Your Pets’ Oral Health is Critical

February was National Pet Dental Health Awareness Month.

Were you even aware of that? If not, you’re not alone. Many conscientious pet lovers don’t take adequate care of their furry friends’ teeth.

Dental disease is all too common, affecting as many as 80% of dogs and 70% of cats by their third birthday. Many have plaque or tartar (hardened plaque) build-up. They may have red, inflamed, and infected gums, a condition called gingivitis. Pets can also suffer from periodontal disease, which is damage to the tissue around the teeth.

Dogs don’t often get cavities, but cats can suffer from FORL: Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions. These are cavities that form at the gum line.

Brush your pets’ teeth regularly.

Cavities, gingivitis, plaque, periodontal disease, and tartar are all conditions humans can suffer from as well. Brushing your teeth helps keep them healthy.

The same is true of your pets. Ideally, you should brush your pets’ teeth every day. But even a couple of times a week helps a lot.

You must use a toothpaste that is specially formulated for pets. Pets aren’t going to spit out toothpaste; they’ll swallow it. Human toothpaste contains ingredients that are harmful to pets. There are a variety of flavors of pet toothpaste: finding one your pet likes, or will at least tolerate, will make brushing much easier.

You can use a pet toothbrush or a human toothbrush, as long as it fits your pet’s mouth. If your pet doesn’t like a toothbrush, there are finger toothbrushes you can use. You can also just wrap a piece of gauze or cloth on your finger and use it to brush the teeth. If your pet will not allow any kind of brush, you can try a dental spray.

Start gradually and when your pet is young.

As much as your pets love you and your attention, they may not be too keen on you sticking your hand in their mouths. Start by letting your pet taste the toothpaste. Begin brushing the front side of just a few teeth close to the front of your pet’s mouth for a few seconds. Gradually brush more teeth. You don’t need to spend very long brushing, nor do you need to brush the backs of the teeth. Give your pet a treat before and after brushing.

Check out the mouth.

Glance at the inside of your pet’s mouth, the gums, and the teeth. Look for any sores. The gums should be pink: if they are red, swollen, gray, or have sores or pus, getyour pet to the vet. Also, look for any broken or loose teeth.

Give your pet hard food.

Harder food leaves less build-up on the teeth to turn to plaque. Be sure to include some hard food or treats in your pet’s diet.

Give dental treats and toys.

There are a number of treats and toys specifically designed to help clean teeth. Give your pets these items to help clean their teeth as well.

Watch for signs of dental distress.

Dogs and cats tend to mask their pain. Some signs of dental issues include excessive drooling, bad breath, reluctance or refusal to eat hard food or treats, bleeding gums, or not letting you touch the mouth. Take your pet to the vet if you notice any of these symptoms.

Include a dental check-up in your well-care visits.

Be sure your vet does a dental check-up as part of your pets’ routine medical visits. Your vet can check for proper jaw alignment, baby teeth which haven’t yet fallen out, and other issues. Just like your dentist does a routine cleaning on your teeth once or twice a year, your pet may need to have a more thorough cleaning done on a routine basis.

Dental issues left unattended can cause a lot of pain in your pet, can possibly cause organ damage, and can shorten your pets’ life. You can avoid many of these issues by simply taking care of your pets’ teeth on a regular basis. This small investment will pay you back with more years of happy smiles, tail wags, and purrs from your favorite fuzzy friends.

photo by Randy Hair

Keep a kit on hand.

Putting together a dental kit will make it easy for you to everything you need handy. Get a small container for your pet’s toothpaste, toothbrush and a finger toothbrush. Keep one or two dental treats or chews in the kit to give your pet afterward so you can keep your pets’ teeth pearly white and healthy between cleanings.

photo by Randy Hair

Meet the Author: Pam Hair

Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.

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