Like people, pets need routine dental care, or they can suffer from serious oral pain and infection. But, unlike people, pets are extremely adept at hiding signs of periodontal disease, and may suffer in silence for months before pet owners notice a problem. Stave off painful dental disease in your pet by sticking to these 10 dental resolutions.
#1: Learn dental disease signs in pets
Pets rarely complain, so recognizing that they are affected by painful gingivitis, tooth-root infections, or broken teeth is challenging. To help prevent needless discomfort, monitor your pet for these periodontal disease signs:
- Swollen, red gums
- Foul breath
- Yellow or brown tartar accumulation on the teeth
- Loose or missing teeth
- Sharp, jagged edges on a tooth, indicating a fracture
- Discomfort when eating
- Pawing at the face or mouth
- Blood-tinged drool
- Lumps or bumps in or around the mouth
- Decreased appetite, leading to weight loss
- Chewing on one side of the mouth
#2: Know how your pet’s normal mouth should look
While a healthy dog or cat’s mouth won’t be completely odor-free, you shouldn’t recoil in horror at the smell. Ideally, check your pet’s mouth once per week to ensure the gums look pink and healthy, the teeth are white with few signs of tartar accumulation, and no teeth are loose or broken.
#3: Brush up on your pet toothbrushing skills
Toothbrushing is an unnatural behavior for pets, and you will need patience and perseverance to teach your furry friend to accept a toothbrush. Start slowly by offering her a pet-friendly toothpaste to sniff and lick. Once she’s accepted that, dab a bit on her teeth without using a toothbrush—unless that’s necessary to keep your fingers safe. Let her get used to the toothpaste’s feel and taste, and then apply a small amount to the toothbrush for her to snack on. Next, slowly place the toothbrush inside your pet’s mouth and brush her teeth and gums gently, allowing frequent breaks, with plenty of tasty rewards.
#4: Choose veterinary-approved dental products for your pet
Not all pet dental-care products are created equal. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) has compiled a list of dental products proven to reduce and prevent plaque and tartar accumulation. Check out the VOHC website for a complete list of diets, treats, toothpastes, and water and food additives designed to keep your pet’s mouth healthy.
#5: Teach your pet to allow thorough at-home oral examinations
Some pets may never allow a toothbrushing regimen, but you should still try to check your pet’s mouth periodically for disease signs. Gently flip up her lip, and look for inflamed gums or tartar accumulation. Try also to check the back teeth, as the premolars and molars tend to attract large chunks of tartar. Reward your pet with a tasty treat after her oral exam.
#6: Add a prescription dental diet to your pet’s meal plan
Prescription dental diets are an excellent and easy way to care for your pet’s teeth. If your pet is already on a prescription diet for diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, or another chronic condition, you can swap out her treats for dental diet kibble.
#7: Don’t ignore your pet’s bad breath
Tuna breath and doggy breath can be normal, within reason—your pet’s breath will never be minty fresh—but an abnormal odor can be a sign of dental disease, so don’t ignore less-than-fresh breath.
#8: Use teeth-friendly chews for your pet
Power-chewing pets can destroy a chew or toy in mere seconds, so pet owners tend to purchase “indestructible” toys for their dogs who have jaws of steel. But, solid antlers, tough plastic bones, and sticks can fracture your pet’s teeth. Softer chews may not last as long, but they’re safer for your pet.
#9: Schedule routine wellness exams to check your pet’s dental health
Your pet may not be amenable to a thorough oral exam at home, but our veterinary team has plenty of experience looking into a reluctant pet’s mouth. Gently and carefully, we will perform an oral exam as part of your pet’s routine wellness visit, and check for any dental disease signs.
#10: Don’t put off dental care your pet needs
Removing plaque and tartar buildup may not seem as necessary for your pet’s health and comfort as repairing a broken leg or removing a tumor, but the importance of dental care cannot be overstated. If we recommend a routine cleaning, X-rays, or extractions, scheduling your pet’s dental procedure is vital, because her total-body health relies on complete dental care.
We understand that many pets do not appreciate at-home dental care, so we are here to help you implement an effective home-care regimen. Or, give us a call if your furry friend needs professional dental care.