Health and Fitness

Oral Pet Health: Maintaining Your Pet’s Teeth

Show Me That Smile

When you’re a kid, you hate the dentist but love getting a balloon and lollipop at the end. As an adult, you resentfully tolerate the poking and prodding of sharp instruments along your sensitive little gums. When you’re a cat or dog, you don’t want anything in your mouth except food and treats (and maybe a toy).

But despite your pet’s disdain for dentistry, you’ve got to be a responsible parent and keep tabs on your pet’s teensy teeth.

Dental data to chomp on

  • Our kitties and puppies can experience the same dental duress that we do – tartar, plaque, and periodontal disease.
  • Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition in cats and dogs, and it’s totally preventable.
  • About 80% of dogs have developed periodontal disease by age 3, and it happens 5 times more often in dogs than in humans.
  • Other than stinky breath (gross!) it’s really tough for owners to notice signs of periodontal disease.
  • The real trouble begins when plaque and tartar spread underneath your pet’s gum line and damage the supportive tissue around her teeth.

Consequences of neglecting pet oral care

Your pet’s teeth should be examined at least once a year by your vet, but sooner if you notice that she’s got icky breath, discolored teeth, wiggly teeth, drooling, red/ bloody gums, problems picking up her food, or she shies away when you touch her mouth or head.

These could all be signs that your pet’s got toothy troubles, and needs treatment. Also, watch out for changes in her behavior — if she’s irritable, it could indicate that she’s in pain.

Periodontal disease can lead to a bunch of bad-news issues, like gum recession, bone loss, bone infection, loose teeth, fractured jaws, and abscesses. Even worse, if left untreated, your pet could develop heart, kidney or liver disease — a serious “snafu” that may have been avoided with proper oral care. Keeping her teeth up to snuff is a total no-brainer!

Dog Smile

What you can do at home

As a loving doggy dad or meow mom, your best line of defense is preventative care. Make sure you’re consistent about her check ups and cleanings.

If anything’s amiss, get it treated immediately. And you probably didn’t envision dental homework when you filled out your pet’s adoption papers, but home hygiene efforts will go a long way!

1. Brush On Up

Pets probably hate it even more than you did when you were a child, but brushing is the most effective way to minimize plaque and tartar in her meowy mouth.

Kitties and puppies can become accustomed to having their teeth brushed, but patience is key. Start slowly and proceed gently.

Hint: If your furry babe is just not having it, try a finger brush.

Extra hint: Did you know you can buy pet toothpaste? Yep, it even comes in palatable favors, like poultry and seafood – just don’t get it mixed up with your toothpaste!

2. Rinse And Repeat

This option can be trickier for humans with fussier pets, but rinses and gels are super efficient anti-plaque deliverymen.

Chlorhexidine (an antibacterial agent) clings to tissues and tooth surfaces, eventually seeping into oral cavities and providing protection. The rinse gets squirted inside your pet’s cheeks, while the gel gets smeared along her teeth. Finicky pets may not like it, but give it a shot – some furry babes don’t mind once they get used to it.

3. Good Gobbles

Certain dental-specific diets could help in slowing the buildup of tartar and plaque. Consult your vet for recommendations and always choose the best quality food available.

4. Chew, Chew, Chew

For dogs, chewing is a fabulous method to scrape away plaque and tartar while they have fun. Stock up on chew toys and chew sticks.

Added bonus: Spread peanut butter on a rubber chew toy and let the gnawing ensue.

Remember, the best way to keep your pet’s teeth in tip-top condition is long-term dental diligence – putting in a short burst of effort is not enough. (Kinda like doing your homework all throughout the semester, versus cramming 2 hours before a test.) If you’re an A+ parent and routinely tend to your pet’s oral needs, you can always get to the “root” of any tooth turmoil!

Kimberly Tronic
Kimberly Tronic Marketing Mgr