February is National Pet Dental Health Month! The health of your pet's mouth is very important to your pet's overall health. Dental problems can often lead to serious health problems. To keep your pet's mouth happy and healthy, check out these tips on how to properly provide dental care.
Regularly brushing your animal's teeth is a great start to ensuring long term dental health. Lack of brushing can cause bacteria and plaque buildup on the teeth, which can lead to more serious health issues such as gingivitis, receding gums, and tooth loss. According to the ASPCA, your pet's teeth should also be regularly brushed 2-3 times per week at home.
Follow these steps to help your pet achieve healthy dental health through brushing:
1. To get your pet comfortable with the motion of brushing, start by massaging their lips in a circular motion, eventually moving to the teeth and gums.
2. Familiarize your pet with the taste of dog or cat formulated toothpaste by putting a little bit on their lips. Be sure to use pet-specific toothpaste, as human toothpaste formulas can upset your pet's stomach. You can ask your vet for recommendations on the best toothpaste for your furry friend.
3. Introduce the toothbrush. Be sure the brush you are using is designed specifically for dogs or cats.
4. Brush at a 45-degree angle in small, circular motions, working one area at a time. Note that the side of the tooth that touches the cheek tends to collect the most tartar and may need extra care.
The photo above shows a dog's mouth before and after a teeth cleaning. The left side shows a set of dog teeth with Gingivitis, an early sign of Periodontal disease if left untreated. The right side shows a healthy and clean dog mouth after a dental cleaning.
In addition to weekly teeth brushing, your pet's teeth should also be checked by a vet annually to guarantee they are maintaining good dental health. Loose or discolored teeth, abnormal chewing, excessive drooling, bleeding, swelling, and reduced appetite are all signs that you may need to take your pet in for a check-up sooner. For a full list of common mouth problems, see the ASPCA website.
One common sign of a pet mouth problem is Halitosis, more commonly known as bad breath. It is normal for your pet to have a somewhat unpleasant smelling breath. However, if it becomes increasingly foul, you may need to consult your vet. Halitosis can often be the first sign of a problem such as a buildup of bacteria, digestive issues, gingivitis, or gum conditions.
According to the AVMA, Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in dogs and cats. It consists of a painful gum infection that can result in tooth loss and spread additional infection to the rest of your pet's body. Most pets show signs of this oral disease by the time they are 3-years-old. This disease will worsen if no preventative action is taken. Treatment includes a thorough professional dental cleaning and potentially x-rays to determine the severity of the disease. If your furry friend does contract Periodontal disease, ask your vet for recommendations on how to proceed with treatment.
Pet owners can check for signs of oral disease by lifting their pet's lips to examine their teeth and gums once a week. Healthy gums should be pink with no signs of swelling. Healthy teeth should have next to no discoloration and should be firmly in place. Inflamed gums, loose teeth, or tumors/cysts in the gums or under the tongue may indicate a more serious health issue and should warrant a visit to your vet.
There are several at-home methods for practicing good pet dental health in addition to regular brushing. Dental chews and other specially formulated treats are often effective in maintaining the health of your pet's teeth. Chew toys are another great way to strengthen teeth and rub away tartar buildup. Contact your vet for more information on the most effective dental products, treats, and specific dental health diets for your pet.
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