Are you overlooking dental care for your pet?

October 15, 2015

Why your pet’s mouth & tooth health matters— and how to do it right

Have you taken a look in your cat or dog’s mouth recently?

Oral hygiene for our pets is often overlooked, but is a very important factor in their overall health. About 85% of dogs and cats over the age of 4 are suffering from some degree of periodontal disease, a painful oral condition that can lead to infection and loss of teeth.

dental health for dogsPeriodontal disease is characterized by red inflamed gums, odor, and tartar on the tooth surface. Left untreated, bacteria from dental disease can enter the bloodstream and lead to infection of the heart, kidneys or liver.

But the good thing is, these complications are preventable! All you need is some at-home dental care, cleanings and professional check-ups!

Establishing an oral care routine with your cat or dog won’t happen overnight, and let’s face it— it’s not always easy to add another task to your already long to-do list. Ideally, you want to introduce dental care when your pets are young, but it is never too late to start!

Just take a slow, patient approach and make sure to make it a rewarding experience. (Treats go a long way to winning them over.) If you can’t do it every day, aim for at least 3 times a week.

First, you want to spend some time handling your pet’s head and mouth. Don’t be discouraged when things don’t go well at first. It can take time to gain your pet’s trust! Start by offering a tasty flavored pet toothpaste on your finger and rubbing her teeth and gums. Reapply the paste as needed, trying to move aside the lips to expose more of her teeth.

Over time, try to increase the number of teeth you can reach, including the ones in the very back. Use a gentle circling motion along the gumline. And once you feel comfortable with your fingers, you can try a soft bristle toothbrush, finger brush, or even a piece of gauze or cloth.

There are also a wide variety of dental treats and chews, which are designed to help reduce plaque and bacteria build-up in the mouth. You can use them to supplement your at-home dental care routine. Look for the “VOHC-approved” stamp on the dental care and chew products, which means they meet the tooth cleaning protocols established by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.   

Most importantly, if you’re not sure what is going on in your pet’s mouth, are concerned about how things look, or need oral care guidance— ask your veterinarian! They can guide you through a customized oral care plan for your pet and help to diagnose any problems that already exist.  

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