Preventative Pet Dental Care for your Pet

Perhaps one of the greatest gifts of love an owner can give a pet is a commitment to a regular home dental program. A home pet dental prgoram should accompany an annual (or more often, if indicated) veterinary dental exam and professional cleanings as recommended by a veterinarian. There are two basic responsibilities involved in home pet dental care - daily tooth brushing and a monthly exam of the mouth. With a little practice, most owners develop the patience and the skills necessary to effectively care for their pets’ teeth at home.

Pets of any age can benefit from regular teeth brushing. Begin getting your pet used to touching the mouth by gently stroking the outside cheek area while holding him or her in a comfortable position. Repeat this step for a few days or longer if necessary. Reward your pet with praise. 

Purchase a pet toothpaste containing enzymes to control plaque and fluoride to fight bacteria (human toothpastes are inappropriate), such as the type available from our Animal Hospital. Remember to pick up a pet toothbrush too. Dog toothbrushes should have a long handle, an angled head and extra soft bristles. A smaller pet toothbrush is better for cats and little dogs. Some owners prefer using a finger toothbrush that fits over the tip of their finger, such as the one we often give to patients during our National Pet Dental Health Month (February) celebration.

Introduce toothpaste to your pet by putting a small amount on your finger and letting him or her lick it off. What a treat! Remember to praise good behavior. Now you are ready to introduce the toothpaste on a cloth soaked in warm water. Daily for the next two weeks, rub the toothpaste on in a circular pattern across the front and back of all teeth.Then transition to using the pet toothbrush with toothpaste. Soon this daily task becomes a ritual that includes well deserved praise.

To enhance your pet’s tooth brushing, you can feed a diet designed to prevent dental tartar, such as Hill’s® Prescription Diet® Canine or Feline t/d® brand food. Owners can serve Canine or Feline t/d® as a full meal or as daily treats for their pets. Ask for your veterinarian’s approval and feeding quantity instructions before purchasing Canine or Feline t/d®. Pets with certain medical conditions or strict diet requirements cannot eat this food. Serving pets larger than recommended quantities of tartar control diet does not increase the benefits of the food, but instead may contribute to a weight gain. 

Additionally, OraVet sealant and oral hygiene chews for dogs and cats greatly enhance a home pet dental program. OraVet, applied weekly with a simple applicator, maintains the professional sealant applied during the the dental prophy or cleaning. The oral hygiene chews contain enzymes that help control tartar and plaque, are easy to digest and taste great too. 

The second part of a good pet dental program is to conduct a monthly exam of your dog or cat’s mouth. Sound daunting? It does not have to be, and with a few tips from the Animal Hospital, anyone can do this like a pro. Begin by placing your pet in a relaxed, secure position and examining the face for unusual lumps or bumps. Feel around the neck and below the ears for swelling.

Next, take a whiff of your pet’s breath. Gently pull the lips back to expose the side of his or her teeth. If there is a foul odor, it could signal the presence of gingivitis, periodontitis, or other dental problems or diseases related to another area of the body. Should the odor persist more than a few days, then it is a good idea to contact our office for an appointment with the veterinarian.

Look at the teeth for fractures. Always take care not to give your pet any object harder than the tooth to eat or chew, for it can cause a fracture. A broken tooth creates an avenue for infection and bacteria to travel down the root into the bloodstream, where it can spread to the heart, kidneys and liver and cause serious health problems.
While praising your pet for cooperating, gently press and check for movement. Tell your veterinarian if an adult pet has loose teeth. Puppies and kittens should have all adult teeth by six months of age.

Healthy gums appear pink. Pets with red or inflamed gums or those that respond to the application of light pressure to the area with an expression of discomfort probably have a dental problem requiring veterinary care. 

For more information about pet dental care, please contact the Animal Hospital medical staff.

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