Dental Hygiene for Your Pet

Pet Dental Hygiene

Can you imagine how your teeth would look and feel if you did not practice regular upkeep? Many people are surprised to learn that their dogs and cats are subject to the same dental problems that they are. Your furry friend’s dental health is just as important, and it is dependent on the same hygiene standards that we engage in.

Preventative Home Care

Teeth brushing: You can brush your pet’s teeth just like yours, but there are some differences to be aware of. If you can brush every day, of course, that is ideal. But brushing your pet’s teeth 3 to 4 times a week is a good number to aim for. You can start by slowly introducing the toothpaste on your finger, but it must be a toothpaste made for pets. Human toothpaste is not good for our four-legged friends; it contains ingredients that may cause vomiting or other issues. It is best to brush your pet’s teeth when they are calm and relaxed – it can help if you set a routine. You will also want to use a toothbrush made for dogs or cats. The bristles are softer and specially angled for their mouth dimensions. Finger brushes can work well for cats and dogs under 30 pounds.

How to get your pet used to teeth brushing: When brushing your pet’s teeth, make sure you’re in a spot where your pet is comfortable. We don’t recommend standing above them, holding them down, or taking a threatening stance. Instead, we recommend kneeling or sitting in front of or to the side of them. If they seem upset, stop, and try again later. You may need to work on mastering each of the following steps over time. Test your pet’s willingness to have you touch their mouth by rubbing your finger along the upper gums and teeth. This will help them get used to the feeling of something against their teeth. It is best to use light pressure. You may need to get them comfortable with this over a few sessions before moving on.

When you’re ready to move on to a pet toothbrush, try placing the brush at a 45-degree angle against the teeth. This will help the bristles massage the gum line and clear away plaque. Brush in small circles, getting the top and bottom on each side. If this step is hard for your pet, try brushing a few teeth at a time, working up to more each day. Aim for two minutes total – just like dentists recommend for humans!

Additionally, please only brush the front of your pet’s teeth and avoid trying to brush the back – it’s easy to injure your pet and your pet will clean that area with their tongue. Even a back and forth type movement across the front teeth will help to remove debris and improve dental health.

Other teeth brushing tips: Talk to them throughout your daily brushing, giving positive reinforcement. When you’re finished brushing your pet’s teeth, reward them with their favorite treat or extra attention. Always stop when everyone is still having fun!

Other at-home dental care tips: Good dental care doesn’t need to end with brushing. Certain chews and treats can also help you fight plaque buildup. Be sure to ask one of our veterinarians which products are approved for your pet to help fight plaque and dental disease!

Warning Signs of Dental Disease in Pets

Sometimes, preventative home care isn’t enough and even the best pet parents can get behind on their pet’s oral health. Below are some signs that let you know it’s time for a dental check-up for our four-legged family member.

Bad breath: One of the most common misconceptions is that bad breath is normal, when the reality is that it is completely preventable!

Discoloration of the teeth: Try to look at the molars all the way in the back, they should all be white.

Swollen gums: Healthy gums should be pink and cover the root of the tooth properly. When you have too much root exposure, the tooth can become compromised and be put at a higher risk for becoming loose or causing an abscess.

Poor appetite: If your pet has developed a loss of appetite, it may be due to a painful mouth. For example, if your pet has been on a dry food diet and they are becoming more reluctant to eat, it can be caused by painful teeth or gums. Chewing with one bad tooth is hard – if your pet has several bad teeth, it can be very painful.

Cleaner teeth on one side of the mouth: If your pet’s teeth are cleaner on one side of the mouth, it can be an indication that the other side is being worked overtime due to pain.

If you see signs of dental disease in your pet, our Exceptional Pets veterinary team can help. We are happy to examine your pet’s teeth and provide a treatment plan for the cost of a dental cleaning. It’s important that our veterinarian see your pet’s teeth in person to provide the most accurate treatment plan. Our dental treatment plans include:

  • Bloodwork – To make sure your pet is healthy and ready for a surgical procedure.
  • Dental radiographs – We take digital images of your pet’s teeth to examine the roots and provide other information to your veterinarian that tells them which teeth should be extracted. If the tooth has infected roots, is cracked, broken, or has other issues, a veterinarian will want to extract it to keep your pet’s mouth healthy.
  • Medications to go home with – After a surgical procedure, it’s likely your pet will need medications to heal from the procedure more quickly.
  • The cleaning itself – We make your pet’s teeth shine like new, using pressurize water – just like a human dentist! Fresh breath city, here we come!
  • Polishing your pet’s teeth – Just like when we visit the dentist! It’s an important step to not be missed.

Based on the condition of your pet’s teeth, your veterinarian will discuss treatment plan options that are right for you and your pet. Depending on your pet’s teeth, most veterinarians recommend a regular dental cleaning every six months to a year. Regular cleaning will prevent your pet from needing extractions. Remember – the best oral care is preventative care!

By Dr. Valerie Moser, DVM, Exceptional Pets.

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