Consistent, quality dental care is just as important for your pet’s health as it is for yours. You brush your teeth daily, floss (when you remember!), and see your dentist for regular cleanings and checkups. You take care of cavities, gum disease, and other dental health issues as needed. You are proactive about your dental health, because you know dental issues can not only worsen if neglected, but that they can also be more difficult and costly to address later on. Not to mention that gum disease can increase the risk of developing heart disease.
The same is true for your pets. Regular, preventive dental care – both at home care and regular veterinary dental cleanings – is key to good overall health, and to help your pet maintain a full set of teeth and pain-free mouth.
But just what is periodontal disease? Dogs and cats don’t usually get cavities like we humans do, but as many as 80% of dogs and more than half of cats over the age of three have some form of dental disease. Periodontal disease is the gradual destruction of the teeth’s support structures (i.e., the gums, ligaments, and bones) over time. It starts with the accumulation of plaque that hardens into tartar, both above and below the gum line and can lead to swollen and bleeding gums, tooth loss, pain and discomfort, difficulty eating, and disease in other parts of the body, such as the heart, liver, kidneys.
With February being Pet Dental Health Month, it’s a great time to think about your pet’s oral healthcare routine and book an appointment with your veterinarian for a dental check.
To take care of your pet’s teeth at home, there are a number of products available and things you can do to maintain good oral care for your pets:
Brush your pet’s teeth daily. This is the gold standard for pet dental care. Although this may seem daunting or difficulty, with a consistent and gentle approach, most pets will become agreeable to daily teeth brushing. Patience and training are key. Be sure to use a toothbrush designed for pets, as well as toothpaste formulated for animals. Do not use human toothpaste, as it contains ingredients in it that can make pets sick if swallowed.
Dental diets and chew treats. These usually have a specific kibble design and/or anti-tartar ingredients to help remove plaque from the teeth and reduce the formation of tartar. Speak to your veterinarian for more information on the different types of diets and treats available.
Chew toys. These can help with plaque control but must be chewed frequently and for extended periods of time to be effective. Ensure that the toys are not too hard, as some harder chew toys can break your pet’s teeth.
Water additives. These are added to your dog’s drinking water designed to reduce plaque and tartar as your dog drinks.
Look for products that have the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of acceptance when considering dental health products for your pet. These products are effective in slowing plaque and tartar when used as directed.
With some patience and persistence, and the help of your veterinarian, it is possible to take good care of your pet’s dental health. Committing to providing quality and consistent dental care for your pet will help them live a longer, healthier and pain-free life!