryptaline last year for about 2 months. She is currently on immunotherapy to treat her dust and yellow Pine allergies, and no other medications. Over the past month, she has been drinking more water than normal. However, she is urinating normally. Her blood results all showed normal, and even showed that she was slightly dehydrated. The vet told me it wasn't concerning. How then can my cat still be drinking so much water excessively? Thanks!

Pet owners should use a soft brush with a little hydrogen peroxide once or twice a week according to the advice of Letisha Isabella,a non-anesthesic dental hygenist of 21 yrs who I have had do my dogs teeth now every 6mos. She's the best. Holistic Pet Care is recommended by many Holistic Vets in Los Angeles area.www.

Letisha Isabella is bad advice hydrogen peroxide burns the gums NO you don't want peroxide on your own teeth

I rescued a feral cat that came to live in my back yard. She stayed in a little shed all through the winter. I put bedding in the shed, and left food for her. After about 6 months, I trapped her, took her to the vet, had her spayed (which is when I found out she was a girl), had her shots, de-fleaed, etc. Then I brought her home, and because the weather was still snowy, I kept her in my house, where she skulks around and hides, just coming out to eat at certain times of day and to use the litter box. She lets me scratch behind her ears when I put down her food, but otherwise she skedaddles away. I think she purrs when I scratch her - it's a wheezing almost painful noise. She was re-traumatized when I moved a crock of potatoes - behind the crock was one of her hiding places and moving it upset her very much; she hid somewhere for two days and I couldn't even find her. But I live in the house and sometimes move things. Is there hope that she will become socialized? What should I do? Any advice?


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