A Tooth For A Tooth – Proper Pet Dental Care
Veterinarian Reviewed on December 19, 2009 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
Chomping and chewing. Those are two of my favorite things to do! But I couldn’t do them if I didn’t have such amazingly strong fangs, thanks to my human’s diligent care.
I’ve heard it said that doggies mouths are cleaner than a humans – you’ve praw–bably heard that too, right? Uh-uh. Think of all those places we stick our mouths, and you know it’s not true. That yapped, it’s just as important that we pets keep up dental hygiene as much as our humans! Domestic pets like to gnaw on whatever we can fit into our mouths (even rocks. Can you dig that?). The result: broken and missing teeth, gum lacerations, and even possible infections. Couple that with a lack of brushing, and you have a fine, hot, wet mess in there just begging for bacteria to breed. Since most of us go to town on our chow no matter what’s happening in our mouths, it can be hard to tell what’s going on in there. Humans, it’s up to you to put your heads in the mouths of lions! So to yap.
Humans brush their teeth. Pets don’t. We would if we could (especially those darn kitties – what with their obsessive compulsive grooming rituals), but we can’t so we won’t. Can you believe that approx. eighty-five percent of dogs and cats will have some notable level of gingivitis by the age of 2? Poor dental hygiene is one of the most common pet ailments, and can be prevented with help from our caretakers.
Let’s start with warning signs that you pet is getting all mouthy:
Bad breath: we animals don’t always have the nicest smelling breath around. But something of the rotting flesh variety (even though that sort of thing makes me want to roll in it) can be sign of a bacterial infection. A trip to the vet is in order! Why? Because the bloodstream can carry bacteria from a dental infection, other organs can be compromised, including the heart valves and kidneys. Nip that issue, now.
Plaque: Every day when we eat, our teeth are covered in bacterial plaque. If this plaque is not removed, it eventually builds up – look for yellowish stains near the gum line. Plaque can irritate the gum edges and cause them to inflame, and sometimes bleed. Gingivitis!
Other symptoms can include:
– Reddened or receding gums
– Lack of appetite (since we are always ready to eat, this is a real warning sign)
– Mouth pain or difficulty in closing mouth
Natural dental treatment and prevention of ailments is easy. But, dear caregivers, you must take daily care of us!
The first step in maintaining a healthy body is diet. Like my human Sage always says, we are what we eat. A pet diet rich in nutrients, without chemically processed ingredients, can be one of the best ways to keep our whole systems well. Make sure your pet is eating foods that contribute to well being, like Embark or Prowl created from organic, hormone-free, fresh, all natural ingredients. Instead of refined, sugary foots, the teeth will be exposed to vital nutrients.
Brush-a-brush-a-brush-a! Routine daily dental care involves brushing your pet’s teeth with a soft brush and veterinary toothpaste. But you have to start us on this sort of thing when we’re little! Otherwise, you may have one yap of a time getting your hands in our mouths. Gently hold your pet’s muzzle with one hand and stroke it with the other hand. Lift our upper lip to expose teeth, then treat us. Repeat this procedure for several days until we feel comfortable with your hands near our mouth. You can use a piece of soft gauze or cloth around a fingertip, to gently start the brushing process. Try a tiny dot of pet toothpaste to start – something beefy! Human toothpaste contains detergents that will make us really sick if we swallow it (which we will). Pet pastes come in flavors that help make brushing more enjoyable for us – sadly not Fermented Fish or Stinky Shoe like I love, but whatever. I lap up what I get, anyhowl…
Here’s a great video to help you learn paw-per brushing:
See your vet every 6 months to a year, for dental check-ups.
Taking care of our teeth takes a little time every day, but the results are ruffing worth it. Not only will you keep your vet bills own (have you ever splurged on a vet visit? Now that would be like pulling teeth), but our whole health will prosper. And that keeps us, your beloved furry pals, around as long as possible. I’ll bite to that!
Photo Credit: andreanna
Sign up for our newsletter and receive more articles and the latest pet health updates and special offers.
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan