Keeping a dog or cat’s mouth healthy is a key part of overall good health; after all, the mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body. Here are some ways to keep teeth clean without feeling as if it’s a chore for you and your pet.
There is nothing more affectionate than big doggie licks and kitty kisses. But it’s a grimacing turn-off if accompanied by bad breath! And there’s more to that malodorous smell to be concerned about; bad breath is a common sign of dental issues.
With February being National Pet Dental Health Month, it’s a great time to commit to a tooth tune-up for your dog or cat. Take advantage of discounts on offer at veterinary clinics for dental cleaning and general preventive care and stock up on special dental products and treats to ensure your pet’s mouth is in pristine condition year-round.
Why Get a Veterinary Exam
An annual veterinary checkup is not only about teeth cleaning but also making sure your pet doesn’t have any cracked teeth or tartar buildup that’s trapping bacteria. Bacteria that multiplies in the mouth is unavoidably ingested and can spread to other areas of the body, including internal organs such as the kidneys and heart. In dogs, periodontal disease has been associated with microscopic changes in the heart, liver, and kidneys, according to the American Veterinary Dental College.
Up to 80 percent of dogs experience some form of dental issue by the time they are three years old, and 70 percent of all cats over the age of three years suffer from periodontal disease. On a positive note, periodontal disease is completely preventable.
Cleaning your pet’s teeth daily with a specially designed pet toothbrush and pet-specific toothpaste is the most effective way to avoid buildup of plaque and tartar. But pets often fight this regimen, which ultimately means that harassed pet parents give up the fight!
Thankfully, there are easier alternatives to promote a healthy mouth. Pets who happily allow their people to open their jaws will probably tolerate having their teeth and gums wiped with special pet dental wipes, which may contain mild abrasives such as bicarbonate of soda as well as breath fresheners. Another practical daily alternative is using a spray or gel that fights plaque buildup. Always check the label to make sure a product is safe for cats.
There are also water additives that can be safely added to the water bowl. They can’t be used in pet fountains with filters, so it’s a good idea to have a secondary water source in the home that can be refreshed daily and such products added.
Because chewing is a gentle abrasive action that helps to promote good pet oral hygiene, a plethora of treats are designed to make the task of maintaining a healthy mouth stress-free. Dental treats are designed to clean teeth or freshen breath, through their shape or with special teeth-cleaning enzymes. When it comes to such functional treats, it’s important to select the correct size most suitable to your dog’s mouth for them to be effective and safe.
There is also a range of dental treats for cats available in popular feline flavors such as chicken and fish. Simply add one to your pet’s feeding regimen in the morning and it will help take care of dental hygiene on a daily basis.
A great feline dental tip comes of board-certified veterinary dentist Jan Bellows, DVM, of All Pets Dental in Weston, Florida. He suggests dipping a cotton swab in tuna juice and rubbing it along the teeth and gums. Again, it’s the gentle abrasive action at work. Only do what your cat allows; tomorrow is another day!
Tug toys made of rope are often considered the doggie “dental floss” of the toy box. Look for knotted ropes made from cotton infused with breath fresheners. Durable rubber toys with rope attachments are ideal for aggressive chewers, simultaneously exercising jaw and facial muscles.
Rope toys have a limited lifespan so stock up when the price is right and then make that veterinary dental appointment.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.