We humans don’t think twice about brushing our teeth every day and going to the dentist every six months for a cleaning, but what about our pets’ dental care? Research indicates that at least 85% of our pet dogs and cats have dental disease by the age of 3yrs old. Since pets only live a quarter or less of the time we humans do, it would make sense that if you are not brushing your pets teeth daily and having regular cleanings, the cumulative effects would occur sooner.
Why is Dental Care Important for Pets?
If we do not regularly disinfect our mouths and brush away the plaque, the plaque will mineralize into tartar (also called calculus – gritty material that the dental hygienist scrapes away). Tartar is solid and gritty, and blocks oxygen from bathing the outer tooth and thus changes the nature of the bacteria that can live around the tooth. Inflammation and tenderness result. Over time, calculus builds up, gingivitis occurs, and periodontal disease worsens and leads to pain and tooth loss. Worse still, the bacteria of the mouth can seed other areas in the body, leading to infection in the heart, liver, kidney or virtually anywhere the bloodstream carries them.
How to Prevent Periodontal Disease in Pets
Fortunately, there is a lot we can do to prevent periodontal disease and the rules are basically the same whether the teeth belong to a pet or to a human being: Professional Cleaning and Home Care. Expect your pet to need a professional teeth cleaning throughout their lives, and expect general anesthesia to be necessary for each tooth to receive proper attention and care. Home care is ideally a daily part of tooth maintenance but even brushing just twice a week can remove most plaque before it can mineralize into tartar. Not every pet is amenable to hands-on oral care and not every person’s schedule is amenable to it either, so there are some lower maintenance options which we will review as well.
It is a good idea to become comfortable opening your pet’s mouth and looking inside. Lift the lip and look at the teeth, especially the back teeth. Open the mouth and look at the inside of the teeth and at the tongue. If you have pets of different ages, compare what you see inside. Many pet owners have never looked at their pet’s teeth and are surprised at what they see. If your pet is cooperative, get used to working with your pet’s mouth as this will be central to home dental care and will help you assess your pet’s oral situation.
Once you are comfortable with examining your pets mouth (or not for you chickens out there), have your veterinarian check it too! Your veterinarian can make recommendations on your individual pets care.
Pet Dental Care Tips
Here are four simple things that you as a pet owner can do to reduce development of dental disease:
- Daily teeth brushing with finger brush and pet toothpaste (not human!) – these come in a variety of flavors like chicken or vanilla mint
- Dental toys – these are usually rubber toys with nubs that you can put the pets toothpaste in and allow your dog to “brush” their teeth when chewing on a toy. You can find these easily on Amazon – search for dental dog toy
- Dental chews/treats – these are chews/treats that encourage your pet to chew and usually contain enzymes to help break down plaque. These should be given daily and should be an appropriate size for your pet. Good brands are CET, Oravet, and Greenies. AVOID THE USE OF RAWHIDES, COW HOOVES, AND PIGS EARS
- Dental diets – these diets are made specifically for dental care. They are usually larger kibbles and higher in fiber so that the teeth sink into the kibble to allow scrubbing of the teeth. These diets only help the chewing teeth – the molars and premolars – and not the canine teeth or incisors, as they are not used for chewing.
When to See Your Vet for Pet Dental Care
Please seek veterinary care if you notice any of the following in your pet:
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Broken tooth/teeth
- Excessive drooling
- Reluctance to eat, especially dry food, or to play with chew toys
- Chewing with or favoring one side of the mouth
- Pawing at or rubbing the muzzle/mouth
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Loss of symmetry of the muzzle and/or lower jaw
- Swollen/draining tracts under (or in front of) the eye
- Sudden change in behavior (aggressive or withdrawn)
- Chronic eye infections or drainage with no exact cause or cure
- Inability to open or close the mouth
- Chronic sneezing
- Discolored tooth/teeth
- Abnormal discharge from nose
- A mass/growth in the mouth
Contact Compassionate Animal Care Today
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, consult your veterinarian! If you’re looking for a veterinarian in Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, Gilbert, or Chandler, we offer mobile vet and vet clinic appointments. Please call 480.774.6995 to schedule a clinic appointment with Compassionate Animal Care in Queen Creek today, or call 602.359.2031 for a mobile vet appointment within the East Valley.