February is National Pet Dental Month. The American Veterinarians Medical Association is working in conjunction with several clinics and companies around the country to educate and promote dental health to pet owners. It is estimated that about 1 in 10 pet owners make sure their pet’s teeth are cared for and brush them on a regular basis.
According to surveys and statistics gathered by the American Veterinarians Medical Association, periodontal disease, tartar, and swollen gums are the most common ailments vets see when they examine pets. Proper dental care can begin with a trip to the vet, who will let you know if your pet needs a cleaning or other periodontal care. It’s estimated that 70% of dogs and cats will have some kind of oral disease by the age of 3. But don’t worry, your pet doesn’t have to be one of them.
Did you know?
Like us, cats and dogs need regular care of their teeth and gums. They can get plaque buildup, tartar, and sometimes red, swollen gums and need treatment. Oral infections can sometimes also lead to other health problems and could cause problems in the kidneys and liver.
What can you do?
The American Veterinary Medical Association urges all pet owners to bring their pet to the vet for yearly checkups.
You can also try brushing your pet’s teeth. “TRY” being the operative word. There are toothpastes for dogs and cats that are easy to use and you don’t have to brush for 2 minutes like our dentists recommend. A finger brush, which is a rubbery soft brush, with some pet toothpaste is all you need to brush your pet’s teeth. It can take some getting used to for them and you. My cats hated it but tolerated it after several small battles the first bunch of times.
There are also treats that are geared to helping keep your pet’s teeth clean and remove the bits of food that get stuck between those fangs. Most importantly, it’s good to know what food and treats will not promote dental issues. Table scraps that contain sugars and some acidic ingredients can wear away at your pet’s teeth. Be careful to not let your cat or dog eat people food that isn’t for them. If you cook for your pet, talk to your vet about the ingredients in the meals you’re preparing and if anything might contribute to any oral disease problems.
What if your pet refuses to have their teeth brushed?
My cats tolerate having their teeth brushed but as they’ve gotten older they have taken to hiding when they see the toothpaste on the counter. If your pets are like mine and find this some mild form of torture, there are other things you can do to cut down on tartar and plaque buildup. There are treats that contain ingredients and are shaped in ways that help breakdown and prevent plaque buildup. Special treats like dental chews, dental bones, and other products are made specifically for promoting good dental health.
Chances are your vet is offering a deal for February for dental exams and cleaning. Check with them and talk to your vet about your options for maintaining a dental plan and what types of brushes and toothpaste are safe for your pets. Preventative care is always better and cheaper and your pet will be happier in the end.
Looking to start a healthy routine of brushing your pet’s teeth? Then check out these videos!
Image from Clearwater Veterinary Centre