We spend quite a bit of time caring for our teeth—twice-daily brushing and flossing, mouthwash, and dentist visits all work together to ensure our pearly whites remain healthy. But, what do you do to keep your pet’s teeth in tip-top shape? Here are seven ways to care for your furry pal’s oral health.
#1: Check your pet’s mouth regularly for dental disease
Without knowing what to look for, detecting dental disease in your pet can be difficult. During your routine peeks at your pet’s teeth, check for these signs that may indicate periodontal disease:
- Red, inflamed gums
- Brown or yellow plaque, and tartar accumulation
- Bad breath
- Oral masses
- Recessed gums
- Loose or missing teeth
- Cracked or broken teeth
Gingivitis is usually the first dental-disease sign seen in pets’ mouths, as the bacteria in plaque irritate and inflame the gums. You may also notice your pet exhibiting the following behaviors that may indicate dental disease:
- Pawing at the mouth
- Chewing on one side of the mouth
- Dropping food when eating
- Acting hungry, but unable to eat
- Crying in pain when eating
- Sensitive when touched around the head
Pets are highly skilled at hiding signs of pain or illness, so dental disease may be advanced before you notice an issue, which is why routinely checking your furry friend’s oral health is critical.
#2: Treat your pet with dental health chews and treats
You likely give your pet a daily treat, so why not ensure the treat provides dental-health benefits? Of course, not any treat or chew—ensure it’s stamped with the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s seal of approval. The products displaying this seal are guaranteed to slow plaque and tartar accumulation.
#3: Switch your pet to a prescription dental diet, if necessary
Occasionally, toothbrushing, regular dental cleanings, and dental treats and chews simply aren’t enough to battle poor genetics or anatomy. Some pets will develop plaque and tartar faster than you can keep up with, while some will not tolerate toothbrushing. Switch these pets’ food to a prescription dental diet, which is designed to allow deeper penetration by the tooth before crunching apart, cleaning teeth up to the gumline.
#4: Use a dental-health additive to your pet’s food and water
Multimodal treatment plans work best, regardless of your pet’s health condition. When it comes to dental health, you want to tackle tartar from every angle, which makes additives for your pet’s water and food an excellent idea. Liquid additives for your pet’s water contain solutions designed to kill oral bacteria, while food additives have powerful enzymatic cleaning properties that work like toothbrushing.
#5: Develop an at-home toothbrushing regimen for your pet—and stick to it
Daily toothbrushing—or twice-daily toothbrushing—is the best way to prevent plaque and tartar formation in people, and in pets. Only hours after eating, plaque’s sticky, bacteria-laden film coats your pet’s teeth and quickly hardens into cement-like tartar. By regularly brushing your pet’s teeth, you scrub away plaque before it can develop into tartar.
#6: Schedule routine dental-wellness exams for your pet
Sometimes pets are like children, and will behave better for people who aren’t their parents. Despite your best efforts, your furry child likely won’t cooperate when you try to evaluate her dental health, so call in the professionals. During your pet’s dental-wellness exam, we will examine her mouth thoroughly, checking for signs of periodontal disease, oral masses, and other abnormalities that need to be addressed. If your pet will not let us look in her mouth either, we will recommend proceeding to a dental cleaning where we can safely evaluate her oral cavity while she’s under anesthesia.
#7: Invest in preventive dental cleanings for your pet
The single best thing you can do for your pet’s dental health is to provide routine, preventive dental care, rather than doing nothing until she has a problem. Most pets have some form of dental disease by age 3, so add prophylactic dental cleanings to your pet’s wellness care, based on her breed, age, and oral anatomy, as early as possible. Some pets may need twice-yearly dental cleanings to avoid painful problems, while other pets may need their teeth deep-cleaned only every couple of years. In addition to cleaning, we take dental X-rays of every tooth to ensure no hidden issues are lurking below the gumline, where up to 60% of each tooth lies. With regular dental procedures, we can monitor your pet’s dental health and treat problems before they cause unnecessary pain.
For a thorough evaluation of your pet’s dental health, contact us to schedule an appointment.