Why keeping your pet’s teeth clean helps their overall health
As humans, brushing our teeth is a daily habit. Imagine the consequences if you skipped a week…or even years. When we ignore our cat’s or dog’s teeth, that’s the health predicament we put our furry friends in.
To shine a light on the importance of oral health care in dogs and cats, each February the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) sponsors National Pet Dental Health Month.
But wolves and tigers didn’t have toothbrushes! Why do I need to brush my pet’s teeth?
Before dogs and cats were domesticated, their natural eating habits kept their teeth clean. Catching prey and eating it the wild gives an animal’s teeth all the cleansing they need. Modern-day diets made up of processed kibble and canned food don’t clean teeth as effectively.
Unfortunately, the health consequences of ignoring your pet’s teeth go beyond the unpleasant smell of dog breath. Dental disease is a real health threat to your dog or cat.
Why is dental disease in pets dangerous?
Dog breath may be common, but it is not normal. It can be an early sign that your animal is developing periodontal (tooth and gum) disease. Dental disease is the most common clinical condition in cats and dogs, but it’s not out of your control.
Without proper oral hygiene for your pet, bacteria, plaque and tartar start to build up on the teeth. They get trapped beneath the gumline, where germs can be absorbed into the bloodstream. From there, they can target internal organs and cause major health issues.
Dental disease also causes discomfort and pain, and can impact your animal’s ability to eat properly. Without adequate nutrition, your pet’s health is at even bigger risk.
Symptoms of dental disease in dogs and cats
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) says that by age 3, most dogs and cats have some degree of dental disease.
According the Colorado State University Veterinary Teach Hospital, symptoms of dental disease in pets can include:
- Bad breath
- Lethargy, inactivity or depression
- Grooming problems
- Red, swollen or bleeding gums
- Appetite loss and weight loss
- Dropping food from mouth while eating
- Loose teeth or teeth falling out
- Pawing excessively at the face
How to care for your pet’s teeth
According to the AAHA’s Dental Care Guidelines, all adult dogs and cats should have regular oral examinations and annual veterinary dental cleanings. They recommend annual cleanings, which involve general anesthesia, starting at age 1 for cats or small dogs, and at age 2 for large dogs.
Between professional cleanings, brushing your animal’s teeth at home every day is the best way to prevent dental problems. Always use pet-specific soft toothbrushes and toothpaste. Never use human toothpaste, which can contain ingredients like xylitol that are toxic to animals.
How do I brush my pet’s teeth?
Introduce the process slowly over the course of several weeks to help them adjust to this new routine.
Veterinarian Dr. Sheldon Rubin created an easy, step-by-step instructional video for the AVMA showing how to teach a cat or dog to accept a daily tooth brushing. He also discusses the risks of periodontal disease in pets.
Dr. Rubin’s 8 tips for brushing your pet’s teeth:
- Use a toothpaste specifically made for pets, which come in animal-friendly flavors like beef and peanut butter.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Let them sniff and taste the toothpaste for about a week, to get used to it.
- Associate treats with the process of toothbrushing, so it becomes a pleasant experience.
- Rub some toothpaste on their lips and tongue to get them familiar with the taste and sensation of touching their mouth.
- Slowly introduce the toothbrush itself and let them lick the toothpaste off it.
- Start brushing in short intervals and work your way up to 30 seconds or more.
- Focus on the outside of the teeth, because the inside is less likely to get plaque buildup.
Dr. Rubin points out that twisted rope toys, chew toys and dental treats provide mechanical action against the teeth to help keep them clean between brushing.
Chew toys that let you hide treats inside provide a double benefit—they also give your dog’s brain a workout.
Look for chew products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) to make sure they are safe. Products that break too easily, such as animal bones and antlers, are unsafe because they are a choking hazard and can damage your pet’s teeth.
Need More Help?
In addition to brushing and professional dental cleanings, natural pet dental health supplements can keep your dog or cat’s mouth clean and healthy all year long. Gumz-n-Teeth™ for Pet Oral Health is an herbal supplement for oral health in cats and dogs. Oral-Assist™ Oral Spray for Healthy Teeth and Gums is a homeopathic medicine to support oral and dental health in dogs and cats.
To sum it up
- Cats and dogs need daily dental care for a healthy mouth and overall health
- Veterinarians recommend daily brushing and yearly professional cleanings
- Herbal supplements and homeopathic medicines can further support your pet’s oral health
Keeping Your Pet Comfortable https://petalive.blog/2020/09/01/keeping-your-pet-comfortable/
Reasons for Loss of Appetite in Pets https://petalive.blog/2017/05/15/reasons-for-loss-of-appetite/
- “Keeping Your Pet’s Teeth Clean is Important to Their Overall Health.” Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Accessed January 26, 2021. http://csu-cvmbs.colostate.edu/vth/small-animal/community-practice/Pages/pet-dental-health.aspx
- “10 Facts You Need to Know to Protect Your Pet’s Oral (and Overall!) Health.” American Animal Hospital Association. Accessed January 27, 2021. https://www.aaha.org/your-pet/pet-owner-education/aaha-guidelines-for-pet-owners/dental-care/
- “National Pet Dental Health Month.” American Veterinary Medical Association. Accessed January 26, 2021. https://www.avma.org/events/national-pet-dental-health-month