Pet Dental Hygiene

Dental Hygiene is important for your pet’s overall health.

Most people take very good care of their own teeth by brushing twice a day and getting them professionally cleaned once or twice yearly. However, most pet owners do not take good care of their pet’s teeth. The American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS) estimates 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have signs of dental disease by age three.

How do I know if my pet has dental disease?

Your pet should have a physical examp with your family veterinarian once or twice yearly which includes an oral checkup. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends dogs and cats receive a full dental exam and dental cleaning under anesthesia once yearly, but animals that are more prone to dental disease may need cleanings more frequently.

In addition to your family veterinarian, you play an extremely important part in detecting dental disease in your pet. You should lift your pet’s lips up once weekly to examine their teeth and gums. The teeth should be white and clean without any brown tartar and the gums should be pink with no swelling.

Signs of dental disease:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Swollen and red gums
  • Masses on gums or tongue
  • Loose or broken teeth
  • Reluctance to eat or play with chew toys
  • Reluctance to drink cold water

How can I help prevent dental disease?

As mentioned previously, two important steps are regularly examining your pet at home and scheduling regular checkups with your family veterinarian.

In addition, diets and treats can play an important role. Feeding your pet a dry diet can help reduce the plaque adn tartar build-up on the teeth. There are even prescription diets available for animals that are prone to dental disease. Canned food and table scraps can actually worsen dental disease. Safe chew toys can be a great way to keep your pet entertained!

One of the most important and neglected components of preventing dental disease in pets is through regular tooth brushing. Here are some tips for brushing your pet’s teeth:

  • Only use toothpaste specifically designed for dogs and cats. Human toothpaste can upset their stomach.
  • Get a toothbrush specifically designed for dogs and cats or use soft gauze that you wrap around your finger. There are even toothbrushes that you can wear on your fingertip.
  • Slowly introduce your pet to the process. You do not want to make it a traumatic experience for him/her or it will only make it harder for both of you in the future.
  • Start by massaging your pet’s lips with your fingers in a circular motion once daily. When he/she is comfortable with this, start massaging the gums and teeth. Continue this process for a few weeks.
  • When you are both comfortable, start brushing the teeth in small circular motions with the toothbrush or gauze but do not use toothpaste yet. You want to make sure to focus on the gum lines when you are brushing.
  • The final step is brushing your pet’s teeth with the dog or cat toothpaste. You should brush your pet’s teeth two or three times weekly.