Chances are you brush your teeth everyday right? So why should it be different with your dog or cat? Truth is, it shouldn't. Few pet owners revel in the thought of brushing their dog or cat's teeth, but awareness of the importance of doing so and overall pet dental health is growing quickly.
If your pet has bad breath and/or discolored teeth that might signify a serious health problem with potential to damage not only its teeth and gums but internal organs as well.
Other signs your pet may have a problem in its mouth or gastrointestinal system and should be checked by a veterinarian inlcude:
- Excessive drooling
- Inflamed gums
- Tumors in the gums
- Cysts under the tongue
- Loose teeth
Your veterinarian will tell you periodontal disease is extremely common in both dogs and cats, and it's not limited to older pets. Periodontal disease can occur in pets as young as three years old, cause serious health issues if left untreated and is the most common clinical condition in cats and dogs even though it's completely preventable. Your pet's dental care will affect its lifespan, so it's not something to ignore.
That's why the American Veterinarian Medical Association has declared each February National Pet Dental Health Month to bring awareness to the importance and significance of taking good care of your pet's health by not ignoring their teeth and gums.
Test Your Knowledge
Take this fun quiz about your pet's dental health and see what you know and/or don't.
Watch and Learn
If you think brushing your dog and/or cat's teeth will be too hard, watch the short video below. It's amazing how this veterinarian (who demonstrates on both a cat and dog) makes it look so easy. He gives step-by-step instructions on how to brush your pet's teeth plus you'll see other healthy toys and treats that keep your pet's teeth clean. Click here to watch the video.
Brushing Your Pet's Teeth - Do's and Dont's
- Never use human toothpaste because the foaming agents in fluoride can upset your pet's tummy. Pet stores sell special flavored toothpaste and finger toothbrushes that will make the job easier.
- Pet toothpaste comes in beef, chicken and other flavors that'll make the process more palatable for your dog and/or cat.
- Gradually introduce your pet to the toothpaste and toothbrush before you start brushing its teeth. Your pet will adapt much better to having its teeth brushed if you do this.
- Use treats, rewards and lots of praise. Once your pet licks the toothpaste off the brush, give him/her a treat.
- Once your pet allows you to brush its teeth, always reward the process with his/her favorite treat and offer lots of praise so the pet associates teeth brushing with positive affirmation and goodies.
- Brush up to about 30 seconds and move quickly to prevent your buddy from becoming restless.
- Focus more on the outside of the teeth as the inside is less likely to contain plaque build-up.
- Stroking the side of your pet's face while pulling its lips back is an effective way to get access to his/her teeth and gums.
Use Pet Dental Products, Toys and Chews
The pet industry has responded to this need by introducing a lot of really good products geared at helping you keep up with your pet's dental hygenie.
- You can buy a water additive that will help keep your pet's teeth in good condition.
- Pet toothbrushes and toothpaste make a world of difference. Don't use human toothpaste.
- There are a number of special treats and toys that clean your pet's teeth.
- Rawhide is good in that when your dog chews it, the mechanical action on the teeth helps clean them but check with your vet to make sure your dog should have rawhide.
- Ropes are good because when your pet chews on them it also causes the mechanical action on the teeth that cleans them.
- Certain rubber chew toys that contain a treat in the center work well because your dog's teeth get a good scrubbing as he/she works for the treat. Get toys with rubber ridges around them for this purpose.
- There are green treats specific to teeth cleaning for both dogs and cats that don't break down as pets eat them, so they have to chew them to ingest them and this works great for teeth cleaning.
As with anything you buy, there are brands that work better than others. If you purchase an inexpensive one and it does not work, try a better product. The good ones really work but the market is ripe with cheaper and less effective options. Read ingredient labels to make sure the product is right for your pet.
Don't Cheat Your Pet Out of Good Oral Health
While February is National Pet Dental Health Month, dental health should be a daily ritual for pet owners all year long. It's understandable that many owners are busy and this might not be possible, so there are hands-off oral care options available in stores, but those should be used in addition to brushing as often as time permits since brushing is the gold standard.