Does your pup love to show off his pearly whites?
Whether your pup’s mouth gleams with youthful white teeth or gives away her age, dental health is an important part of their care. It’s easy to overlook in our busy lives but also easy to address!
Why is dental health important?
Gum disease and tartar & plaque build up are the most visual cues that our pups need dental care. However, there are a plethora of other ways in which poor dental health affects the whole body. Research indicates that the bacteria in all that gunk can make its way into the bloodstream and affect the heart, lungs, and kidneys, causing havoc in those systems. You can read more about how that happens here. Dental health contributes to overall health and may help make that infamous “dog breath” a little more tolerable. (If your pet has breath that will knock you out, consider a trip to the vet, as it may indicate troubles with her digestive system.) It’s never too young to start your pet on a dental health regimen.
Signs to look for:
If your pet has buildup, our experience and the expertise of the American Veterinary Dental Association (AVDC) suggest watching out for the following signs that there may be an issue greater than what at-home care can address:
- bad breath
- not eating
- slower eating or less enthusiasm
- dropping food
- bleeding from mouth/gums
- irritation/fear/discomfort when mouth is touched
Ways to improve dental health:
Chews such as Greenies, bones, and antlers are like a natural toothbrush. The act of chewing on hard surfaces scrapes buildup off of tooth surfaces. This article by holistic vet, Dr Falconer, is a helpful starting point for feeding raw bones. If looking into dental chews, spend some time researching the various brands and how they claim to promote dental health. Not all are created equal; some have unsafe or ineffective density and others have synthetic chemicals.
Brushing your pet’s teeth may seem like a chore but if you’re able to acclimate her to the sensation; tempt her with tasty, enzymatic, species-appropriate toothpaste; and get into the habit regularly, it’ll become a simple task. You’ll want a pet-specific or soft bristled toothbrush. There are also finger brushes that you may find easier. The simple act of brushing will be effective but toothpaste may enhance the benefits and comes in enticing flavors that will help your pet look forward to brushing time. The AVDC offers some helpful tips for getting your pet, especially cats, accustomed to the toothbrush.
Gels, liquids, and wipes are available for pets who close their mouths like trap doors when they see the toothbrush. They may respond better to a less invasive product like a quick spritz from a spray. And if that doesn’t fly, there are liquid products that can be added to their water. These products do not work by mechanical means and we encourage you to look into how each claims to work and their effectiveness through unbiased research groups. To that end, the Veterinary Oral Health Council has developed a table of approved products based on clinical testing.
Professional dental cleaning:
It may be that your pet is due for a professional cleaning. Being anesthetized for an in-depth cleaning will remove plaque and tartar, hence the bacteria, and will alleviate the discomfort associated with the different diseases of the mouth. Here is a description of the process. We suggest never relying solely on a cleaning for the reasons mentioned previously and the fact that some pets, due to illness or age, cannot be anesthetized. Preventative maintenance will be easier on you and your pet in the long run and they’ll be getting extra attention along the way!