February is Pet Dental Health Month. To honor the occasion, EntirelyPets brings you a comprehensive guide to pet dental care.
The majority of people consider brushing their teeth part of a healthy daily routine. But most don't give nearly the same attention to routine dental care for their dogs and cats.
The most common disease affecting pets is dental disease. In fact, most dogs and cats are already suffering from dental disease by the age of three. Bacteria from gingivitis and periodontal disease can spread throughout the rest of their body causing infections in the heart and kidneys. If left untreated, dental disease causes pets to die an average of two years earlier than they would have with proper dental care.
However, with regular professional dental care from your veterinarian followed by maintenance at home, you can prevent dental disease in your pets before it becomes a serious problem.
The American Veterinary Dental Society recommends that pet owners follow three basic steps:
Take your pet to the veterinarian for a dental exam. If you have never taken your pet for a dental exam, make an appointment today. If it's been a while since your last visit and you suspect a problem, it is better to make sure your pet is healthy now with a quick exam than to wait for your pet's annual checkup.
Begin a dental care regimen at home. Your veterinarian can suggest steps that may include brushing your pet's teeth. One of the most convenient and effective ways to combat oral disease is feeding specially formulated foods proven effective in combating plaque and tartar buildup in pets.
Schedule regular veterinary checkups. These are essential in helping your veterinarian monitor the progress of your pet's dental health routine. Your veterinary health care team can help you schedule the appropriate visits.
How to Brush Your Pets Teeth:
Start by offering your pet a taste of the toothpaste. Next, let your pet actually taste the toothpaste, and then run your toothbrush along the gums of their upper teeth. Get the bristles of the toothbrush along the gum line of the upper back teeth and angle slightly up, so the bristles get under the gum line. Work from back to front, making small circles along the gum lines. It should take you less than 30 seconds to brush your pet's teeth. Do not try to brush the entire mouth at first.
When to Brush Your Pets Teeth:
Pick a time of day that will become a convenient part of you and your pets daily routine. Brushing before a daily treat can help your pet actually look forward to brushing time. If not possible daily, at least every other day. It will be a little while before both you and your pet get used to the process, but it will soon be routine. Follow with praise and a treat each time.
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Pet Dental Care Tips:
Toothbrush: Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Anything other than a bristled tooth brush will not get below the gum line (the most important area to brush).
Dental Chews & Treats: Some treats are designed to clean your pet's teeth, reduce plaque and freshen their breath. Even while containing vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for their health. It is a great way to supplement your pet's dental care as an alternative to brushing when you are short on time.
Dental tartar in pets is a film that covers teeth consisting of calcium phosphate and carbonate, food particles and other organic matter. The tartar will stick to the tooth surface forming a scaffold for more plaque accumulation.
The continued build-up of tartar both above and below the gum line can eventually produce an environment that is a haven for certain types of bacteria. These bacteria may be more destructive to the periodontal tissues and also produce a more noticeable odor and can lead to periodontal disease in both dogs and cats.
Dental plaque is a sticky substance that covers your pet's teeth. It consists of bacteria, saliva, food particles and epithelial cells. Plaque builds up on the tooth surface and gum line every day.
Left undisturbed the plaque can mineralize, or harden, in less than 2 days, forming tartar. Plaque can get worse where teeth are closer together, which will result in bad breath.
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums most commonly caused by the accumulation of food particles in the crevices between the gums and teeth. The main symptom is bleeding, although you may also notice redness, pain and difficulty in chewing. If gingivitis is not treated, it may lead to periodontitis.
Periodontal disease is a very common, infectious disease caused by bacteria that make up plaque. This results in inflammation of the structures that support teeth, the gum tissue, periodontal ligament, alveolus (small cavity) and cementum (bonelike connective tissue covering the root of a tooth and assisting in tooth support).
Pets may preferentially choose softer foods; play with chew toys less and decline crunchy treats. You may also notice your pet chewing more on the sides of his mouth. He may chew less in general and this sometimes causes the pet to vomit, seen as undigested or poorly chewed food. Increased salivation, pawing at or rubbing the face can also indicate oral pain.