Your Pet's Teeth and How To Keep Them
Dental disease is the most commonly diagnosed disease in dogs and cats. The American Veterinary Dental Society reports that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have dental disease by 3 years of age. The bacteria associated with dental disease can place pets with dental disease at higher risk for kidney, liver, and heart disease. Many dental problems are very painful but, unfortunately, the pet suffers without showing enough evidence for owners to realize they are in pain.
Ideally, dental health for dogs and cats will start when they are puppies and kittens. The easiest time to keep their teeth healthy is before dental disease starts. Here are some preventative measures you can take to reduce or prevent plaque buildup:
- Brushing: No product or activity is more beneficial than brushing your pet's teeth. If you brush them as little as 2-3 times a week (daily is ideal), you can dramatically decrease the risk of dental disease. (A step by step guide on teeth brushing can be found at the end of this post).
- Foods: Purina DH is a diet that is specifically formulated to help remove plaque from your pet's teeth while eating it. Hill's T/D is another good dental diet. Both are great options as treats. Ask our staff for more information.
- Oravet: This product can be applied to your pet's teeth after a professional dental (or on a pet as young as 6 months, typically at time of a spay or neuter). It is then touched up at home on a weekly basis if yo purchase the Home Care Kit. The product acts as a sealant to prevent plaque from sticking to the enamel. It is especially helpful in small breed dogs at highest risk for dental disease.
- Chews: A variety of chew treats exist that help reduce plaque. Products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) have been shown to remove both plaque and tartar.
A critical part of keeping your pet's teeth healthy is having them examined every year (twice a year for seniors). If needed, your vet will be able to schedule a dental cleaning. This professional cleaning will greatly improve your pet's oral health. The best way to continue your pet's oral health following a dental cleaning and to reduce the number of future dental cleanings is to follow the preventative measures above. Additional medication or products may be recommended for specific patients and conditions. If bad breath ever returns, please contact our office for an oral exam. Bad breath should not be present; it is a sign of disease and should be addressed. Please know that 1/2 of the pet's tooth is below the gumline making some conditions impossible to detect without dental xrays which is one of the reasons we recommend doing these, especially if your pet is older, in need of extractions, or has unexplained mouth pain.
How to Brush Your Pet's Teeth
Step 1 - Select an appropriate time: Find a quiet, convenient time when you and your pet are both relaxed.
Step 2 - Acquaint your pet with the process: For the first few sessions, don't even use a toothbrush. Hold your pet the same as when you are cuddling them. Gently stroke the outside of their cheeks with your finger. After they become comfortable with that, place a dab of toothpaste on your finger and let them taste it.
Step 3 - Introduce the Toothbrush: Place a small amount of toothpaste on the brush. In a slow, circular motion, brush one or two teeth and the adjoining gum line. The purpose of this step is to get your pet accustomed to the feel of the brush.
Step 4 - Begin Brushing: Over the next several days, gradually increase the number of teeth brushed. It is important to eventually brush the rear teeth where plaque and tartar have a greater tendency to accumulate. Go slowly and gently. Stop brushing before your pet begins to fuss. If they learn to dislike the procedure and find out that more fussing makes you stop quicker, then brushing with get harder, not easier. Build up to about 30 seconds per side. Pet's don't get much tartar on the inside surfaces of their teeth so you only need to worry about the outside surfaces. Be sure not to miss the big teeth way in the back.
Make tooth brushing a pleasurable experience!
Proceed slowly and gently. Stop each session while it is still fun and lavishly praise your pet afterwards. They will soon start looking forward to tooth brushing and it will become a pleasant activity for both of you. Don't forget, you need to brush at least several times each week to get as much benefit as you can!