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Pet Dental Care – An Important Part of Your Pet’s Overall Good Health

National Pet Dental Health Month takes place every February and helps raise awareness with pet owners about the importance of keeping up with your pet’s dental care.  Poor dental hygiene can lead to a painful mouth and serious health problems for both cats and dogs.  Being proactive about your pet’s dental care can really make a difference in preventing dental disease, tooth pain and increasing your pet’s quality of life. 

What Types of Dental Disease Do Pets Get?

Dental disease is quite common in dogs and cats.  Pets suffer from plaque buildup, which leads to periodontal disease.  Over 85% of dogs and cats have some type of periodontal disease.  Periodontal disease (meaning that the gums and bone that hold the teeth are being destroyed by oral bacteria) begins with gingivitis, or inflammation of the gum tissue, which is caused by plaque. Plaque is a mixture of saliva, bacteria, glycoproteins, and sugars that adhere to the tooth surface.  Pets can also suffer from fractures/broken teeth, development problems, trauma, and oral tumors.  Cats may suffer feline tooth resorption.

Why is Dental Care So Critical To My Pet’s Health?

As a pet parent, you certainly want them to have a healthy mouth. Below are five reasons why good dental care is so critical to your pet’s overall health:

  1. Preventing bad breath.
  2. Preventing tooth loss. When the structures supporting a tooth become damaged or infected, the teeth loosen and fall out. Good dental care will ensure that those teeth-supporting structures stay healthy and keep the teeth in place.
  3. Preventing oral pain. Dental disease, especially when it’s severe, can be quite painful.
  4. Preventing organ damage. Bacteria in the plaque can enter the bloodstream and spread to the heart, kidneys and liver. This spread of bacteria, called bacteremia, can damage organs and make an animal quite sick.
  5. Preventing worsening dental disease. It can be difficult to prevent dental disease from developing completely. However, routine dental care can prevent dental disease from becoming severe and causing problems throughout the body.

How Can I Improve My Pet’s Oral Health?

First and foremost, bring your pet to us for an annual dental exam and professional cleaning.  If you suspect a problem, do not wait for your annual exam to give us a call.

Brush your pet’s teeth at home.  Brushing your pet’s teeth will remove plaque.  Daily brushing is ideal, but brush as many times as you can if daily brushing is not possible. It is never too late to start brushing your dog or cat’s teeth.  It is easier to start when your dog is a puppy and your cat is a kitten, but even old pets will permit you to brush their teeth if you start gradually.  We also recommend using a specially formulated dental rinse and food. Please ask us if you need instructions on brushing your pet’s teeth, or if you have any other questions.

How Do I Start Brushing My Pet’s Teeth?

Let your pet smell and lick pet toothpaste on your finger.  Never use human toothpaste, as the ingredients can be toxic to pets.  Pet toothpaste comes in pet friendly flavors like chicken, beef, seafood, and peanut butter.

Once your pet is licking the pet toothpaste, begin to rub your pet’s teeth.  Once you have found a toothpaste flavor your pet likes, place a tiny amount on your finger and briefly rub the paste across the gums (in a circular motion if possible) to give your pet the sensation of brushing.  You are not actually trying to clean your pet’s teeth at this point, just getting your pet used to the routine. 

Introduce the pet toothbrush when your pet is easily allowing you to rub the paste across his or her gums.  Squirt a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on a pet toothbrush or a finger brush, and gently brush your pet’s teeth and gum line using a circular motion. Although both types of brushes remove plaque, a traditional toothbrush may be more effective in removing plaque at the gum line.

Patience is a must when you are starting an oral hygiene routine. It may take a week or two until you can progress from one step to another.

Choose Tooth-Friendly Foods and Treats

Some types of foods, treats, gels, sprays, and additives are specially formulated to prevent plaque and tartar build-up. Talk to us about the best foods and products for good oral health.

We look forward to seeing you and your pet’s pearly white teeth in February!

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