When you wake up in the morning, do you avoid your spouse until you’ve brushed your teeth and banished morning breath? Imagine being unable to brush your teeth, not for simply one morning, but for months or years. That is how your furry friend feels—although they don’t seem to mind when they lean in for a stinky smooch. Bad breath is one of the first dental disease signs in pets, caused by lingering oral bacteria. Only a few hours after eating, sticky plaque forms a slimy layer on your pet’s teeth that hardens into cement-like tartar in a few days, trapping the oral bacteria in and around the gumline. These bacteria create not only foul breath, but can also lead to systemic infection, because they leach into your pet’s bloodstream and attack major organs, particularly the heart. To keep your four-legged pal healthy, and ensure each sloppy pet kiss is fresh, try the following easy ways to boost your pet’s dental health.
#1: Train your pet to accept toothbrushing
The single best way to care for your pet’s teeth at home is to introduce toothbrushing. Ideally, you should brush your pet’s teeth as often as you do your own, although it may prove more difficult in the beginning. Train your pet to accept toothbrushing by first offering a small amount of toothpaste on your finger, and then a dollop squirted onto a baby toothbrush, finger brush, or pet-friendly toothbrush, once your pet realizes it’s a tasty treat. Give your pet’s teeth a quick scrub, focusing on the outer surfaces, since the tongue will work to clean the inner surfaces. Once you’re done, your furry pal will enjoy the toothpaste left behind.
When teaching your pet to accept toothbrushing, remember to use pet-safe, fluoride-free toothpaste designed for pets, which comes in a variety of flavors designed to entice your furry friend into enjoying dental care.
#2: Implement an at-home dental care routine for your pet
You wouldn’t go to the dentist only twice per year and never brush your teeth at home, right? You shouldn’t do the same for your pet, either. At Medina Veterinary Clinic, we pride ourselves on removing every last chunk of tartar from your pet’s teeth during a dental cleaning, but plaque begins to form only a few hours after eating, and a daily at-home dental care plan is also necessary, to attack plaque before it can harden into tartar.
Twice-daily toothbrushing is the gold standard of at-home pet dental care, but some pets cannot be convinced to allow you to brush their teeth, so here are other ways to battle plaque and tartar:
- Oral rinses
- Dental wipes
- Water and food additives
- Prescription dental diets
The most important part of at-home dental care for your pet is implementing, and sticking with, a routine. If you allow too many days to pass without removing plaque, it will harden into tartar, which will require professional help to remove.
#3: Learn the dental disease signs in your pet
Although most pets have dental disease by age 3, many pet owners fail to realize it. Learn to detect the signs of hidden periodontal disease before they become painful problems. Dental disease signs include:
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Brown or yellow tartar accumulation on teeth
- Excessive drooling
- Pawing at the face
- Reluctance to eat hard food
- Dropping food when eating
#4: Choose oral care products proven to be effective for your pet’s dental health
When it comes to oral care products for your furry pal, not all products are created equal, and many claims of being the most effective at banishing bad breath and plaque are simply not true. For products proven to slow plaque and tartar accumulation, look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s seal of approval. A list of research-backed products that can slow plaque and tartar growth can be found on the council’s website.
#5: Schedule routine oral exams and dental cleanings for your pet at our clinic
Occasionally, your four-legged friend will need professional care at Medina Veterinary Clinic, to tackle tough tartar buildup. Your toothbrushing regimen at home can remove plaque from the visible crowns, but can’t clean below the gumline. Since as much as 60% of each tooth lies hidden under gingival tissue, a thorough dental cleaning under anesthesia is needed, to eliminate all traces of plaque and tartar. By investing in routine oral exams to search for hidden periodontal problems, and comprehensive dental cleanings to return your pet’s mouth to a fresh slate, you can help ensure your pet will have a healthy smile for years to come.
Does your pet’s breath leave something to be desired? Give us a call to schedule a dental appointment, and freshen up your furry pal’s kisses.