Even though it is wise to pay attention to your pet’s chompers all year long, February is officially Pet Dental Health Month. President of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters John D’Ariano advises people with pets to schedule yearly dental cleanings and follow regular preventative care throughout the year. Bacteria and plaque can build up on your pet’s teeth, which can turn into tartar. This creates a number of health issues for your pet aside from just bad breath, gingivitis, tooth decay/loss, and receding gums.
Bacteria and plaque buildup can also cause periodontal disease. This is a very painful infection that can spread to the rest of the body and has the potential to seriously damage the heart and other vital organs. The risk of oral tumors and cysts also increases as dental health decreases.
D’Ariano offers these tips for protecting your pet’s dental health:
Develop a Partnership
Work with your veterinarian to develop proper, at-home dental habitssuch as brushing and teeth-cleaning chewables. And be sure to discuss options for scheduled cleanings.
Once a week, lift your pet’s lips and examine his gums and teeth. The gums should be pink (not white or red) and there should be no sign of swelling. Also, there should be little to no brown tartar.
The Smell Test
Your pet’s breath may not be “minty fresh” all of the time, but a particularly foul or offensive smell can often signal an infection. If you smell something “off,” consult with your vet immediately.
Keep an Eye Out
Watch your pet’s behavior as he eats. Is he showing signs of pain or discomfort while chewing? If so, consult with your vet.
Kits with brushes and toothpaste made specifically for cats or dogs are available, or a soft piece of clean gauze and a baking soda/water mixture will also work. Do not use fluoride on animals younger than six months because it can stunt proper tooth growth.
NEVER USE HUMAN TOOTHPASTE, as it will upset their stomachs.
Proper Brushing Technique
Place the brush or gauze at a 45-degree angle and use small, circular motions to clean one area at a time. The side of the tooth that touches the cheek most often has more tartar. Once your pet is comfortable with the brushings, try to do it 2-3 times a week.
Provide Bones/Chew Toys
These satisfy you pet’s natural urge to chew and makes his teeth strong while scraping away the tartar that has built up. Toxin-free, nylon, or rubber chews that are the appropriate size for your pet are a good choice.
There is specially formulated food to slow down plaque formation, but a regular diet of high quality food free of table scraps should do the trick. Also, be mindful of offering treats that promote good dental health.