Maintaining good dental health is just as important for our pets as it is for us. Unfortunately, many pet owners overlook this aspect of their pet's overall health. In fact, dental disease is one of the most common health problems seen in dogs and cats. Tartar and bacterial build up on the teeth can lead to gum disease, oral pain, tooth abscess and can even affect the heart, liver, and kidneys.
The first step in maintaining your pet's dental health is to establish a regular dental care routine from day one. Anyone that has tried to brush their pet’s teeth before will agree that this is no easy task. The pet does not understand what or why this is happening to them and can often resist having their teeth brushed at home. Starting at a young age to teach a puppy or kitten to accept brushing can help avoid combative teeth cleaning sessions in the future. Tooth brushing should be incorporated as part of a training regimen for all puppies and kittens.
Routine dental care for your pet should include daily tooth brushing with supplemental dental health treats in moderation. Tooth brushing is one of the most effective ways to keep your pet's teeth clean and healthy. Use a soft-bristled brush and a toothpaste specifically formulated for pets. Never use human toothpaste, as it can be harmful to your pet. Avoid toothpaste that has the following ingredients as they can cause harm to your pet: Xylitol, Baking Soda, and Fluoride. Start by letting your pet smell and taste the toothpaste, and then gradually work up to brushing their teeth.
Dental chews are also a great way to keep your dog’s teeth clean. These treats are designed to scrape off plaque and tartar as the pet chews. Be sure to choose a dental chew that is the appropriate size for your pet and always supervise them while they are chewing. Other dental treats such as Milkbone Brushing Chews, Greenies, and Hills Prescription T/D have been proven to help slow the buildup of tartar on dog and cat teeth. The Veterinary Oral Health Council has tested multiple products claiming to help with oral health in dogs and cats and will put their seal of approval on those proven to help. When purchasing dental health treats for your pet, look for treats with the VOHC seal to be sure it will be safe and effective.
There are also certain things to avoid giving your dog or cat that can worsen their oral health. Certain toys and treats can cause significant wearing or fracture of teeth which can cause pain, infection, and expensive extraction. Things that can cause damage to pet teeth include tennis balls, antlers, synthetic and natural bones, and compressed rawhide.
Annual dental cleanings by your veterinarian are also important in maintaining your pet's dental health. Your veterinarian will be able to clean your pet's teeth, remove plaque and tartar, and check for any signs of dental problems that may require further treatment. Oral rinses may also be recommended after dental cleanings to help with bacteria in a pet’s mouth if periodontal disease is found.
In addition to these preventive measures, it is also important to watch for signs of dental problems in your pet. These can include bad breath, difficulty eating, drooling, and changes in chewing habits. If you notice any of these signs, it is important to take your pet to the veterinarian for an examination.
In summary, maintaining your pet's dental health is an important part of their overall well-being. Establishing a regular dental care routine, including daily tooth brushing, using dental chews, and regular dental cleanings, is essential in preventing dental problems. In addition, it is important to watch for signs of dental problems and to take your pet to the veterinarian if any are noticed.