By Dr. Melinda Fernyhough
Dental tartar is formed by the hardening, or mineralization, of plaque, and without removal can form a thick, hard layer on your pet’s teeth. Heavy tartar accumulation is removed during a dental cleaning from a veterinarian. However, just like people, your pet needs at-home dental care between cleanings. Here are several methods of at-home tartar prevention for your pet and some helpful hints:
– Daily brushing with a toothbrush and pet toothpaste is the gold standard.
Although daily cleaning is optimal, any cleaning is better than no cleaning at all.
The more often you clean your pet’s teeth, the healthier his or her teeth and gums will be.
– For dogs, regular chewing on an abrasive surface, such as a rawhide or chew toy, is also helpful in mechanical removal of plaque.
– The use of food, biscuits, and treats specially formulated for dental benefits to combat between-cleaning tartar buildup is helpful.
– Be sure your pet has an annual dental checkup with your veterinarian.
– Know the signs of poor dental health: bad breath, yellow-brown crust, bleeding gums, and reluctance to eat (signs similar to poor dental health in humans).
– Various toothbrushes, sponges, and pads are available for both cats and dogs.
Choose whichever one works well for your pet.
– If your pet is resistant to toothbrushing at first, start slowly by using a washcloth just to wipe off surface food particles and gradually work your way to the use of a pad, sponge, or toothbrush.
– The addition of veterinary-prescribed dental additives to your pet’s water or teeth may be beneficial for those pets who never enjoy toothbrushing.
– Pet parents often overlook cat dental hygiene. A recent online survey showed that it is highly unlikely that cat guardians would brush their cat’s teeth daily. Adding foods and snacks that are clinically proven to block tartar and plaque formulation to a cat’s diet will certainly help. Adding tartar-removing snacks like Hartz Crunch ‘n Clean treats to a cat’s daily diet can make a major difference in the pet’s dental health and help reduce the risk of dental disease.
– Good at-home dental maintenance begins immediately after a professional cleaning. Because plaque buildup begins immediately after teeth are cleaned (tartar begins within 72 hours), annual pet dental checkups alone do not ensure good dental hygiene. Regular professional cleanings combined with daily Hartz Crunch ‘n Clean—two biscuits twice daily for dogs and five treats twice daily for cats—will ensure optimal dental health.
—Melinda Fernyhough, D.V.M., Ph.D., is the manager of scientific affairs, research and development, at Hartz Mountain Corporation.