Is brushing your dog's teeth really necessary? How can I possibly brush my cat's teeth? Bad breath? There's a treat for that and you may have some health issues on your hands.
Dental problems in pets are usually pretty obvious---bad breath. But there are other signs, too. Look out for these signs and see a vet if they occur.
- Bad breath
- Broken or loose teeth
- Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
- Teeth that are discolored or covered in tartar
- Abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth
- Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
- Pain in or around the mouth
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Swelling in the areas surrounding the mouth
Periodontal disease is as bad for your pet as it is for you. It is the most common health issue in both cats and dogs. By the time your pet is three years old, he or she will probably have at least the early stages of periodontal disease. Your pet may just need a thorough cleaning, which your veterinarian or veterinary dentist (yes, there is such a thing!) does with Fido or Fluffy under general anesthesia. Take your pet for teeth cleaning at least once a year to avoid other, internal, health problems that can start from bacteria in the mouth.
But why wait a year to have his teeth cleaned? Can you imagine the problems you'd have if you didn't brush your teeth at least twice every day? Using a toothbrush and toothpaste made especially for pets isn't really difficult, and once he knows what you're doing and he enjoys the toothpaste, he'll eagerly look forward to his daily cleaning. Here are some tips on how to do it properly.
- Don't try to use an old toothbrush for humans (or even a new one). Your vet can recommend a brush suitable for your pet, or there are "sleeves" that slip over your finger and work like a toothbrush. (See this video.)
- Never put human toothpaste in your dog's mouth. Human toothpaste can contain additives that can do your pet harm. (If xylitol---a sugar-free sweetener---is in your toothpaste, it can kill your pet.) There are many flavors to choose from that your pet will enjoy as much as you like your mint-flavored one.
- Start by squeezing some out for your dog to taste. Let him think of it as a special treat.
- Accessing your pet's teeth is not difficult; just lift his lip.
- Be gentle! His mouth may be sensitive, so use gentle motions.
- Although most pets probably will not let you clean the inside surface of his teeth, just clean the outside surface (by the cheeks).
- The back upper molars and canine teeth are most likely to build up tartar, so be sure to reach these back teeth
- Offer a special reward, such as playing with him, petting or brushing him, or giving him a favorite toy so he associates teeth brushing with good things.
Keeping your pet's teeth clean and healthy can help prevent kidney, liver, and heart problems, so be as intentional about keeping his teeth clean as you do your own.