Pets Have Teeth Too!
Imagine how your teeth would look and feel if you didn't brush them daily. The same applies to your pets teeth. Unless you are regularly providing some form of dental care, you are neglecting an important factor in the overall health of your pet.
Periodontal (gum) disease is one of the most common conditions seen by veterinarians today. The problem begins when plaque and tartar are allowed to build up on your pets teeth. Plaque harbors the bacteria which can infect gum tissue and the roots of teeth resulting in disease and tooth loss.
Besides the negative impact on the oral cavity, bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the large network of blood vessels located near the gums and teeth. Recent studies have documented that certain heart, liver, and kidney diseases may be associated with these bacteria.
Signs and Symptoms of Poor Oral Health
Persistent bad breath
Sensitivity around the mouth
Pawing at the mouth
Loss of appetite
Plaque(often not visible unless stained)
Bleeding, inflamed, or receded gums
Tartar(creamy-brown, hard material)
Loose or missing teeth
Difficulty eating or chewing food
Caring For Your Pet's Teeth
The first step in promoting oral health is to contact your veterinarian for a thorough oral examination. At this time, it may be necessary have your pets teeth cleaned above and below the gumline. Like people, animals need this professional attention on a routine basis. This cleaning may require your pet to be put under anesthesia.
Recent advancements in anesthetic techniques and materials have greatly reduced the risks previously associated with this procedure. However, if you have any concerns regarding anesthesia, please discuss them with your veterinarian.
Since toothbrushing is considered the most effective method of removing plaque, most veterinarians recommend an oral hygiene program which includes brushing your pets teeth. It is important to use a toothbrush and toothpaste designed for pets.
Pet toothbrushes are ultra-soft and shaped to fit your pets mouth and teeth. Pet toothpastes have flavors that appeal to pets and need not be rinsed. Do not use human toothpaste or baking soda. These products often contain ingredients which should not be swallowed.
When brushing is not practical, veterinarians may recommend an antibacterial oral rinse or gel for some pets. These products are formulated specifically for pets, and with daily use, they can help slow accumulation of dental plaque.
Diet can be a major factor in the development of plaque and tartar. Soft or sticky foods may contribute to plaque build-up and subsequent periodontal disease.
Dry food, biscuits, and newly-formulated abrasive diets can be helpful in removing plaque above the gumline. In addition, specially-treated abrasive dental chews are also available for both cats and dogs.
Providing your pet with these abrasive, resilient dental chews is often a good alternative for those days when you do not brush. However, only toothbrushing can remove plaque and food debris below the gumline. It is below the gumline where disease causing bacteria flourish, resulting in irritation, inflammation, and infection.
Home Care Instructions
Brushing your pets teeth is easy and doesn't take much time. The first step is to select a convenient time when you and your pet are both relaxed.
For the first few days, simply hold your pet as you normally do when petting him/her. Gently stroke the outside of your pets cheeks with your finger for a minute or two. After each session, reward your pet with an appropriate treat and lots of praise.
For the next few days-after your pet has become comfortable with this activity-place a small amount of an animal dentifrice on your finger and let your pet sample the flavor. Pets like the taste of the dentifrice and will soon consider it a treat.
Next introduce your pet to an animal toothbrush or fingerbrush. Place a small amount of dentifrice on the brush. Gently raise your pets upper lip and place the brush against an upper tooth. With a slow circular motion, gently brush only that tooth and the adjoining gumline.
Each day gradually increase the number of teeth brushed, but go slowly. Do not go beyond your pets point of comfort. Build up to approximately 30 seconds of brushing per side.
And remember, after each session, reward your pet with a treat and lots of praise. If you are having any problems brushing your pet's teeth, contact your veterinarian.
Be patient proceed slowly and gently. Use plenty of petting and praise.
Soon, both you and your pet will look forward to the time you spend together during this important health care procedure.