Our family is not complete without our pets. We go to great lengths to make sure they are content and well taken care of. However, oral hygiene is often overlooked. The same dental problems that affect us can also affect our four-legged friends. They might even be more prone to oral diseases than people are. Here are some strategies for prioritizing our pets' dental care so they can continue to be healthy and happy.
Periodontal disease is one of the most common dental conditions affecting adult pets.
Bad breath is usually a sign of poor dental health.
Daily dental care at home is essential to your pet's health.
Preventing dental issues before they start can help improve your pet's life for years to come.
Why is pet dental care important?
Periodontal disease is the most prevalent dental condition affecting adult pets, according to the American Veterinary Dental College. Pets can get periodontal disease just like people do. Pathogenic bacteria are the cause, and they attack the tissues and bones around the teeth.
As the disease progresses, teeth may become loose, develop painful infections, and eventually need to be extracted. Many times, this requires the pet to be sedated for oral surgery. However, this can be avoided.
How to prevent dental diseases
Two essential components of keeping your pet's dental healthy are regular at-home care and yearly professional dental care. Caring for your pet's teeth is just as important for dental health as brushing your teeth. Regular dental care can slow the progression of periodontal disease by preventing the buildup of calculus, plaque, and bacteria.
Plaque and bacteria can be effectively controlled by brushing your pet's teeth. But here are a few other ways you can help prevent periodontal issues for your pet:
- Dental chew toys
- Special dental diets
- Dental treats
- Chlorhexidine gels
- Water and food additives
When these are combined with regular teeth brushing, your pet's risk of developing uncomfortable dental problems can be reduced. Therefore, choosing the appropriate dental care products for your pet can have a significant impact.
While there are many things in life that we share with our pets, toothpaste is not one of them. Pets are highly toxic to the good ingredients found in toothpaste for humans, such as xylitol and fluoride. Pet toothpaste is made specifically with non-toxic ingredients that are safe for them to ingest.
Also, pet toothpaste comes in tasty flavors your pet will love, like beef, chicken, or fish. While some brands only sell pet toothpaste, others market specific varieties, such as "dog toothpaste" or "cat toothpaste."
What’s the difference between dog toothpaste and cat toothpaste?
The main differences in dog or cat toothpaste can be broken into two categories:
- Taste. Since cats are more choosy than dogs, cat toothpaste needs to taste better. Cats prefer flavors like fish or chicken the most. Dogs are more taste-tolerant than humans.
- Action. Cat toothpaste may contain added enzymes to help break down plaque and bacteria, while dog toothpaste generally uses abrasives to help scrub the teeth.
Although there are some pet-specific toothpaste brands that work for both dogs and cats, it is important to always read the label. Some ingredients that are safe for cats may not be safe for dogs. Therefore, it is advisable to either use toothpaste specifically designed for your kind of pet or select a brand designated for "pets" that can be used by both.
DIY pet-friendly toothpaste
Pet stores and online retailers carry natural and organic toothpaste, but you could also make your own. Try this easy recipe for the pet toothpaste:
- 2 tbsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. chicken bullion
- 1/2 cup solid coconut oil
- 1 tbsp. water
Mix all the ingredients to form a thick paste, then store the mixture in an airtight container. Using a small amount of paste, brush your pet's teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush or your finger. Then, offer your pet a small amount of water or gently rinse your pet's mouth to remove excess paste.
There are many types of toothbrushes to choose from for your pet. Here are a few tips to consider before selecting a brush for your pet’s needs:
- Choose the proper size. Select a brush that fits your pet's mouth. Smaller pets may benefit from using a human toothbrush designed for infants or toddlers.
- Try a finger brush. Some pets are more comfortable with a rubber-finger brush than with a conventional toothbrush. However, this may increase the risk of being bitten as well. So, choose what works for you and your pet.
- Always use soft or extra-soft bristles. Harder bristles may irritate your pet's gums or damage their teeth. Therefore, choose the softest bristles available for your pet's comfort.
- Try pet-specific brushes. Dog or cat brushes are designed for the differences in your pet's mouth and can add extra comfort as your furry friend gets used to your brushing routine.
Selecting what best suits your pet's needs is essential to preserving their oral health because both pets and owners have different needs. Fortunately, there are lots of choices.
Taking good care of your four-legged family member includes brushing their teeth. Although it’s not an easy habit to form, the benefits speak for themselves.
Here are three reasons you should make brushing your pets' teeth a priority:
Reduces bad breath
While some people find the breath of a puppy or kitten to be adorable, older animals' bad breath can indicate serious health issues. Brushing your pet's teeth a couple of times a week can help reduce the risk of dental issues by controlling harmful bacteria.
Prevents periodontal disease
The same oral diseases that affect our human teeth can also wreak havoc in our pet’s mouth. Periodontal disease is one of the most common diseases affecting domestic pets. Periodontal disease increases the risk of dental pain with eating, tooth-related abscesses, and tooth loss. Brushing your pet’s teeth can significantly reduce these issues and help improve your pet’s happiness.
Protects your pet’s health
Mouths are full of bacteria, both in humans and pets. Food-borne bacteria frequently make their way throughout the body and enter the bloodstream. If left untreated, certain oral bacteria can produce toxins that harm your pet's liver, kidneys, and heart.
Periodontal disease can permanently affect organs and reduce your pet's overall health. Ultimately, these harmful bacteria reduce your pet's life expectancy and lower their quality of life. Regular oral care can help you and your four-legged friend enjoy their best life together for many years.
Yearly dental visits
A veterinarian should examine your pet's teeth and gums once a year. This can help identify any early signs of disease or other dental issues. However, a visual examination is only one aspect of your pet's dental examination. It is possible that your pet needs a thorough cleaning, which includes scaling and polishing.
A pet dental cleaning is very similar to the routine dental cleaning you get at the dentist. But, to clean them, your pet will most likely need to be sedated. This lowers your pet's stress, prevents injury, and provides a more thorough cleaning. Most of the time, your pet will return home the same day.
Tips for brushing your pet’s teeth
Maintaining your pet's oral health is an important aspect of pet care. However, it can also be stressful for both your pet and you. Here are ten tips to help ensure success in providing dental care:
- Start when your pet is young. The older your cat or dog is, the longer it can take for them to accept a new routine.
- Be patient and consistent. Teaching any new trick to a pet can take time.
- Offer lots of praise and extra love. Pets often like to please their loved ones.
- Start slow. Your pet may not like the extra attention to their mouth at first. So, start by gently touching your pet's mouth. Gently rub gauze or your finger along their teeth to introduce the brushing sensation.
- Introduce the toothpaste by offering your pet a small taste. Once your pet accepts the flavor, you can add the toothbrush with toothpaste.
- Concentrate on the outer surfaces of the teeth. Your pet’s tongue helps clean the inside surfaces. Therefore, most plaque and tartar accumulate on the outer surfaces and inside the cheeks.
- Brush for approximately 30 seconds per side. This may not be possible the first few times. Your pet will begin to accept your new routine as it becomes regular.
- Make sure to reach the very back teeth. This is where most food and bacteria hide. However, it may take several brushing attempts before your pet allows you to get their back teeth. Keep working with your pet.
- Offer a treat after brushing to keep the experience positive. This can help increase your pet’s acceptance and cooperation.
- Wash your hands and clean the brush after each use. Your pet’s mouth can be loaded with harmful bacteria.
Your pet might come to love your new routine in due course, especially the extra "loves" you give for a job well done.
Protecting our pet's health is part of being a good pet parent. It is crucial to stop dental problems before they begin. Brushing your pet's teeth can greatly reduce the risk of developing many dental and health issues. Thus, give your pet's dental care top priority. You and your pet will enjoy the benefits of a longer and healthier life.
What if my pet doesn't let me brush their teeth?
There are pets who never get used to brushing their teeth. However, it is still crucial for their oral health. Fortunately, there are solutions that can help, including water additives, dental treats, chew toys, and special diets. They don’t replace regular brushing but can help reduce the harmful effects of dental bacteria. Some even help break down the hard build-up on your pet's teeth.
Can I use my toothpaste for my pet?
No. Human toothpaste can contain ingredients that are harmful to your pet. Fluoride is one of the most common ingredients in human toothpaste that can be toxic to pets. Also, human toothpaste is not intended to be swallowed, and your pet can't spit effectively. So, buy or make a pet-friendly toothpaste specifically for your furry friend.
How often should I brush my pet's teeth?
Ideally, you should brush your pet's teeth every day. However, some pets are more stubborn about brushing than others. So try to brush their teeth as often as possible. Even weekly brushing can help reduce the harmful effects of oral bacteria. And when you can't brush their teeth, opt for an alternative like a dental chew toy or dental treat.
- Journal of Veterinary Dentistry. Long-term effects of a dental hygiene chew on the periodontal health of dogs.
- The Journal of Nutrition. Periodontal disease and diet in domestic pets.
- American Veterinary Medical Association. Pet Dental Care.