You don’t expect your twice-yearly dentist appointments to maintain your oral health—you use a daily routine of brushing, flossing, and rinsing with plaque-fighting mouthwash. So, why should your pet’s dental care be different? Dogs and cats are equally susceptible to dental disease, with at least 70% of cats and 80% of dogs affected by age 3. But, a few simple daily habits—along with annual dental care at Premier Pet Hospital—can prevent or reverse this painful and debilitating disease.
Here’s the “whole tooth” on how to care for your pet’s teeth at home.
Start fresh—schedule a pet dental assessment
To be successful and sustainable, your pet must enjoy—or at least tolerate—their at-home dental care routine. This means they must be free from pain and inflammation, so that brushing and chewing are positive experiences. If your pet is showing dental disease signs (e.g., red gums, mineralized tartar buildup, bad breath, and visibly fractured, loose, or missing teeth), schedule an examination at Premier Pet Hospital. If necessary, we’ll recommend dental X-rays and a cleaning while your pet is under anesthesia to identify and treat any pre-existing periodontal disease above and below their gum line.
Like that fresh-from-the-dentist feeling, this will give your pet a clean slate to begin at-home care and ensure the greatest success.
Daily toothbrushing is the most beneficial and effective way to prevent dental disease in dogs and cats. At a minimum, you should brush your pet’s teeth at least three times per week and, like other behaviors (e.g.,“Sit,” “Stay”), you can use positive reinforcement to teach your pet to accept toothbrushing.
For a complete visual tooth-torial, check out this Fear Free toothbrushing video. For additional tips, tricks, and coaching, contact the Premier Pet Hospital team. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you work toward creating a brushing routine:
- Use only pet-safe toothpaste. Human toothpaste contains pet-toxic xylitol and dangerous foaming agents.
- Start with short sessions (i.e., less than one minute).
- Pair your pet’s toothbrushing with a favorite activity (e.g., take a walk or play after you’re finished, or give your dog a dental chew).
- Progress at your pet’s pace.
- If your pet doesn’t accept the toothbrush, consider using a gauze square, finger brush, or dental wipe.
Food is medicine—dental diets for pets
Therapeutic dental diets complement your pet’s dental care routine and are an effective alternative when toothbrushing is not an option. These dog and cat foods typically feature oversized kibble to encourage chewing and contain a fibrous matrix that scrubs the tooth’s surface. The abrasive action, which is similar to toothbrushing, disrupts the invisible bacterial biofilm that leads to plaque and tartar accumulation.
Veterinary dental diets also are a convenient way to ensure your pet’s teeth get daily attention and care. The diets are complete and balanced, so you can feel confident that your pet is receiving tailored nutrition from tooth to tail.
Powder power—plaque powders for pets
Dental supplements are a simple way to add flavor—and plaque-fighting properties—to your pet’s meal and ensure you are serving up dental health every day. Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC)-approved anti-plaque powders contain kelp and are clinically proven to reduce plaque, tartar, and bad breath.
Chew-s oral health—dental treats and chews for pets
You can simultaneously spoil your pet and protect their oral health with dental treats and chews. Like dental diets, edible dental treats and chews work by removing harmful plaque and tartar above the gum line as your pet chews. To ensure your pet receives the maximum benefit, purchase products that feature the VOHC seal of acceptance. The seal authorizes only products that meet the organization’s standards for effectively retarding plaque and tartar.
Always supervise your pet with a pet chew or toy to ensure proper chewing behavior and take the item away if your pet tries to swallow large pieces that could cause choking or intestinal blockages. Avoid giving your pet hard chews or bones (e.g., animal bones, hooves, antlers), which can harm gingival tissue and cause painful dental fractures.
Rinse and repeat—water additives for pets
New habits are more likely to stick when you pair them with something you already do—such as filling your pet’s water bowl. Plaque-fighting water additives (e.g., VOHC-approved HealthyMouth) are an effortless hands-off way to protect your pet’s oral health every time they take a sip.
The molar of the story—pet dental care starts at home
Most pet owners don’t realize that early dental disease is predominantly invisible and the damage is done by the time they seek or consent to professional dental care. By then, multiple extractions (i.e., tooth removal) are usually the only solution. Don’t wait until it’s too late—add these simple habits to your pet’s daily routine so you can stop dental disease in its tracks.
For more dental product recommendations or to schedule your pet’s oral health consultation, contact your trusted Premier Pet Hospital team. We will give you the whole tooth!
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