Nothing warms your heart more than seeing your pet’s toothy grin in the window, welcoming you home. But, did you know that your beloved companion’s smile can be loaded with gingivitis, tartar, and disease? The majority of cats and dogs start acquiring periodontal problems by the age of three, and these issues can be the source of pain, infection, tooth loss, and organ damage. Try out these tips to boost your furry friend’s home dental care program.
Dental care starts at home
There are two times in your pet’s life when she will have a fresh, clean start to dental care:
- Puppy or kittenhood — Training your tiny new pet to accept tooth brushing from day one is the best way to avoid dental problems.
- Professional dental cleaning — Immediately following a veterinary cleaning, implement a dental care program at home to keep your pet’s clean teeth free from tartar and dental disease.
Starting with clean teeth will allow you to keep dental disease at bay longer than if you begin once tartar and gingivitis are already present. Once plaque mineralizes into tartar, the only way to remove it is with a professional veterinary cleaning.
How to recognize signs of dental disease
Checking for the source of your pet’s stinky breath may not sound like a fun weekend activity, but creating a habit of taking a peek in her mouth at least weekly is an important step in your preventive routine. Stay on top of changes in dental health by looking for these signs of trouble:
- Gingivitis — Red, inflamed gums that may bleed when irritated
- Tartar — Brownish-yellow buildup near the gum line
- Root exposure — Tooth roots that are visible because diseased gums have receded
- Halitosis — A strong, offensive odor coming from your pet’s mouth (nope, doggy breath is not normal)
- Loose teeth
- Lumps or bumps around teeth, on the tongue, or under the eyes
If you notice signs of disease in your pet’s mouth, or if she doesn’t want to eat, is dropping food, or pawing at her mouth, schedule an appointment so we can assess her dental health.
How to begin an at-home dental health care routine
In addition to checking out your furry friend’s mouth for signs of disease, actively work to prevent periodontal problems from occurring by following these steps:
- Begin with a clean slate. If your pet’s teeth are caked with tartar, don’t worry. You will welcome slobbery kisses from her mouth after a dental cleaning transformation. Attempting to brush teeth with years of accumulated tartar is like trying to wipe away cement, so start fresh with a professional scaling and polishing session.
- Learn how to brush your pet’s teeth. Most pets won’t allow you to immediately launch into a tooth-brushing session. Go slow, reward frequently, and your furry friend will come running at the sight of a toothbrush in no time. Be sure to use only pet-friendly toothpastes—human products contain fluoride that can be toxic to pets if swallowed.
- Ask for dental product recommendations. Wander the aisles of a pet store, and you will be bombarded with treats, chews, diets, water additives, wipes, and toys that all claim to prevent tartar and bad breath. In reality, scarcely any of these products make the cut. Before hitting the pet store, jot down products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. These products undergo a voluntary certification to be included on the esteemed list of dental care products that have been proven to reduce plaque and tartar buildup. When in doubt, ask us about products that are actually effective.
- Stick with the program. Don’t treat your pet’s dental health care program as a New Year’s resolution. Consider this a locked-in gym contract, and show up regularly to make strides toward healthy changes. If you can’t make a daily commitment, strive for a minimum of three times a week.
Dental care is a team effort
We understand that keeping up with oral health at home is a huge endeavor, especially for pets that don’t appreciate the help. But, by providing optimal dental care, you will equip your pet to live a healthier, happier life. Between your efforts at home and our veterinary services, together we can keep your pet healthy and her smile beautiful.
Ready to start an at-home dental care routine? Call our office with questions!