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Many pet owners are not aware that their pets need regular dental care just like people do. They may just consider bad breath to be part of living with a pet. It may be assumed that a normal part of the aging process is for their pet to lose teeth. When you consider that people brush their teeth daily and go to the dentist for cleanings twice a year but dogs and cats may never have any dental care whatsoever, it’s no wonder that they develop bad breath and dental disease. However, it doesn’t have to be this way! In fact, dental care is an important part of a pet’s preventative health care (as well as treatment in cases of dental disease).
And while fresh breath and pearly white teeth are pleasant, there are also more important aspects of dental care. Tartar buildup and gingivitis can lead to painful infections of the gums and teeth. This can lead to abscesses and damaged teeth which require extraction. Gum recession can cause otherwise healthy teeth to become loose and fall out.
In addition to affecting the structures of the mouth, dental disease can also lead to infection of internal organs including the heart, liver and kidneys and cause major problems over time. This occurs when infection in the mouth enters the bloodstream and is then spread throughout the body.
So now that you know the importance of dental care for your pet, you may be wondering just what you can do to help. First, let us emphasize that the only way to get rid of tartar build-up is to have your pet come in for a professional cleaning. Attempting to scrape tartar off at home leaves a roughened surface on the enamel of the tooth which actually creates an even better opportunity for more plaque and tartar to form. This scraping also does NOT clean under the gum line (as does the ultrasonic scaler used during a professional cleaning). Not to mention the risk of injuring your pet’s gums if they wiggle or jump at just the wrong time. This is one of those things that you really shouldn’t try at home! However, there are products for home use that can be used as a preventative measure.
Regular use of preventative care products will slow the development of dental disease and extend the length of time between needed professional dental procedures. Some of these products include pet toothpaste, CET chews, rinses and Aquadent water additive.
When using toothpaste it is important to use one that is made specifically for pets. Human toothpaste is not meant to be swallowed and I’ve yet to see the dog that has been taught to rinse and spit. It is also most beneficial to select one that is enzymatic, meaning it works without having to physically scrub your pet’s teeth with a brush. All that is needed is to place a small amount on your fingertip and smear it along your pet’s gum line. It helps kill the bacteria that allows plaque formation and causes gingivitis.
CET chews are coated with the same sort of enzyme as the toothpaste and work in the same manner, except it is your pet’s chewing which gets the product into his mouth where it is needed. Chews for dogs look like rawhides, while chews for cats are small and round and come in fish and poultry flavors. It is important to note that particularly for cats, other “dental “ or “tartar control” treats that rely on the cat chewing a hard, dry kibble may not be as effective. This is because cats have teeth that are designed to hold and tear their food, not to grind, so they often will eat such treats whole or shatter the treat with one crunch.
There are also rinses available that are made to be gently squirted along the gum line and are formulated to cling to your pet’s teeth where the product kills bacteria and keeps plaque from forming.
Another easy option is the Aquadent water additive. You simply add a small amount of concentrate to your pet’s drinking water once a day. As your pet drinks, this acts like a mouthwash and can be particularly good for keeping the gums healthy.
All these products are conveniently available at our office. Our staff will be happy to assist you in selecting the best products to use for your pet and also with any dental health questions you may have. Schedule an appointment today!