As if we, as pet parents, didn’t have enough to worry about when it comes to our kitty and canine companion’s health, it’s now widely known that dental disease can lead to a variety of health issues for our furry friends. A recent study found 80% of dogs and 70% of cats over the age of three suffer from some degree of periodontal disease. And if that weren’t bad enough in itself, every time a pet with periodontal disease chews, his bloodstream gets infiltrated with bacteria that proceeds to lodge in the liver, heart and kidneys, leaving a wake of damage and disease in its path. That’s got to be the worst of it, right? WRONG! Periodontal disease can also lead to feline resorptive lesions (lesions just below the gum line), fractured teeth and tooth root abscesses, all of which can cause excruciating pain for our furry friends. So what can you do to prevent such damage, disease and distress for your pet? Here are some helpful suggestions:
Start brushing your pet’s teeth at an early age. If you start brushing when Fluffy or Fido is still young, s/he will become acclimated to the strange sensation and learn to be accepting and unafraid. But what if you adopted your pet at an advanced age, or didn’t become aware of the importance of dental health until recently? Don’t despair ~ old dogs (and cats!) CAN learn new tricks.
- Schedule brushing sessions at the same time and place, and make it fun and rewarding for your pet.
- Start with baby steps. Let your pet lick the flavored toothpaste (only use toothpaste made specifically for pets) from your finger or from the toothbrush. Then brush a few teeth. Reward your pet with treats during the process.
- Keep in mind, you only need to brush the outside surfaces, as your pet’s tongue will keep the inside surfaces clean.
Feed your pet dental dog food between brushings. Diets specially formulated to address dental health are a significant assist in controlling plaque and tartar between your pet’s dental cleanings. This type of food is larger than normal kibble and has a fibrous texture that acts like tiny sponges that wrap around your pet’s teeth, helping to remove plaque bacteria. You can find this specialty food in your local pet supply store, or ask your vet for a prescription option.
Give your pet something to chew on. Dental chews are widely popular these days, but how do you choose the right one for your pet? An ideal dental chew must be digestible, effective in decreasing tartar build-up and, ideally, low in calories. Chews shaped with a twist, and/or that contain nubs or ridges, are designed to help clean down to the gum line like the bristles on a toothbrush. Avoid giving your pet bones, hooves, antlers and nylon toys as they may cut the gums or break the teeth.
Schedule regular dental check-ups with your vet. During your pet’s annual health check with your vet, discuss your pet’s possible need for a dental cleaning. Just like with your own dental health, prevention is key, and it’s better to perform a teeth cleaning when only mild tartar is present rather than wait for a serious problem to develop.
Follow these suggestions to maintain good dental health for your faithful friend and prevent disease before it becomes a problem. This will, in turn, help save you money on possible vet bills resulting from periodontal disease and/or its serious effects, and keep your pet happy, healthy and smiling for joy.