Pet Dental Care: The Home Edition
There are definitive ways to prevent periodontal disease, but like other facets of health, the journey starts at home. Sure, it can be an uphill battle to convince some pets that daily tooth brushing can be fun, but routine pet dental care, both at home and in the veterinarian’s office, sets the stage for long term health and wellness.
Setting the Tone
One reason for annual wellness checks is the opportunity to look inside your pet’s mouth. A quick flip of the lip can be informative, but it really is only one piece of the puzzle. We might be able to quickly ascertain that some level of dental disease is present because of bleeding or inflamed gums, or foul-smelling breath.
More Than Meets the Eye
The majority of damage from periodontal disease occurs beneath the gum line. In other words, we can’t see it without the help of dental radiographs. A moderate to heavy accumulation of tartar (especially on the back molars) can direct a recommendation for digital x-rays.
See Clearly Now
Periodontal disease, when detected by x-rays, is characterized by bone loss, broken teeth, tooth loss, and receding gum tissue. Without yearly professional cleanings and routine pet dental care, diagnosed pets live with intense pain. What’s worse, oral bacteria can infect the body’s major organs, causing illness in the liver, heart and kidneys.
Getting Started at Home
Regular brushing, when introduced as a fun, rewarding activity, can keep your pet feeling and looking their absolute best. In fact, it can be just one more thing you do together that supports the bond between you.
You’ll need to purchase the correct supplies, and you might have to try a few different products before they finally accept the act of teeth brushing. Start with these:
- Pet-safe toothpaste (never human toothpaste!)
- Small, soft-bristled toothbrush
- Washcloth of gauze squares
Place a small amount of pet toothpaste on your finger tip to introduce your pet to the flavor and texture. Over time, graduate to the washcloth or gauze and finally to the toothbrush.
Start at the back of the mouth, concentrating on the molars with small circular movements. Pay close attention to the gum line where plaque builds up. Increase brushing up to a few minutes every day.
- Conduct the exercise after your pet eats, plays or works out.
- Give loads of praise and encouragement.
- Have patience, it can take a few weeks before this becomes a “non-event”.
Pet Dental Care Alternatives
If your pet is resistant, don’t force them. Instead, try various dental treats or diets approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. Furthermore, water additives, gels, sprays, or wipes can limit the growth or oral bacteria and improve pet dental care at home.
Remember, while there are numerous dental chews that are considered safe, antlers, hooves, bones and even rawhide can damage teeth (and some can add unnecessary calories!).