Today, I want to discuss the importance of oral hygiene for our dogs and cats. You brush and floss your teeth every day and visit the dentist twice a year, right? Well, your pet's teeth are just as important as your own. Like humans, pets can suffer from periodontal disease if their teeth and gums are left uncared for. Let me give you a quick little back story as to why I want to discuss this today.
Recently, my baby had to go to the vet for tumor removals (non-cancerous) and a teeth cleaning. Unbeknown to me, he had to have several teeth removed including a broken one that was becoming infected and causing his horrible bad breath. I had no idea! (Our pets are remarkable at hiding their pain and discomfort). I felt like such a bad mom for not knowing. Had he not had this procedure, under anesthetic of course, he could have suffered severe health issues later on. Thankfully now he is in good health with just a slightly crooked smile.
"Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition in adult dogs and cats. The disease includes gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontitis (loss of bone and soft tissue around the teeth). If left untreated, the effects of the disease include damage to or loss of gum tissue and bone around the teeth, development of a hole (‘fistula’) from the oral cavity into the nasal passages causing nasal discharge, fractures of the jaw following weakening of the jaw bone, and bone infection (‘osteomyelititis’). Bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and are carried around the body. Studies in dogs have shown that periodontal disease is associated with microscopic changes in the heart, liver, and kidneys. " American Veterinary Dental College
If your pet has severe tartar or large amounts of plaque build up, professional deep cleaning, scaling, polishing, and sometimes removal by a vet are often the necessary courses of action. Home care too is essential in helping to prevent periodontal disease and keeping your pet healthy and happy.
Regular brushing with pet-specific toothbrushes and tooth paste is the front line of defense. Toothbrushes designed for pets are soft and angled to help reach the back teeth. Some prefer finger brushes, which are pretty self explanatory, little rubber brushes that slip on your finger.
Toothpastes come in tasty flavors such as poultry and seafood. Single use dental wipes are also available to remove plaque from the outside of the teeth. Some pets won't accept brushing right away, (did you as a kid?), but with gentle, gradual approaches, they learn to tolerate it. Don't give up, just be consistent and gentle. However, if they continue to resist, there may be underlying health concerns that should be addressed by your vet.
A final note on home care: do NOT use toothpastes designed for humans. These contain abrasives and high foaming detergents that pets should not ingest.
As always, discuss all treatments and processes with your veterinarian prior to beginning any regimen.