Did you know that poor dental health in your dog or cat can lead to more serious problems, including hidden infections, diseases of the heart, liver or kidneys, and even diabetes?
It all starts when bacteria from food remains in the mouth, where it forms plaque on your dog or cat’s teeth. Minerals in their saliva harden the plaque into dental tartar. As plaque and tartar (and the accompanying bacteria) spread under the gum line, the bacteria secretes toxins. These toxins not only damage the tissues surrounding the teeth, but they can eventually spread throughout the body, causing a slow deterioration of your pet’s health.
What are the Warning Signs of Periodontal Disease?
- Bad breath
- Increased salivation and/or blood-tinged drool
- Lost interest in favorite chew toys or bones
- Red/inflamed gums
- Tooth discoloration (from plaque or tooth disease)
- Decreased appetite (often from the pain of chewing)
Certain dog breeds seem to have a genetic predisposition to periodontal disease, including many small breed dogs, such as Dachshunds and Chihuahuas. However just because your dog is larger doesn’t mean he or she isn’t at risk.
Healthy teeth and gums (and the resulting good breath) can only happen with regular oral hygiene. Having your veterinarian perform a professional dental exam and cleaning while your pet is under anesthesia is the best way to keep your dog or cat’s teeth clean and healthy, but home care is also critical to prevent plaque and tartar buildup between professional cleanings.
Follow these 4 easy steps to help your pet maintain healthy teeth and fresh breath:
- Brush or wipe your pet’s teeth daily—this is the best way to prevent tartar buildup:
- Use a toothbrush designed for pets or a child’s soft toothbrush, or you can also wrap a piece of plain gauze around your fingertip to gently wipe your pet’s teeth.
- Use toothpaste made specifically for pets. Human toothpaste has ingredients that can be harmful to your pet if swallowed. Pet toothpaste also comes in such delectable flavors as poultry or seafood, which makes some pets tolerate the experience a little better.
- Use an oral hygiene rinse / mouth wash that can be squirted onto your pet’s teeth. It contains plaque fighting enzymes that inhibit bacteria and freshen breath.
- Offer your pet dental treats and chews that are treated with an enzyme that helps prevent plaque. C.E.T. dental chews are a great choice for most cats and dogs and are a popular product for many of our patients.
- Avoid cow and horse hooves, and dried natural bones as the hard products can be associated with broken teeth or damaged gums.
Once you see that plaque or tartar has accumulated on your pet’s teeth, then it’s time for a professional cleaning. Talk to your veterinarian to decide on the best plan for your pet’s optimal dental health.