February is National Pet Dental Health Month, which means it is a good time to brush up on how to care for your pet’s teeth. Are you paying enough attention to your dog or cat’s oral health? We want our pets to have minty mouths for our own sake, but more importantly, good dental hygiene is a must all year round, if you want your pet to live a long and healthy life.
Keeping our pooches’ breath fresh and teeth pearly white is even more important for disabled pets, whose health and immune systems might be compromised. Here is what you need to know to give your dog the best chance for a healthy mouth.
The importance of National Pet Dental Health Month from an expert
According to Dr. Jan Bellows, a board-certified veterinary dentist, most adult dogs and cats have periodontal disease. The reason for this is “when gingivitis is left untreated, it will progress to periodontitis, which is non-curable.”
Ignoring your pet’s oral hygiene can lead to potentially life-threatening heart, liver, and kidney disease, as Dr. Bellows explains, “Oral disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem for pets, with most dogs and cats becoming affected by age 3.”
In an average day, a dog licks, chews and sometimes swallows multiple bacteria-laden items, such as toys and even feces. These bacteria, if ignored, fester inside your pet’s mouth, and create a breeding ground for plaque and tartar. Once this matter begins to accumulate, it becomes more difficult to remove, causing soreness, bad breath, and irritation around the gum line.
However, removing the debris from around the teeth and gums is not enough, as dental disease occurs just below the gum line.
Signs to watch for that your pet’s mouth may need extra attention
Here are key symptoms of pet dental disease:
- Bad breath – A foul or musky scent may mean trouble for your four-legged friend, so don’t ignore that stinky smell when your pup licks hello.
- Bleeding gums and yellow or brown teeth – These are signs a problem is lurking beneath the surface of your dog’s mouth.
- Pawing at the mouth – This may be your pet’s way of signaling discomfort. In addition, keep an eye out for any loose or missing teeth.
What are my options for keeping my dog’s mouth free of germs?
Pet owners have many ways to keep their pet’s mouth fresh:
- Get a professional cleaning – A comprehensive oral exam and cleaning by your veterinarian is a sure way to prevent dental disease. Professional cleanings can range in price from $200 to $600, but often clinics run specials during Pet Dental Month. Check with your veterinarian about how often your pet needs a professional cleaning.
- Brush your dog or cat’s teeth – This is the Number 1 best way people can help prevent dental disease in their pets. Brushing should be done on a daily basis. Use a soft-bristled pet toothbrush or a finger toothbrush, along with vet-approved toothpaste.
- Dental wipes – These are a quick and easy way to ensure your dog’s mouth is getting the attention it deserves. Keep these on hand and use them daily. Dental wipes are especially helpful if your dog doesn’t have excessive buildup of tartar on their teeth.
- Massage those gums – Show your dog or cat some love by putting yummy flavored pet toothpaste on the tip of your finger and massage their gum line. Once your fur-baby feels relaxed you can do a quick exam of their teeth and mouth.
- Enlist the help of your groomer – If you are having trouble cleaning your dog’s teeth ask your groomer for help. Groomers often include tooth brushing for a small extra fee. This service is a good way to stay on top of your pet’s overall oral health, but keep in mind that a deep professional cleaning may be necessary from time to time.
- Dental chews – Reward your pet with veterinary approved dental chews to keep their teeth clean. Chews do not replace brushing, but they help remove food and tartar. but Check out our list of Veterinary approved chews for dogs and cats below.
Helpful links to explore
Here are some helpful links about how to make a difference to your pet’s oral health during National Pet Dental Health Month and beyond:
A video that shows how to correctly brush your pet’s teeth
Remember, the most important aspect of keeping your dog’s mouth healthy is to find a routine that works for you. Set aside a specific time each day to clean your dog or cat’s teeth and make the experience calm and enjoyable.
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