We are focusing our client information during the month of February on things related to pet dental health. One of the most important aspects of caring for your pet’s teeth is to focus on prevention of problems before they occur by incorporating some dental home care into your routine.
The first step is to remember to look in your dog or cat’s mouth on a regular basis. By doing this, you will be able to recognize when a problem is occurring; broken teeth, a bad smell or red gums are examples of things that warrant further attention. In addition to these checks done at home, it is also important that a veterinarian examine your pet’s mouth regularly, which is done as part of any complete physical examination. Veterinarians have a unique, dual role as your pet’s doctor and dentist and can help to identify problems and create appropriate treatment plans.
What else can you do to prevent dental problems from occurring?
Brushing your pet’s teeth on a regular basis will remove plaque (a bacterial film) from the teeth. The buildup of plaque will lead to the formation of tartar and eventually cause the development of gum and bone infections. We would recommend that you brush your dog or cat’s teeth daily or, at minimum, a few times per week. If this is a process that they are not familiar with, take your time, be patient and be generous with treats and rewards. There are toothpastes and brushes designed for pets, which are designed to make the process more appealing to the animal and insure that they do not swallow anything that may be harmful.
There are many good sources of information on ‘how to brush your pets teeth’ including this link here. Please remember that it is not a good idea to start brushing the teeth after the pet has dental issues. If the process is painful at all, it will not be a nice experience for the pet and they will not allow you to do it. It is best to start brushing the teeth when the mouth is healthy (in a puppy or kitten or immediately after a professional cleaning).
You can sometimes help to reduce plaque and tartar in your pet’s mouth by using rinses and/or gels that target bacteria on the teeth. There are many different products like this available (some good and some poor) and we are happy to try to find the right fit for you and your pet. There are also a number of dry diets marketed to help in the control of dental problems and we strongly advocate these diets when they are suitable for a pet. A good guide for any dental products is to look for the seal of approval from a group called the Veterinary Oral Health Council (www.vohc.org) which is dedicated to testing foods and treats to be marketed for dental care. If it does not carry this seal, it is likely not doing much to help the teeth!
The last component of oral care (especially in dogs) is to consider toys and other treats that promote healthy chewing. It is important to remember that you need to select things that are not going to damage the animal’s teeth. We would recommend that you avoid very hard toys such as natural and nylon bones, deer antlers, large rawhide bones and dried hooves as these will commonly fracture teeth. Chew toys such as rubber ‘Kongs’ and rawhide strips are safer if used appropriately.
A combination of home dental care, a good diet and regular professional exams will help to protect your dog or cat’s oral health, and therefore, their overall well-being. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.