Imagine going for weeks without brushing your teeth or years without visiting the dentist. That’s how pets feel when their oral hygiene is overlooked by their owners. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, around 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of canine periodontal disease by age 3. Dental disease can lead to bad breath, problems eating, tooth loss, and painful oral infections. Dental disease can also cause systemic infections that attack major organs, including the liver, kidneys, and heart. Since these issues worsen with age, it’s imperative to be proactive about your four-legged friend’s oral health. Below are a few tips to improve your pet’s dental health and ensure each pet kiss is fresh.
Start a Brushing Regimen
Many owners avoid brushing their pet’s teeth because they think it’s too challenging or simply not important. While your furry friend may not be too fond of the idea at first, canine tooth-brushing is not as challenging as it seems. With patience and plenty of treats, you can easily train your pet to tolerate or even enjoy having their teeth brushed. First, choose a dog or cat toothbrush or soft brush that fits over your fingertip. Be sure to get pet-specific toothpaste as standard toothpaste contains ingredients toxic to dogs and cats.
Take it slow and move from the top to bottom and from front to back. When first starting, focus on getting your pet used to your finger brush. After your pet has learned to tolerate brushing, daily tooth brushing is recommended to remove bacteria-containing plaque from their teeth. If that isn’t feasible, brushing at least once a week can be effective.
Buy Tartar-Fighting Chew Toys and Dental Treats
Chew toys are a great way for your pet to satisfy their natural instinct to chew and also relieve boredom. Chewing also benefits your pet’s dental health. The gnawing creates friction along the gum line and helps to scrape plaque from your pet’s teeth. Be sure to get chew toys that are an appropriate size and durable. Look for VOHC – veterinary oral health council – approved toys to ensure they will be safe and effective. Ensure you also replace them as they wear down.
Like chew toys, dental treats are a good way to improve your furry pal’s oral health through the mechanical action of chewing. These treats help reduce plaque and tartar. Sometimes they contain ingredients that clean your pet’s mouth and freshen their breath. Again choose a treat that has VOHC approval. Dental treats come in a variety of shapes, sizes, textures, and flavors, so you’re sure to find something your pet loves.
Monitor Your Pet’s Diet
There’s no perfect diet that suits every pet, but the food you give to your furry pal can factor into their overall dental health. If your pet has continued trouble with plaque buildup, try using specially formulated dry foods that will help to wear away plaque and tartar. Some pet foods inhibit the growth of bacteria and the formation of plaque. Your vet can recommend the right diet for your pet, so make sure you seek their advice before making any major diet changes.
Setup Routine Checkups and Professional Cleanings
Cleaning your pet’s teeth daily helps to control plaque and tartar, but it may not be enough to protect against dental disease. Your pet should receive a thorough oral exam and professional cleaning annually. With your pet under anesthesia, the vet can remove all traces of plaque and tartar on the teeth and under the gumline. However, you’ll want to schedule an appointment sooner if you notice:
- Loose, discolored, or broken teeth
- Swelling or bleeding around the mouth
- Abnormal drooling or chewing
- Constant bad breath
- Misaligned or missing teeth
- Change in eating or chewing habits
- Bumps within the mouth
- Red, inflamed, or bleeding gums
- Reduced appetite or reluctance to eat hard food
- Pawing at face or mouth
- Yellowish-brown tartar accumulation along the gum line
Your vet will recommend dental X-rays to examine tooth roots and determine if there are any signs of dental disease under the gum surface. Root canals, seals, braces, and other advanced dental treatments with a dental specialist can also prevent complications and save your pet’s teeth.
Naples Coastal Animal Hospital can provide you with quality exams and procedures to help improve your pet’s dental health and fight against dental disease. Contact us to book an appointment or to ask any questions about pet dental care.