Every year when February rolls around, a public campaign designed to increase awareness of the importance of promoting our pets’ dental health commences as part of Pet Dental Health Month. As a vet who loves teeth, I am passionate about the fact that this is a topic we need to focus on each day.
In our practice, we are very passionate about our pet patients having healthy teeth and mouths. Gum disease and obesity are the two most common illnesses we see. But while both conditions are entirely preventable, the negative consequences typically associated with them are often lasting.
It’s important that pet owners establish a daily routine to minimize the amount of bacterial accumulation in their pet’s mouth. First, this can be accomplished by daily brushing. Yes, there is toothpaste for dogs and for cats.
As a veterinarian passionate about teeth, these are my top tips for keeping your pet’s teeth in top shape.
Just as you need your teeth professionally cleaned, so does you’ your pet. This is far more than brushing. While your pet is under anesthesia for the cleaning, your veterinarian should take dental x-rays. Without this important oral diagnostic tool, it is impossible to assess the health of the roots and surrounding bone, which is vitally important in determining a tooth’s overall health and need of treatment beyond cleaning if necessary.
In addition, dental x-rays are important in screening cats for a painful disease known as tooth resorption, which is a condition for which all adult cats should be assessed.
Ideally, tooth brushing should be performed every day. We recommend using a toothbrush and toothpaste specially designed for pets. Human toothpaste contains fluoride and foaming agents that may be toxic or upsetting to your pet’s stomach if ingested. It’s not necessary to use a paste, though it does help with better cleaning, and although the poultry or beef flavoring may be helpful in encouraging good behavior when brushing.
You only need to brush the outside of the teeth, and it only needs to last 20-30 seconds to be effective.
A daily treat of some kind that helps clean that teeth is also important. But remember, treats such as hard plastic bones, real bones, cow hooves, antlers, and bully sticks are too hard for your pet and may cause tooth fractures.
Dental treats that have received the Registered Seal by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) are recommended. The VOHC is an organization that determines which products meet preset standards of plaque and tartar/calculus retardation in dogs and cats.
If you are concerned about a product you are interested in using, talk with your veterinarian about it – Does it work? Will it cause any issues?
Look at every day as an opportunity to promote your pet’s dental care. Start now and commit to making your pet’s mouth and internal organs a priority during juvenile, adult, and senior life stages. Your pet’s longevity and quality of life depends on it.