How many times a day do you brush your teeth? Once a month? Once a week? Once or more a day? We know that good oral hygiene is important to the health of our teeth and gums. The same is true for your pet. Statistically 8 out of 10 dogs suffer from dental disease by the time they are three years old and the statistics for cats aren’t any better. Dental disease is the most commonly diagnosed issue in adult pets and it’s completely preventable. Left untreated dental disease has been linked to other diseases such as kidney and heart failure. So what can you do to help your pet have a clean, healthy mouth?
Brushing your pet’s teeth daily is the gold standard for keeping your pet’s teeth healthy. Many pet owners think that brushing their pet’s teeth is difficult, but with a little training it can be a daily habit that your pet looks forward to. All you need is either a soft bristled toothbrush with a handle or one that slips over your finger and some toothpaste formulated for pets. Don’t use toothpaste formulated for people!
Start by introducing your pet to the toothpaste. You can do this by using it as a treat. Just put a little on your finger and give it to them. Then try putting a little on the toothbrush and letting them lick it off. Once they are used to the toothbrush and toothpaste you can begin lifting their gums and brushing their teeth. Just do a small area at first and work up to doing their whole mouth. Focus mainly on the outside of the teeth and next to the gum line. Some pets will take longer to get used to the process than others, but most pets will accept teeth brushing without fuss and many will look forward to it.
If brushing doesn’t fit into your pet care routine, then there are several diets that are formulated to clean your pet’s teeth as they eat. Hill’s Prescription Diet T/D and Royal Canin Dental diets are good examples. Dental diets have the benefit of essentially brushing your pet’s teeth every time you feed them without having to do anything other than putting food in the bowl. Dental diets work great, but have some downsides. They are quite a bit more expensive than a toothbrush and toothpaste. Also pets that require a specialized diet (such as for urinary issues) can’t eat them.
There are many products available that can help to keep your pet’s breath fresh and teeth clean. Just a few examples include Oravet Dental Hygiene Chews, CET Chews, and Hill’s Prescription Diet Dental Care Chews. While not as good as daily brushing or dental diets, they can help reduce the buildup of tartar. Some products do a better job than others. Keep in mind that if your pet is on a restricted diet (due perhaps to urinary issues, being overweight, or allergies) that oral chews could potentially interfere with those diets.
There are products available that you simply rub or squirt on your pet’s teeth and they can help prevent tarter buildup and keep their teeth and gums healthy. Most of the time if your pet will tolerate this then they will tolerate brushing and you’ll achieve better results with a toothbrush and toothpaste.
Professional Dental Cleaning
All the brushing, dental chews, rinses, and specially designed food in the world will not remove tartar buildup that has already accumulated on your pet’s teeth. Also some animals are more prone to having bad dental health. If your pet has tartar buildup, bad breath, painful gums, or loose teeth, they need to be evaluated by a veterinarian for a professional dental cleaning. For this procedure your pet will be placed under anesthesia so that the veterinarian can safely and thoroughly evaluate your pet’s teeth and gums. This will include dental x-rays to see below the gum line. The doctor will extract any teeth that need to be removed due to damage or disease. Tartar buildup will be removed with and ultrasonic scaler and the teeth polished. Many clients mention to us how much better their pet feels after having a dental cleaning performed! Dental health really does have an impact on your pet’s overall health and happiness so be sure to follow up a dental cleaning with good preventative dental care.