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Can You Use a Human Toothbrush on Dogs?

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Author: Jacob Kay

Brushing dogs’ teeth might appear simple but, it isn’t. I say this because many dog owners are confused regarding the dental health of dogs. They get more confused when different dog owners suggest different methods to clean their furry friends’ teeth. For instance, some suggest using a regular toothbrush i.e. a human toothbrush, some suggest using a dog toothbrush, and some suggest not using one at all. So, can you use a human toothbrush on dogs?

If you have this query in mind then don’t worry. In this article, you will find all the answers related to this query. So, keep reading!

Can You Use a Human Toothbrush on Dogs?

The answer to this question is not straightforward. This is mainly because many dog owners use human toothbrushes for their furry friends. They use it by choice or their vet has suggested they use it. In my experience, using a human toothbrush is okay but, within limit.

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However, there are many instances where a dog owner might need to use a regular toothbrush. So, whenever dog owners share their concerns regarding the usage of human toothbrushes, my first suggestion is to not use them. But, in some cases cleaning dogs’ teeth with a dog toothbrush is difficult.

For example, there is too much accumulation of dirt, tartar, and plaque buildup and a dog toothbrush with soft bristle will not be an ideal option. To deal with such extreme plaque and tartar, you’ll have to use a human toothbrush. Likewise, there are some other circumstances which may require the use of a human toothbrush. Let’s have a closer look at some of these circumstances which will require you to use the human toothbrush:

  • Dental emergency – severe dental infection can cause issues to dogs’ teeth so, to get rid of the tartar and plaque from the teeth using a human toothbrush will be necessary.
  • Remote location – if you are out with their dogs then, they might need to clean the dogs’ teeth. If they have not taken the dog toothbrush then, they have to use the regular toothbrush.
  • Damaged dog toothbrush – at times the dog toothbrush is damaged and if you don’t have any spare dog toothbrush, you might have to use the regular toothbrush.

Why not use a human toothbrush for dogs?

In the above section, we observed some of the prominent instances where you might have to use a regular toothbrush for the dog. But, as I mentioned earlier, it is best to avoid using it for the dogs. Let’s analyse different reasons why the human toothbrush should not be used:

  • Hard bristles – the bristles of the regular toothbrush are hard and can injure dogs’ gums and teeth. Also, if dog owners don’t use the toothbrush gently and apply too much pressure, the risk of injury elevates. Dogs may face issues like bleeding, inflammation, or extreme pain.
  • Size – the human toothbrush is made for a small mouth. So, even if the toothbrush bristles are soft, accessing different areas in the dog’s mouth will be difficult for the dog owner.
  • Presence of germs – regular toothbrushes may have bacteria or germs on them and if not cleaned properly, the bacteria or germs present on the bristles of the brush could cause infection issues for the dogs.
  • Less durable – human toothbrushes are less durable compared to dog toothbrushes. There is always the risk of the toothbrush breaking. The broken pieces of the toothbrush can cause pain to dogs and if they swallow the pieces of the toothbrush then, it can get stuck inside and trigger issues like choking, vomiting, or diarrhoea.

Tips to Use Human Toothbrush for Dogs Safely

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You had a peek at some of the prominent reasons why human toothbrushes should not be used. But, you might have to use it sometimes, especially when you are on a trip with your dog. Below are some of the tips you can consider for using a human toothbrush for dogs:

#1. Pick a toothbrush of a suitable size

The human toothbrush you have must be of suitable size. You can use a toothbrush for your furry friend and make sure that the bristles are soft. Big-size toothbrushes can cause injury to dogs’ gums, especially if it has hard bristles. Also, it won’t reach all the areas of the mouth.

A small or medium-sized toothbrush will cause toothbrush will allow you to easily access different areas of the mouth. This will provide proper cleaning but, not as good as you might get using a dog toothbrush.

#2. Apply dog toothpaste on the brush

When using a regular toothbrush for your dog, you are already compromising their dental health. So, make sure you use dog toothpaste otherwise, your dog may suffer some severe health issues. This is mainly because human toothpaste contains several toxic substances which could harm the dog.

Flouride, xylitol, and foaming agents used in toothpaste can cause liver damage, vomiting, seizures, or even death if the dog licks or ingests the paste.

#3. Use proper brushing technique

Bristles of the regular toothbrush are hard and can hurt the dog. The risk of injury is high if the dog has sensitive gums. Also, it is necessary to adjust the pressure while using the regular toothbrush. So, make sure you apply less pressure and brush your dog’s teeth in a circular motion.

While brushing your focus must be on the gum line. This is where most of the tartar and plaque buildup is. Be patient and cover all the areas of the teeth. Make sure to cover the back molars as they accumulate the most plaque and tartar.

#4. Rinse dogs’ mouths with water

Once you are done brushing your furry friend’s teeth, it’s important to rinse the dog’s mouth using water. This will make sure that the debris or residue left after brushing dogs’ teeth can lead to infection issues and compromise the dental health of the dog.

#5. Clean the toothbrush regularly

The toothbrush you use should be cleaned regularly. This is crucial as a lack of cleaning might leave bacteria on the bristles which could cause infection issues for the dogs. Also, replace the toothbrush after some time, especially if you use it more than usual to clean your furry friend’s teeth.

Drawbacks of Using a Human Toothbrush

The human toothbrush will have more drawbacks for dogs compared to benefits. Yes, they do help eliminate extreme tartar and plaque build-up but, not suitable for every dog. Some dog breeds who have strong teeth may benefit from it but not others. So, let’s analyse some of the drawbacks for dogs:

#1. Bleeding, infection, or inflammation

Hard bristles when rubbed against dogs’ gums will scratch the skin and cause swelling or bleeding in that area. In addition, the scratches on gums can also lead to infection issues in dogs. This happens as the germs or bacteria can enter the wounds or small scratches.

#2. Ineffective cleaning of dogs’ teeth

Dogs’ teeth are not cleaned properly with the human toothbrush. They are not fit for their mouth shape and size. The design of the human toothbrush is small and is fit for human mouths. Dogs have curved mouths and the toothbrush will not reach back areas of dogs’ teeth. Also, for some dogs, the toothbrush may be too small, and dog owners will have difficulty brushing their furry friends’ teeth.

#3. Bad breath, pain, or discomfort

As mentioned earlier, the human toothbrush will not reach dogs’ back teeth so, the plaque and tartar remain in the area causing issues like bad breath. So, if the usage of human toothbrushes is frequent then, it will cause more issues for the dog due to more plaque and tartar buildup.

#4. Health risks for both dog and its owner

The human toothbrush can cause issues for both the dog and its owner. For dogs, the use of a human toothbrush can impact the kidneys, heart, and liver of the dogs and lower their quality of life. The bristles of the human toothbrush can cause infection issues for the dogs particularly if they sustain catches or injuries.

The risk for dog owners is no less. If the toothbrush is not cleaned properly, the bacteria or germs residing on the toothbrush can trigger skin infections, gastrointestinal issues, and possibly respiratory infections.


How is a dog toothbrush different from a human toothbrush?

The human toothbrush is designed to clean small-sized human mouths. Dogs have curved and big mouths compared to humans. The main difference between a human toothbrush and a dog toothbrush is the size and shape of the head. A human toothbrush has a rectangular, flat, and large head whereas a dog toothbrush has an angled, small, and softer head. Also, dog toothbrushes are made such that they will clean the dogs’ teeth without damaging their gums or causing any discomfort.

Is it safe to use human toothbrushes for dogs?

No, human toothbrushes are not safe for dogs. The structure of dogs’ mouths makes it difficult for dog owners to use a human toothbrush without injuring them, and in the majority of cases, they are unable to access different areas which leaves tartar and plaque as it is. Bristles used in human toothbrushes are hard and can lead to swelling or bleeding issues in gums. Also, if the toothbrush is not cleaned properly, the germs left after cleaning the teeth can lead to severe infections.

What are the benefits of using dog toothbrushes on dogs?

If dog owners use dog toothbrushes instead of regular/human toothbrushes their furry friends will benefit hugely. The design of a dog toothbrush ensures that a dog owner can access all the areas while cleaning the teeth and eliminating germs. The bristles of a dog toothbrush are soft so, less risk of bleeding due to scratches. Dogs with sensitive gums benefit the most from a dog toothbrush.

When to use the human toothbrush for dogs?

In general, dog owners should avoid using the human toothbrush. But, if they have to, it should be their last option. This means when there is no other option or method left to clean dogs’ teeth, they can use a human toothbrush. For example, a dog’s toothbrush is damaged, and not available. or in a dental emergency. But, even in such situations, you must make sure that the human toothbrush is clean and the bristles are not too stiff. In addition, the human toothbrush should be useful in dealing with stubborn plaque and tartar buildup.

Can You Use a Human Toothbrush on Dogs – Final Take

Brushing dogs’ teeth is crucial to improve their dental health but, can you use a human toothbrush on dogs? After going through the article you must have realised that it’s best not to use. It is not recommended for dogs because of the issues it can cause to the dogs. The bristles used in a human toothbrush are not suitable for dogs. They are hard and can cause injury to dogs’ gums which then leads to bleeding, pain, and infection.

Yes, at times the last resort is using the human toothbrush, especially when you are out camping with a dog or don’t possess the dog toothbrush. In such circumstances, dog owners who regularly brush their furry friends’ teeth will have to use the toothbrush. Also, sometimes if the tartar and plaque buildup is more, stubborn then, vets might suggest using a human toothbrush to eliminate them.

So, as a responsible dog owner, make sure that you avoid using a human toothbrush to brush your furry friend’s teeth. Also, if you are using the human toothbrush for the dog under the vet’s advice or in an unavoidable situation, make sure that you are not using the human toothpaste. The human toothpaste contains toxic substances that can be fatal for dogs.

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Jacob Kay
Jacob Kay is a Veterinary Advisor and Editor at WWD. He’s also a dog lover and has two pet dogs of his own. He has extensive knowledge in the field of veterinary medicine and is always happy to share his insights with others.

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