Consistent, quality dental care is just as important for your pet’s health as it is for yours. You brush your teeth daily, floss, and see the dentist for regular cleanings and checkups. You take care of any cavities or other dental issues as needed. You are proactive about your dental health, because you know dental issues can not only worsen if neglected but that they can also be more difficult and costly to address later on.
The same is true for your pets. Regular, preventive dental care is key to good overall health, and to help maintain a full set of teeth and pain-free mouth. Periodontal disease, or more commonly, dental disease, is the gradual destruction of the teeth’s support structures, i.e. the gums and jawbone, over time. It starts with the accumulation of plaque that hardens into tartar, both above and below the gum line. Plaque and tartar above the gum line can usually be easily seen and removed, but accumulations below the gum line are much more damaging and challenging to treat.
Periodontal disease affects as many as 80% of dogs and 70% of cats as early as 3 years of age. It can lead to swollen and bleeding gums, loose teeth and tooth loss, pain and discomfort, difficulty eating, and infection and disease in other parts of the body, such as the liver and kidneys. Dental disease is the most common clinical condition in pets, and it is completely preventable. Improving your pet’s dental health is one of the best ways to prolong their life.
With February being pet dental health month, now is a great time to think about your pet’s oral healthcare routine. Although it is something we should all be doing for our pets all year round, when life gets busy things tend to fall by the wayside. Or maybe, like many pet owners, you are unaware of what you should be doing for your pet or unsure how to start caring for your pet’s teeth. The good news is that it is easy to start caring for your pet’s teeth with three easy steps:
Take a sniff
Bad breath is one of the first and most recognizable signs of dental disease in pets. If your pet has strong, foul-smelling breath, they probably have dental disease.
Flip a lip
Flip up your pet’s lips and check for plaque and tartar build up, and red, inflamed and/or bleeding gums. If you see these signs your dog may have early stages of dental disease.
See your veterinarian
Bring your pet into the veterinarian for a wellness check and dental examination. Regular exams can help to identify dental disease early and treat signs before they become irreversible. Your veterinarian will also be able to recommend an appropriate treatment plan for any dental issues they diagnose, as well as an at-home dental care routine for your pet.
To take care of your pet’s teeth at home, there are a number of products available and things you can do to maintain good oral care for your pets:
Brush your pet’s teeth daily
This is the gold standard for pet dental care. Although this may seem daunting or difficulty, with a consistent and gentle approach, most pets will become agreeable to daily teeth brushing- patience and training are key. Be sure to use a toothbrush specially formulated for your type of pet and their size, as well as toothpaste formulates specially for animals. Human toothpaste has ingredients in it that can make pets sick if swallowed.
Oral rinses and gels
These are similar to mouthwash for humans, but designed for dogs. They usually contain chlorhexidine, and effective anti-plaque agent that is safe for dogs to swallow.
Specially-formulated diets and chew treats
These usually have a specific kibble design and/or anti-tartar ingredients to help remove plaque from the teeth and reduce the formation of tartar.
These can help with plaque control, but must be chewed frequently and for extended periods of time to be effective
These are added to your dog’s drinking water, and are designed to reduce plaque and tartar as your dog drinks and the additive coats his teeth.
Look for products that have the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of acceptance when considering dental health products for your pet. These products have been proven to slow the development of plaque and/or tartar in pets.
With some patience and persistence, and the help of your veterinarian, it is possible to take good care of your pet’s dental health. Committing to providing quality and consistent dental care for your pet will help them live a longer, healthier and pain-free life!