Up to 85% of pets have dental disease by age 3, and this serious condition often takes root in small breeds and flat-faced pets even earlier. Fortunately, you can combat your pet’s plaque, tartar, and dental disease development in many excellent ways. Here are five actions that will improve your pet’s dental health.
#1: Examine your pet’s mouth regularly for dental disease
Knowing dental disease warning signs is crucial for preventing systemic infection in your pet. Left untreated, oral bacteria can leach into your pet’s bloodstream, causing systemic infection and heart, liver, and kidney damage. Keep a close eye on your pet’s mouth by flipping up their lip and checking their teeth, gums, and other oral tissues for the following issues:
- Brown, grey, or yellow tartar buildup on the teeth
- Bad breath
- Red, inflamed, or bleeding gums
- Gingival overgrowth
- Ulcers or sores on lips or gums
- Abnormal masses
- Excessively worn, broken, or loose teeth
Dental disease indicators can also be seen in your pet’s changed behavior, such as:
- Reluctance to play with toys
- Refusal to eat dry food or treats
- Licking only the juice from canned food
- Chewing on one side of the mouth
- Dropping food while eating
Many pets do not show dental disease signs until their condition is severe and causing significant pain. Also, pets are excellent at hiding early-stage disease, which makes regularly examining your pet’s mouth all the more important.
#2: Brush your pet’s teeth daily
The single best way to slow dental disease progression at home is through daily toothbrushing. A brush cannot remove oral bacteria from below the gum line, but can remove sticky plaque before the substance hardens into dental calculus (i.e., tartar). Plaque begins accumulating only a few hours after your pet eats, and then hardens into tartar in about 24 hours. Tartar, once formed, is virtually impossible to remove through toothbrushing, and requires a professional dental cleaning.
Begin acclimating your pet to toothbrushing at home by gently introducing a soft-bristled brush and pet-friendly toothpaste. Let your pet lick the toothpaste from the brush before trying to scrub their teeth. Once your furry pal realizes the brush provides treats, they will be more accommodating, although they may try to lick the brush the entire time.
#3: Choose appropriate dental health care products for your pet
As you scan the pet-store shelves that contain all the dental care products, you likely are overwhelmed at the number of options, and deciding on the best product for your pet’s oral health can be difficult when you are faced with so many choices. Don’t be drawn in by brightly colored packaging—look for a product’s Veterinary Oral Health Council’s (VOHC) seal of acceptance, which means that product has been proven effective in slowing plaque and tartar accumulation. Therefore, certain dental chews, treats, toothbrushes, toothpastes, dental wipes, food and water additives, and prescription diets are clearly the best options for your pet’s dental health.
#4: Avoid giving your pet dangerous chew toys
Providing your pet with entertainment in the form of chew toys is a great enrichment activity, but some chew toys are best left on the shelves. As a rule of thumb, if the item hurts when bounced against your knee, or you cannot make a dent with your fingernail, the item is too hard for your pet. This guideline throws out antlers, bones, hooves, and some rubber or plastic toys. Your pet may be a power chewer who destroys every item, but shredded toys are a small price to pay in exchange for unfractured teeth.
Sticks and tennis balls are other popular options for dogs, but these items also can cause significant damage. Sticks can splinter and pierce your pet’s gastrointestinal tract when chewed and swallowed. The felt on tennis balls, especially when they’re wet and full of sand or dirt, wear away enamel, leaving the teeth unprotected. Instead of these chew toys, fill a rubber Kong with peanut butter or your pet’s favorite snack for entertainment and a special treat.
#5: Schedule regular oral exams and professional dental cleanings for your pet
Depending on your pet’s breed, size, and previous dental health history, they may need more frequent oral exams and professional dental cleanings than the recommended annual visit. An anesthetized oral exam provides the best opportunity for a full evaluation of your pet’s dental health, followed by a teeth cleaning and treating any problems.
One of the best ways to improve your pet’s dental health is through regular oral exams performed by your All Creatures Animal Hospital team. Give us a call to schedule your furry pal’s appointment.
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